This morning, the —the University of Miami’s student newspaper—unashamedly told its readers to abuse Hurricaneprescription drugs for personal gain. In doing so, my beloved paper (for which I was once an author) sold its journalistic integrity for popularity. If you think this is a joke (the paper sure is), prepare to be shaken by this week’s selection of articles:
- “Stressed-out students should take advantage of pills” by Robert Pursell: http://www.themiamihurricane.com/2012/11/11/stressed-out-students-should-take-advantage-of-pills/
- “Study drugs often used without prescriptions” by Alysha Khan: http://www.themiamihurricane.com/2012/11/11/study-drugs-often-used-without-prescriptions/
- Editorial (Majority view of Hurricane staff): “Magic pill can enhance focus, drive”: http://www.themiamihurricane.com/2012/11/11/magic-pill-can-enhance-focus-drive/
In the first piece, author Robert Pursell (a senior majoring in journalism) openly admits to using (or, rather, abusing) illegally-obtained drugs to boost his academic performance:
“Coming from someone who has taken some form of study drugs for the majority of my life – be it Adderall, Vyvanse or Concerta – the symptoms were all easily recognizable: the desire to be productive as opposed to sitting around and doing nothing, the interest in typically dull subjects and the motivation to viciously clean and organize an entire room.”
He defends himself by claiming he is not alone:
“But ultimately, how could you blame me? I’m not the only one doing it. A recent University of Kentucky study showed that 50 percent of college students had used some sort of study drug by the time they graduated. That number jumped to 80 percent when considering only members of sororities and fraternities.”
Because everyone else is doing it, Pursell argues, his behavior is socially acceptable and thus, morally acceptable. For situations like drug abuse, smoking, and superstitions, the appeal to popularity argument (or bandwagon fallacy) is completely, totally, and utterly flawed because it lacks evidence. It poses the same problems as the age-old question, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” Ask Pursell about that bridge and he’d follow the world straight off it (if he didn’t buy it first).
Like other bandwagon fallacies, Pursell’s argument also lacks evidence. In his article he cites the findings from only one “recent University of Kentucky study”. I looked up Kentucky’s most recent 2010 study, titled “Adderall is Deﬁnitely Not a Drug: Justiﬁcations for the Illegal Use of ADHD Stimulants”, and found that Pursell took those findings so far out of context that he contradicted the intent of its authors. What’s more, the study found significantly lower levels of abuse than Pursell described:
“Before conducting our interviews, DeSantis et al.’s (2008) survey research supplied us with statistical data of how prevalent was the illegal stimulant use on this campus. As previously mentioned, they found that of the 1,811 students that completed the surveys, 34% (n = 585) had used ADHD medications illegally. And if students were members of social Greek organizations (48%), juniors (49%), or seniors (55%), these numbers were signiﬁcantly higher.”
In other words, only 34% of the students sampled at the University of Kentucky illegally used drugs like Adderall. For students in Greek life, that number averaged around 50%–a far cry from Pursell’s far-fetched 80%.
Other studies contradict Pursell’s claims that ADD drugs are harmless. Some compellingly suggest that they are placebos that barely affect the performance of healthy human beings. Even Alysha Khan, author of the second article, ruins his argument by visually displaying the potential side effects of attention-boosting medications:
As someone who just found out he had ADD, I know the consequences of prescription drugs all too well. I remember how reluctant I was to take the medication. If I had taken Adderall during my undergrad (when I honestly, truly needed it), my GPA could have been much higher. However, I went four years without it and still did okay.
Furthermore, my own meds have warning labels that clearly state their unintended symptoms: dry mouth, headache, heart attacks, seizures, and death. Khan certainly hasn’t ignored death (notice the giant arrow?) or the other side effects:
“According to [the UM Counseling Center], the risks of taking Adderall without consulting a doctor run the gamut from the known side effects of the drug, such as difficulty sleeping and loss of appetite, to dependency and psychotic episodes”
Dependency and psychotic episodes? Seriously? Do you really want to risk short-circuiting your brain for a few extra points on that midterm? Pursell thinks you’ve earned that risk:
“I say “take advantage,” and not “abuse,” because the worst thing that anyone has ever done on Adderall is clean a dorm room and look up far too many song lyrics…Medicate, Miami. You’ve earned it. I know you’ve got that killer orgo final coming up. You know, the one that you need to ace or else you’ll never get into medical school.”
If you believe these lies, maybe you do deserve to feel the consequences of that illegitimate edge. If you don’t believe me, just ask the members of the Editorial Board:
“You can blame the system. You can blame college professors. You can even blame society for not making exceptions…”
…but, in the end, you can only blame yourself for caving under pressure.
Don’t be like the Miami Hurricane, which sold its integrity for ratings. Do the right thing; if not for your own sake, do it for those who truly need the attention. Otherwise, you might find yourself without a writer.
- Study drugs: A growing trend on school campuses (ktvb.com)
- Is Non-Prescription Adderall Use Ethical, Even If It Works? (motherboard.vice.com)
- Speed and the city: meet the Adderall-addled adults of New York | Arwa Mahdawi (guardian.co.uk)
- Adderall boost for athletes might be just a myth (tbo.com)
- Athletes seek lift from Adderall (tbo.com)
- Is Non-Prescription ADHD Medication Use Ever Ethical? (science.slashdot.org)
- Moms are popping pills to be better parents (kens5.com)
- Is it normal for psychiatrists to require urine tests while taking Adderall? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Prescription meds used to gain edge in classwork (University of Miami School of Communication)