As I sit here and type these words, I have four programs open and running on my computer, and at least twice as many thoughts running through my head. This isn’t unusual. At one moment of any given day, my attention is divided between six classes, an internship, Consider, my post-graduation plans (which are becoming very real, very fast), and my relationships with other people. Thankfully, my afternoon class was cancelled today and I now have these three extra hours to play catch up on the work I have neglected the past few nights for the luxury of a decent amount of sleep.
There’s nothing like a “Welcome Back” to classes like seeing your calendar push all of your free time—football Saturdays aside, of course—to next summer; or if you’re a senior like me, just say goodbye to that free time forever, right? Is it just me, or does it already feel like that week of hell before mid-terms instead of the second week of the semester?
Each morning I wake up and make coffee, and I’ve done this since sophomore year of high school. This summer I kicked my caffeine addiction by weaning myself down to, at most, one cup per day. But now I seem to—my phone just vibrated—I seem to be making more and more coffee every morning and I’m now back up to my four-to-six-cup average, which I was at before the summer started. Hey, if that’s what it takes for me to focus and stay awake during my morning lectures, so be it.
A couple days ago, a thought occurred to me about habits like these. It has to be common knowledge that it’s not healthy to be addicted to caffeine or to feel the need to take Adderall to get your homework done, right? I am reminded of this every time I skip my morning coffee and I have a headache by noon, as if my body says to me, “hey did you forget something?” As a side note, I’ve never taken Adderall on the principle that I am almost positive I could not live with my natural productivity after artificially enhancing it. But friends of mine have taken it, and I’ve heard plenty of stories about people swearing by it to get through their normal class workload on top of working, interning, and studying for the MCAT, LSAT, etc. My phone vibrates again. Hold on, I have a new email in my inbox.
The Harvard Crimson reported in May that “students should consider turning to drugs of this kind to be unethical, if not a deplorable last resort to be shunned. The use of Adderall compromises one’s academic integrity.” It’s no surprise that this study habit calls into question the academic fairness, but they also note that, and more importantly, “abuse of Adderall has been linked to rapid weight loss, long-term cardiac problems, and even an increased risk of developing psychosis and schizophrenia.” Obviously these side effects are very real, which makes me wonder if students don’t know the gravity of these effects or do they simply turn a blind eye to them? Is the benefit of being able to stay on top of your workload worth the consequence of destroying your body? I certainly ask myself this whenever I truly feel overwhelmed and when I feel that I have hit bottom (which happens more often than I’d like to admit). Would it just be easier to lessen your responsibilities? Or would that seriously put you behind in life because your peers are still tackling so much more?
What’s really scary is that this phenomenon of feeling overwhelmed with what seems like a billion things to do every night after a full day of class and work is actually hitting high schools now. In June, The New York Times published first account stories of students (some as young as sixteen years old!) who are addicted to Adderall. One student, an eighteen-year-old at a “top 20 university out of state” (sound familiar?) writes, “though I can feel my heart beating faster than normal when I take just half a pill, the thought that my habit could be ruining my body is only fleeting, and I return to my work, just like everyone else around me.” Could it be that this habit is becoming so popular that students start taking Adderall because they truly believe everyone around them is doing the same?
I guess only time will tell what grave effects these “study drugs” will have on our generation of multitaskers and micromanagers. But for now, I apologize if I gave you one more thing to stress about… I really need to finish my physics homework now.
By: Rachel Blanzy
(Photo by Tina Vega under a Creative Commons License)