Friday, March 11, 2011


From campuses, offices, to parties, many people are turning to alleged “miracle” drugs for a boost – despite health and ethical concerns.

Facing an important final, the college student sits down at her desk with a large mug of coffee. However, she then contemplates her alternatives. She sorts through her medicine cabinet for just the right cognitive enhancement pill. She casually pops a couple pills of Adderall. Satisfied, she sits down at her desk to start studying for her final exam.

Scenarios like this one are becoming increasingly common as attention-deficit drugs have slowly been seeping into the norm at an alarming rate. People from all generations are turning to so-called “smart drugs” such as Adderall and Ritalin for several reasons. College students use them for midterms and finals. High-powered professionals do so to increase cognitive abilities and to aid their high-pressure jobs. Hollywood starlets and women are turning to Adderall for rapid weight loss schemes, and partygoers are using them for endurance and a quick buzz to overcome anxious jitters. In reference to a July 31 New York Times article, writer Andrew Jacobs spoke to several students who spoke adamantly of the drug, “Adderall is the drug of choice these days, it’s a legitimate and even hip way to get through the rigors of a hectic academic and social life.” Thus proving that these stimulants have become increasingly popular due to their accessibility, efficacy, and its likable nature.

With our culture becoming increasingly competitive, healthy individuals who do not have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are using these drugs to fuel their busy lives and desire for success. It has also become the drug of choice for girls, who naturally are concerned with their figure and found that Adderall miraculously suppresses the appetite. The usage of these “smart drugs” have become rampant in U.S. colleges as well as the workplace. These non-patient users are enticed by the pleasant effects of improved concentration, increased wakefulness, and less susceptibility to distractions.

While the popularity of these stimulants appear to be more significant in the United States than Canada, there is still an increasing competitiveness and pressure in the Canadian environment. According to the November edition of Elle Canada, Katie Addleman reports that since 2005, “the number of ADHD prescriptions dispensed by Canadian pharmacies has grown by about 200,000 every year. As of June, the figure for 2010 already stood at more than 1.6 million.” Addleman also reports that a 2008 survey found that “80 percent thought that healthy adults should be able to use these drugs if desired; and 69 percent said that they would risk mild side effects to take them.” With the mental boosts these drugs can supply, it is not difficult to understand the appeal. However, in spite of the benefits, are the effects and consequences worth it?

Side effects can include irritability, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, increased heart rate, and at it’s worst, it could cause death. In 2005, Health Canada reported that 20 drug related deaths were related to Adderall consumption. Even with a growing amount of non-patient users, Adderall sales continue to soar because it is inexpensive and easy to use. Little is being done for the misuse of these drugs and the market for legal stimulants is only becoming stronger. When taken at a higher than prescribed dosage, Adderall can be both psychologically and physically addictive. Users even take drugs such as sleeping pills to counter act the stimulant effects of Adderall. Increased dependency can also lead to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, where many report feeling depressed and vapid without the drug. Persistent abuse of Adderall and Ritalin can also produce a “psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations – psychotic symptoms can persist for months and even years after use of these drugs has ceased”, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in a government report labeled, “Drugs of Abuse”.

Despite the fact that stimulants can increase productivity and fuel the mind, these drugs can also be counter productive. They are said to stifle creativity and impulsivity, two traits that are lost at the expense of a focused mind. It is interesting how changing expectations for people these days have altered the way we treat ourselves in order to reach success. People are striving for more time, better results, and social confidence more than ever before. The pressure to perform and achieve perfection has become a simple reality. At the end of the day, human beings are capable of extraordinary things, with or without drugs. However, people strive for the best to get to the top, and in this day and age, unless high standards and over achieving is no longer the norm, the use of these drugs are inevitable.

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