Male College Students View Stimulants As Prescription for Success

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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  • Emily

    October 31st, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    These students wouldn’t be worried about a little stimulant. After all many of them are popping pills and consuming drugs like there’s no tomorrow. What’s a little stimulant to them!

  • jeremy

    October 31st, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    fUnny how the drug of choice has changed over the years.
    For me and my buds, the drug of choice for success was, wait for it, studying.
    Shocking, I’m sure

  • Joe

    October 31st, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Well, there are positives and negatives to this.
    On the one hand at least the guys feel strongly enough about doing well that they are willing to try what they can to make that a reality.
    On the other hand, they are willing to try something that could potentially be so harmful to them to achieve this.

  • macy

    November 1st, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    it seems to me that the competition has grown so big that using enhancing substance is no more seen as something drastic or unfair but rather a necessity to stay in the race.its the rat race mentality and it seems to have taken over a majority of even the youngsters.very disappointing indeed.

  • buck

    November 1st, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    This is a pretty scary development. I mean, we have always had to worry about drinking on college campuses, but who would have thought that the epidemic of prescription drug use would invade their lives too?

    I hope that colleges are doing what they can to address these issues that are so new in many ways and that may be different to handle than the alcohol issues that we are so accustomed to trying to handle.

  • Jill

    November 5th, 2012 at 4:50 AM

    This kind of thing as a parent scares the bejesus out of me! We do the best that we can and the best that the teachers can to help prepare our students for college, yet when they get there they still feel like they need something extra to help them through the experience. What are we doing wrong that they still feel like they need something pharmaceutical in nature to get through a couple of classes?

  • kathleen

    November 7th, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Students need ADHD meds that are prescribed for them just as a diabetic needs insulin, others who abuse them should be prosecuted however the disabled ADD student should not be scorned for their need for interventions. Studies report cost of ADD to economy exceed $140 Million annually; we need a way to tap into the ADD talent pool effectively

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