If you took them, you would already know what those words mean

While reading an article on prescribed drugs being abused by students to improve concentration, I started to lose focus myself. I wondered if any of my hyperactive friends had a prescription they might share. After all, cognitive-enhancing drugs or “smart drugs” certainly aren’t hard to come by. At some U.S. universities, a reported 25% of students routinely buy Adderal, Ritalin or Modifinil in order to improve their ability to study. Whether it’s through your favourite drug dealer or the Internet, smart drugs are readily available.
The allure for a student to pop a pill to help with their studies is understandable. Being pages behind on reading, and days behind on sleep, is enough to consider putting a gun to your head. Any pill that supposedly allows you to soak up the knowledge like a sponge seems like a heavensent alternative to old favourites like sleep deprivation and Redbull.
Thomas Hiller, a former BCIT student who missed nearly an entire semester of one of his courses, obtained prescription Adderal from a friend who suffers from ADHD, in order to help cram for his final exam. After studying for seven hours straight he was able to score a passing grade. “It’s like, normally you would have to take a break every once in a while, because you get distracted. I usually take a 15 minute break every hour. But on Adderal it seems like a waste of time.” When asked if he would consider taking it again he replied “definitely”.
As long as the education system is going to reward students by how hard they can push themselves through overwhelming pressure, expect them to mimic professional athletes tampering with performance enhancing drugs. This comparison poses an important question – does the use of cognitive enhancement drugs constitute cheating? personally, I don’t think so. Academic institutions ignore all other advantages students may have over one another.
Is there really a tremendous difference between the advantage one student gains over his more independent peers by living with his parents and having extra time to study during the week, than taking a pill to get all of your studying done in one evening?
As breakthroughs are made in neuroscience, the drugs themselves are becoming more effective. As a result, it seems likely that they will become more widely used. But at what cost? Currently, using these smart drugs without a prescription is illegal. But if students taking the drugs start to out perform those who arenot,withlimitedhealthrisk,their legality would have to be reviewed.
If deemed legal, obvious problems would be posed if the drugs were only available to the wealthy. If the overworked, indebted students were suddenly dealt another major disadvantage, it’s possible that many students would become discouraged and drop out, leading to an even bigger class divide. Another concern is regarding side effects, and like almost every prescription out there, they do come with a menu of unpleasantries printed on the side of the bottle. However, one of the newest smart drugs, Modifinil, lacks most of the side effects of the earlier, more jittery amphetamines like Ritalin or Adderal. Certainly, as the drugs become more refined, we will see less immediate repercussions to taking them. More worrisome, because these drugs are relatively new, is that their long term side effects are still unknown. But health risks, schmelth risks. I see it as little concern, and apparently so does student society as a whole. If students are willing to smoke cigarettes, an activity with absolutely horrendous physical ramifications for little gain, it’s unlikely that the comparatively tame consequences of smart drugs will turn be met with many red flags.
Imagine a world where everyone got the most out of their time – not just in school, but at work. Could you be pressured, or even made to take the drugs in order to up your Big Mac production? It’s a possibility that workers would become so efficient, they would actually have to work less. If the optimism of the scientific community holds true, these seem like possible scenarios. Currently, getting the most out of your limited study time certainly remains an attractive prospect. If there were a drug that helped me concentrate with out side effects, I would take it in a heartbeat. After all, taking a pill that helps you focus and get your work done really suits our society better than popping a Xanax to just forget about it.

// marco ferreira,

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