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Andrew Blitman likes to draw and write about philosophy, poetry, and science. The author of two books, he will graduate from the University of Miami in May 2014 with a Masters of Professional Science degree in Marine Affairs. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail him at thewrittenblit@gmail.com.

How Amphetamines like Adderall ruined the Miami Hurricane

This morning, the Miami Hurricane—the University of Miami’s student newspaper—unashamedly told its readers to abuse prescription 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:

  1. “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/
  2. Study drugs often used without prescriptions” by Alysha Khan: http://www.themiamihurricane.com/2012/11/11/study-drugs-often-used-without-prescriptions/
  3. 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:

“Side Effects of Adderall” by The Miami Hurricane

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.

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13 Comments on “How Amphetamines like Adderall ruined the Miami Hurricane”

  1. Glorp November 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Boom. Roasted.

    Like this

  2. UM student November 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    How about the error in the “Study drugs often used without prescriptions” article which says that Vyvanse is a stronger prescription stimulant than Adderall. 5 minutes worth of Wikipedia research and you know that that is blatantly wrong.

    Like this

    • Andrew Blitman November 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      Actually, Vyvanse lasts longer than Adderall does. Adderall releases a shorter, more intense dose of stimulant into the brain.

      Like this

  3. Robert Pursell November 13, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I don’t take concerta illegally, nor did I ever claim to.
    I have a prescription. It would be odd if someone was taking a study drug for the majority of his life, as I claim I have, illegally, no?
    Also the study wasn’t misconstrued, I said by the time they have graduated, that number of students had taken it (be it illegally or legally)f which if you read in detail, is correct. You chose, as many did, to focus on the illegal drug usage, not the overall usage. I’m also not saying that the study endorses it. I’m simply stating that, given the realities of college life today, students who choose to take study drugs shouldn’t be ostracized.

    I appreciate your opinion on the article, but you have made assumptions in reading the piece. The first being that I take my prescription drugs illegally, and the second in assuming that this piece related only to the illegal use of study drugs, and that I didn’t properly read through the study. The opinion piece I wrote was meant to be a satirical way of addressing a current issue. If you took offense with my writing style and content, then so be it. But I believe to insult the hard-working editors of the hurricane by calling it a joke is overreaching.

    The paper is covering a topic that is, above all else, relevant to college campuses. To insult it for doing such is counter productive.

    Like this

    • Just another observer November 14, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      The fact that you keep calling them “study drugs” only makes you look worse… That’s not what they are, and people using them for those reasons are making it a completely unfair race to those who are studying their butts off without use of enhancement drugs

      Like this

  4. Andrew Blitman November 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    Look, Robert. Life isn’t easy. Education isn’t easy. It requires determination, discipline, and hard work. Your point-of-view is best summarized by the following quotes:

    1. “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.”

    This statement is an appeal to popularity, a justification for prescription drug abuse based on conformity to accepted social standards. It’s like saying, “Everyone else is doing it, and thus so can I”. Furthermore, the numbers you used in that study you improperly referenced don’t even mention things like “80%” or “overall usage”. If you don’t believe me, check the link (which I cited in my article) below:

    “Adderall is Definitely Not a Drug: Justifications for the Illegal Use of ADHD Stimulants”:

    http://www.uky.edu/~addesa01/documents/AdderallisDefinitelyNotaDrug.pdf

    This bandwagon fallacy is repeated in the Staff Editorial (http://www.themiamihurricane.com/2012/11/11/magic-pill-can-enhance-focus-drive/):

    “A New York Times study found that the majority of students who take Adderall illegally do so to be more competitive in school. This makes perfect sense; the bar for students is constantly being raised, pushing them to be smarter, faster and stronger. But some students can’t meet these standards without a little help from Sir Adderall.

    The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 6.4 percent of full-time college students ages 18 to 22 had misused Adderall. The survey also found that college students fake symptoms in order to get prescriptions. Faking an attention disorder is extremely easy because blood tests can’t prove the diagnosis.”

    However, the Editorial’s argument makes less sense than yours because it cites numbers far smaller than 80%. How does following the 6.4% sound? Pretty stupid from a numerical perspective, right? That barely constitutes a minority, let alone a majority.

    2. “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.”

    This statement from your article clearly advocates Adderall abuse. Furthermore, it ignores its side effects–side effects that are clearly mentioned on medication labels for liability reasons. As I stated earlier, several studies have found that attention meds work like placebos for healthy human beings (or, in other words, have no effect on them). Here’s the abstract from a 2012 UPenn study if you want to know more:

    “Objective and subjective cognitive enhancing effects of mixed amphetamine salts in healthy people”: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390812003577

    Furthermore, Alysha Khan contradicted your argument in her own piece by listing some of the potential risks of misusing attention meds: dry mouth, uncontrollable shaking, blurred vision, death, etc. What about you? Do you read labels? I do.

    3. “And if you don’t get into medical school then you won’t get a job, and without a job no one knows if you’ll ever have another date in your life, let alone find a spouse and … uh … wait. I lost my train of thought.”

    You wrote this statement to mislead me, didn’t you? This statement implies that you think ADHD meds are necessary for survival for all students. If you intended something else, please enlighten me!

    Even if I threw out my previous argument (which is chock-full of your own words), I would still need to address the ethical implications of abusing performance-enhancing prescription drugs. In addition to being dangerous, the drugs themselves (or, rather, their abuse) are the reason why students are trying so hard to match a growing workload. If more students are doped-up and can handle higher levels of work, the professors will assign more work to keep those students engaged. The students experience higher levels of stress, and dope themselves even further. It’s a a cycle that feeds itself (or a positive feedback loop).

    What happens to the students who need attention meds to survive? Because they try their hardest to break even, they fall into obscurity because they just can’t keep up with their super-student peers. It must suck to suck, right?

    And what about satire? Do you know what satire is? Here’s the Wikipedia definition of satire:

    “Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be funny, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon.”

    The Daily Show is an example of satire because it uses metaphors for current events to make fun of the events themselves. In a similar vein, the Daily Show does what I am doing to you now–using your own quotes (in context) against you to make a point.

    What kind of point were you trying to make with your article? Please enlighten your unhappy readers.

    Second, there’s a forum for satire. Comedy has a time and a place. A prestigious award-winning, current-event-centered, student-run newspaper is not the place for unsubstantiated satire unless you have built up a following, which you clearly haven’t. Furthermore, you should know better than to trivialize serious issues like substance abuse. It’s like picking on cocaine addicts, who are ostracized for the way they use and abuse illegally obtained substances.

    Substance abuse, like ADD, is no joke. You should do your homework. Talk to your editors, because it was their job to deem your article “publishable”. Without their oversight (or lack of it), you wouldn’t be in this mess. If your article indicates anything, it’s that the editors aren’t working hard enough.

    Questions?

    Like this

  5. the mindless philosopher November 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    this article is amazing.

    it never ceases me that people (still) fall for/support the “everyone else is doing it” excuse/explanation for their behavior — particularly those who should “know better” (aka educated people).

    …. that makes me think: is there ever a circumstance when this kind of argument is justified?

    Like this

    • Andrew Blitman November 15, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

      Never. Not in my eyes.

      Like this

      • the mindless philosopher November 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

        thanks for answering. i’m in a very situational ethics state right now, so my moral thinking isn’t as cut and dry as my kantian roots would prefer it to be.
        :)

        Like this

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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