When did Adderall become the norm? More importantly, when did it become a norm at Bowdoin?
We are quick to assume that Adderall usage is something we as college students have to accept-that, along with coffee and all-nighters, Adderall is just one more thing we should embrace. Moreover, we assume that this is true across the country. However, a national survey that studied the non-medical use of Adderall among full-time college students, published in April of 2009, shows that 6.4 percent of full-time college students aged 18 to 22 have used Adderall without a prescription in the past year. In comparison, 17 percent of students at Bowdoin reported that they have used Adderall while at the College, both with and without a prescription. With a margin of over ten percent between our own Adderall use and the national average, we have to ask—why the discrepancy?
In the free-response section of the Orient's survey about Adderall use, students expressed a plethora of opinions concerning the drug's use on campus. Responses ranged from outrage at the academic advantages it gives students who take it for non-medical reasons, to concerns that Adderall would be unfairly represented in an article addressing abuse on campus, to never having heard of Adderall or its usage. Some students even lamented the Orient seeking to write an article about the drug in the first place, fearing that it would expose an existing system of friendly, yet illegal exchange of prescription drugs.
The larger question underlying student comments of disgust, indifference and praise for Adderall is this: What does it mean for us as a community that almost one-fifth of Bowdoin students have used Adderall on campus? And of those, many habitually and abusively? While Adderall abuse does not seem to carry all the connotations of consequence that alcohol and recreational drug abuse do, its influence is more prevalent than we think, posing risks to both our health and our purpose as students.
As some students misuse Adderall to stretch their concentration when studying, their peers are working ahead to avoid the panicked crunch, while still others fight the clock to turn in assignments by deadline. Though each of us has an approach to work that meets our needs, the majority do not involve Adderall. We may not realize it, but even the slightest advantage—in this case an illegal one—can boost one student over another. We came to Bowdoin College in pursuit of new experiences and opportunities to learn, and quickly discovered the difficulties of overcommitted days. Using a drug, beyond its prescribed purpose, to propel ourselves through the challenges of college life denies us their true value.
Though misusing Adderall may help some of us fight through a late-night paper or make time for another night out, what do we gain from these experiences? Although capable of managing the difficult task at hand, we only learn that Adderall is a convenient and useful tool that helps us burn the candle at both ends. As students receiving a liberal arts education, we will not leave the College with a set of skills guaranteed to make us succeed at any one thing. Instead, we will leave with a set of habits learned from our time here, and many of us will build off those habits in our graduate and professional lives. While Adderall is easy to come by and misusing it may be acceptable in our college years, can we really learn to depend on an amphetamine habit in the real world?