In the fast-paced, competitive arena of collegiate academia, success is determined by intelligence, authorship, and grade-point average. Students push themselves to their mental and physical limits trying to absorb and retain information and then disseminate it into cohesive and impactful theses and papers. One increasingly popular way students are able to maintain this frenetic pace is with the aid of prescription stimulants (PS) such as Ritalin or Adderall. Traditionally prescribed for ADHD, PS use among non-ADHD teens has risen dramatically in recent years, and has become common among high school and college students. Similar to anabolic steroids (AS), which also are designed to enhance performance, PS increase mental acuity and energy and can allow students to succeed academically when they might not have otherwise. Although AS use often is cast in a negative light, even by many student-athletes, less is known about how students view PS use.
Because both AS and PS are designed to produce positive results in the form of achievement, either academic or physical, researcher Tonya Dodge of the Department of Psychology at George Washington University wanted to find out if students endorsed or opposed each drug in the same way. Dodge recently led a study involving 1,200 male college freshmen. The participants were asked to give their opinions on two individual cases of drug use—one in which a student used PS to succeed academically, the other in which a student used AS to succeed in a physical sport. The students were asked if they thought either had cheated because of the drug use, and if they felt the use of the drug was necessary to achieve the desired results.
The results revealed that the majority of participants endorsed the use of PS, but not the use of AS. In fact, most believed that AS use was a form of cheating, while PS use was not. More startlingly, the men in this study felt that PS use in the scenario provided was necessary to achieve the academic success desired. These findings clearly demonstrate that many college men endorse the use of PS, even illegal PS use, as a necessary path for academic achievement. Although future work should look at how female college students view this pattern of drug use, these limited results provide insight into how college students view drug use in an educational context. “As such, interventions targeting PS misuse should emphasize that long-term learning and knowledge are best acquired through sustained efforts over time, rather than short bursts of effort,” Dodge said.
Dodge, Tonya, Kevin J. Williams, Miesha Marzell, and Rob Turrisi. Judging cheaters: Is substance misuse viewed similarly in the athletic and academic domains? Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 26.3 (2012): 678-82. Print.
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