Using study drugs to get an edge in the classroom is cheating

As midterms approach, Gelman Library becomes more crowded with students cramming for exams, writing papers and chugging coffee. But sometimes some students also choose to take stimulants like Adderall to help them stay up and study longer.

Adderall is a stimulant, sometimes dubbed a study drug, that can be appropriately used by people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to help them remain focused. But many students that aren’t diagnosed with ADHD turn to these highly addictive drugs to help them study. The use of these drugs remains an epidemic on college campuses. Researchers have estimated that nearly one-third of all college students have used study drugs that aren’t prescribed to them. A study conducted by a GW researcher revealed about 13 percent of students have reported using Adderall in the past year, but students surveyed said they estimate the actual rate is much higher.

Cartoon By Maggie Grobowski

Aside from students who use the medication because it is prescribed to them, Adderall users should realize that using these drugs for exams or papers is cheating. Using Adderall is often compared to drinking coffee or taking caffeine pills – other ways to get a slight edge. But both of those means are available to everyone. Taking prescription drugs to get an advantage over other students isn’t just unethical, it’s cheating – and the University should treat it as such. While the Code of Conduct doesn’t explicitly mention the misuse of prescription medications, it does include possession of drugs and intent to sell as qualifications for suspension or expulsion, but the Code of Academic Integrity does not list misusing Adderall as a form of cheating.

Gaining access to study drugs is easy and the demand is sky-high, especially during stressful periods of the semester, like midterms and finals. One survey taken last March showed this led 37 percent of students at the University of Michigan to sell or give away their prescriptions at some point during their collegiate years. However, because of this misuse epidemic, many students using their prescriptions out of necessity are being put at a disadvantage.

Students caught selling drugs are subject to a one-year suspension, and using drugs can result in a $50 fine, disciplinary probation, mandated drug abuse classes or eviction from residence halls. But it seems unlikely that students will ever be caught using study drugs as they are fairly discrete, so treating these drugs the same as any other is a mistake.

Making the argument that students might be cheating themselves is something the University has done before, but it hasn’t come out against study drugs as a form of cheating.

These drugs aren’t like most recreational drugs. Instead of using them at a party, most students use Adderall while cramming in the library during an all-nighter. Because the drugs are different by nature, the University’s actions against students caught using Adderall can’t be outside the classroom like any other drug. Students that abuse study drugs might not realize they’re giving themselves an unfair edge over other students, but the University should consider this cheating and take the same disciplinary measures as it would for a student who plagiarized a paper.

Redefining the consequences of taking study drugs might not be effective in actually catching students using them, but it could help give users insight into the moral and ethical issues of taking them.

Students that take study drugs should know that using these pills without a prescription isn’t just giving them an edge, it’s putting students that need the drug to catch up at a disadvantage because they need the drug to function at the same level as other students in the classroom.

Many students who take Adderall would claim to never cheat in any of the ways the University defines it, but are willing to cheat by taking study drugs. The University should make it clear to students that study drug use is cheating by defining it in the Code of Academic Integrity.

Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a sophomore double-majoring in political science and psychology, is The Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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