Academic Performance Enhancing Drugs

By on May 08, 2013 in Uncategorized Comments: 1. Tags: , , , , ,
Doctors drugging children

According to a NYTimes article, Drowned in a Stream of Prescriptions; “Various studies have estimated that 8% to 35% of college students take stimulant pills (Ritalin/Adderall) to enhance school performance,” to improve their focus to study for exams and/or finish writing papers. These aren’t kids with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD or other learning disorders. These are just kids who are convinced they will do better in school if they take drugs. After all, our society has taught them that all of life’s problems can be solved with pills.

One could easily compare the use of Ritalin and Adderall, as performance enhancing drugs, to the use of steroids in the world of professional sports.

The analogy is complete, in the sense that both drugs may have some perceived short term gain, but they do not come without significant long-term damaging consequences. They are also similar in that the use of these drugs to enhance performance, on the field and in the classroom, is illegal and could not be done without doctors prescribing them.

But hey, in today’s world people are driven to succeed at all costs; long-term health be damned!

I’ve got an idea. It seems so unfair that only rich kids have access to these academic performance enhancing drugs. Why even bother with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD or any learning disorder and why not  just prescribe these psychotropic DEA classified Schedule II Controlled Substances (amphetamines) to low-income kids to kick-start their studies, level the playing field, and improve their academic performance to boot?

What do you make of that?

As it turns out, it’s not my idea. And, I was only kidding!

According to an article in the NYTimes, Attention Disorder or Not, Pills to Help in School, prescribing psychotropic stimulants (Adderall and Ritalin), not to treat ADD/ADHD—but to enhance academic performance—is an idea that is gaining traction among some physicians.
Dr. Michael Anderson sees himself as “a social justice thinker who is evening the scales a little bit.” His claim is that he doesn’t have a lot of choice that, “We’ve decided as a society it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So, we have to modify the kid. Because poor families can rarely afford behavior-based therapies, medication becomes the most reliable and pragmatic way to redirect the student toward success.”

That’s a great argument for legalizing all mind-altering drugs! If you can’t alter reality, alter the mind. At least he is refreshingly honest about it.

There are a few problems with Dr. Anderson’s reasoning.

1. It is treating without a diagnosis. What is the diagnosis? Poverty? Toxic diet or malnutrition? Verbal or sexual abuse or neglect? Impoverished learning environment? Understaffed school? What drug will fix those diagnoses?

2. While all stimulants enhance the ability to concentrate in adults and children, “no study—to date—has found any long-term benefit (of psychotropic medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall) on academic performance, peer relationships or behavior problems.”

3. These drugs are habit-forming with demonstrable withdrawal symptoms, including worsening of behavior—which is often used as justification for ongoing use of the drug.

4. It appears to be hinting at lifetime drug treatment.

5. It ignores the known and dangerous side-effects of these drugs, including:  stunted growth, nervousness, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, headache, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, and psychosis.

6. It assumes there are no long-term consequences of introducing Schedule II Controlled psycho-active stimulants into the developing brains and central nervous systems of children and adolescents, while we all know that the use of cocaine, another amphetamine, has dangerous consequences for the adult brain.

The cavalier and routine drugging of Americans for all-that-ails them—now starting in childhood—is only making us sicker and has created a population of addicts. Any rational person observing medical treatment patterns in America could only conclude that we, as a people, have developed a drug-deficiency syndrome.

Our finely cultivated belief in magic bullets and the power of drugs to heal us and improve upon nature is out of proportion to reality; hence the word magic. At best, the vast majority of drugs mask symptoms while creating side-effects and fixing nothing. At worst, and all too frequently, they have no positive effect and are only creating other problems.

Drugging our children with amphetamines to improve academic performance is unconscionable.


Comments on Academic Performance Enhancing . .

  1. JoAnn May 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm Reply

    This article was perfect since I was actually looking at statistics for all ages on using stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, etc as study drugs in school. I recently left a outpatient practice where these medications were provided to college students diagnosed with ADHD, poor focus, etc. I left to go in my own private practice in Holistic Nursing to look at other avenues than poly-pharmacy. One avenue that I have been following closely is EFT (Tapping), which yesterday I received a email they have added EFT to improve focus and replace study drugs. In my private practice I am implementing EFT for multiple modalities, including focus. I have found EFT to have positive results in multiple areas.

What do you have to say?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *