November 27, 2011

Political Theory

Two weeks ago in lecture, we were asked the question; “Should the use of Adderall count as cheating in school?”. As I am personally affected by this dissorder, I was disappointed with this kind of question and the ensuing comments made by the professor. He used the next slide to explain how under the Rawlsian principle that, freedom and equality require fairness, the use of Adderall IS in fact cheating in school.

Before I get into why Rawls would agree with the exact opposite case, I am going to elaborate a little bit on ADHD and what Adderall is itself.


ADHD or, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a serious disorder that affects approximately 5 % of children globally. These children have a TON of trouble focusing in school due to hyperactivity that they quite frankly cannot control. As a result of this, the students are at a HUGE disadvantage in school compared to their counterparts.

Adderall is a stimulant pill that is used to combat this attention disorder. In order to be prescribed to Adderall, a child must go through an extensive six hour test to see whether or not they would benefit from taking the substance. As a result of this strict regulation, children who don’t have ADHD will have a very tough time obtaining a prescription for the drug. Also, this ensures that the drug will only fall into the right hands. Finally, ADHD is a developmental problem among young kids and it is often the case that a person will grow out of it as he/she gets older.

If John Rawls were to take a look at this situation, he would be in support of the use of Adderall because it can be directly applied to his difference principle. He states that under the Difference Principle, “The basic structure is perfectly just, when the prospects of the least fortunate are as great as they can be” (Rawls p. 38). Adderall gives the students who are worst off (have a learning disability) the ability to remain in school and to live a normal life like all other students. Furthermore, Rawls argues that “Trade-offs across lives should be avoided, and replaced by a system of priorities for the most serious needs and interests” (Rawls p. 39). In the modern world, the education of our youth has become a top priority. The fact is that this drug is a simple solution to a serious problem and can provide a great result with a very small amount of cost.

A counter argument to this, made by the professor, is the fact that college students all over the country have admitted to taking the substance without being prescribed to it. The students who use this drug without a just cause are actually going against Rawls belief “that justice requires fairness not only in the distribution of material and social advantage, but also toward different conceptions of the good” (Rawls p. 40). They are cheaters abusing the system that has been set in place for the distribution and use of the drug Adderall.

Despite this point that these students who abuse the drug are actually going directly against Rawlsian principles, the fact remains that distribution and use of the drug without the proper prescription is HIGHLY illegal. People who are caught doing such an act can be sentenced to jail time . Furthermore, in any society, there will always be people who break the laws. [This common knowledge of wrongdoers is already factored into any argument made by any political theorist, including John Rawls]. [Edit: Even though some students cheat and take adderall without a prescription, the amount of people who cheat is not significant enough to deny adderall to the students who actually need the medicine.]

In sum, ADHD does put children at a significant disadvantage and the use of Adderall among students is fully justified by Rawls difference principle.

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26 Comments on “THE ADDERALL ISSUE”

  1. #jasonschwartz Says:

    I just found an interesting article in which a school actually banned the use of adderall and labeled it as cheating:


  2. bpkass Says:

    As a student at such a demanding university as this one, I often see peers stress out right before an exam. At the library I will see kids resort to coffee, energy drinks, and yes, even adderall, in order to boost their studying before a test. Unless these students who use Adderall are prescribed the drug because they have ADHD, I believe this usage is completely immoral. For one, such Adderall abusers have an unfair advantage of their peers who decide not to choose this path. Additionally, this small population of deviant students have become the public image of Adderall users, which is unfortunate for those who actually need the drug in order to live a normal life. They get labeled as people who are pretending to have a “fake disease” in order to do better in school. For these reasons, I have no problem with prosecuting Adderall abusers to the full extent of the law.

  3. aecorwin Says:

    I believe that ADD and ADHD are two very real problems that a portion of the population has to face. I do not, however, believe that the larger portion of the population that does not suffer from either ADD or ADHD should be allowed to take adderall without it being considered cheating. If everyone were to take adderall, it would leave the people that actually need it at the same amount of disadvantage as if no one were taking it. Adderall provides, as stated above, a quick and easy solution to a very real problem. It also seems to be very responsible for creating a new problem in and of itself. When people who are not prescribed and do not need to take this medication take adderall, they give themselves an enormous advantage. It is, most definitely, cheating for a student who does not need the use of adderall to use it to gain an unfair advantage over those who really need it and those who do not take it unfairly. In order for classes to be considered fair, everyone must be at the same advantage. This means that students who do not need adderall do not take it, and the use is restricted to those who do.

  4. julieele Says:

    The use of Adderall has indeed been found evident in today’s society. It has become a drug that is abused and used recreationally especially throughout college campuses. I believe that Adderall is a good drug for those who have ADHD because it creates equality for them among their peers. Adderall allows the people affected by ADHD to have a fair shot at doing well at school and every day activities. However, people that are not affected by ADHD and abuse this drug should be penalized for their actions. Use of Adderall when not medically prescribed should be considered a form of cheating because it gives those people a greater advantage when it was a drug created to form an even playing field. This drug has been known to be easily accessible and overly prescribed. In an effort to make sure that only those who are affected by this disease are the ones using it, there should be some form of legal action done to those who are not legally prescribed and using it. The fact that colleges are considering the misuse of Adderall to be a form of cheating is definitely a step in the right direction.

  5. mimirofl Says:

    The subject of adderall has always been a hot debate. Adderall is pretty commonplace on college campuses so misusing this drug is inevitable. I agree with the comments that state students using adderall are “cheating” their way through school because they are using benefits that should be solely for the people with an attention disability. However, because there is no certain way to prove that students are misusing it, I think that it is alright for students to be using this drug to get ahead in school. Even though it is “cheating”, you see other various forms of cheating as well… students copying tests, copying and pasting wiki onto essays… there are just so many forms of cheating and this usage of adderall isn’t penalized by the school even though it is “cheating”. I say hey if you have access to it and it gets the work done and gets you ahead in school, then why not use it?

  6. pbaumhart Says:

    The fact of the matter is that both ADD and ADHD are being over-diagnosed by physicians across the country. Prior to 1980 very few cases of “hyperactivity” were documented by medical practices not only in the US but also throughout the world. Although I do know many people that can be “hyperactive” at points– myself included– I see no reason that people should be doped in order to bring their mannerisms to a more normal state. I believe that ADD and ADHD is in fact a myth and that the use of drugs such as Adderral should be strictly prohibited. The sad fact though is that it is likely too late to put any rules like this in place, that is why strict regulation of this medicine should be implemented. Not only should a new test be created in order to diagnose either of these disorders, but a new method of distributing the medicine should be created. Adderral gives students an unfair advantage, and the over-diagnosis of ADD and ADHD is making the ability to attain these drugs far too easy in the college atmosphere.

    • elotis Says:

      Your point on the diseases being over-diagnosed is spot-on. I don’t have either and I know that I could probably walk into UHS today and walk out with an Adderal prescription. I have friends that I know for a fact do not have ADD, and are just lazy, and have lied their ways into getting Adderal prescriptions. My parents always complain about the overuse of the drug today when they say “no one in our generation had ADD. You just learned to behave yourself and do the work you were supposed to on time.” I completely agree with my parents in this sense. Of course I believe that those who genuinely have the disease have every right to be medicated for it. However, it makes no sense that the population over the past 40-50 years has just magically become more hyper or more prone to not paying attention. I think it’s laziness, personally. Our generation has become so used to stimulants helping us study that we have forgotten what it’s like to really buckle down and study for several days in advance. It makes me upset that I put a lot of hard work for a long amount of time to study for an exam or work on a paper, when I see friends of mine buying Adderal and staying up for 24 hours straight and getting the same grades as me. To me, this is equating laziness to hard work, and simply put, that is not fair. While we may complain about it, it will just to continue to happen and probably get worse unless the requirements for these drugs become much stricter and much more enforced.

  7. jpstern Says:

    I believe that for people who don’t have ADD, the use of adderall should be considered cheating. However, unless the school drug tested students, which would never happen, this problem will never get solved. Students who don’t care about their immoral actions will continue to hurt the educational system and hurt those playing by the rules. Also, people that are opposed to experimenting with any drugs are put at a disadvantage because even if this wasn’t considered cheating, they wouldn’t want to put potentially harmful substances in their bodies. This is a huge problem in schools, especially college, but without a way for teachers to know this is happening, students will continue to throw off the curve for those who aren’t cheating.

  8. bisraelb Says:

    The illegal distribution and consumption of Adderall is currently a major problem on college campuses. While a select group of students ‘suffer’ from ADD and must rely on the medicine to ‘level the playing field,’ those who abuse the drug in order to study for longer and more concentrated periods of time are in fact cheating the system. Perhaps a drastic comparison, ADD can be compared to Performance Enhancing Drugs in baseball. Using a substance to artificially boost your abilities is immoral, dangerous, and unfair to both yourself and your community. Students who rely heavily on Adderall in college are likely to stay dependent on the drug for any work they must complete, and may find themselves in over their head when they reach the real world.

  9. isobelkraft Says:

    I like your analysis of Rawls in the situation that you provide, in which students that actually need the ADHD medicine take it in order to combat the disorder. However, I believe that the real issue here involves the students that do not have this disorder taking the medicine purely for it’s effects. This is wrong and needs to be combated by universities. I am not, by any means, insinuating that those who have ADHD shan’t be allowed to take the medication. In fact, these individuals should be the only ones who are allowed. By giving those who do not have the chemical imbalance an extra “kick”, is disadvantaging those who do not take the medicine AND those who have the prescription for it. The purpose of the medication is to give individuals who are disadvantaged at the same level as those who are not. If students who are not disadvantaged take this medication, everyone else becomes disadvantaged. Wouldn’t Rawls then think that it is wrong for those who do not need the medication to take it, since it is putting everyone else at a disadvantage?

  10. mrau188 Says:

    Adderall is a drug that is abused by many more people than just the people that it has been prescribes to. Since it is known as a common study drug much as people use coffee energy drinks and other things to help them stay up late before exams so they can study. It is a very harmful drug and there are many things about it that are dangerous for people that are not given it by a doctor and one has not recommended that they should be taking this specific drug. Another downside to this is the fact that the people are harming their bodies just so they can get a few more points on each test, it hasn’t been proven now but we all know that in the future there are going to be some repercussions from abusing a drug that is powerful as this one and the people that didn’t really need it in the first place are going to be the main people affected.

  11. blogger32 Says:

    This is a cool post, because it talks about an issue surrounding many college students today. As someone who does not have ADHD, I think that students who suffer from the illness should most definitely be able to use Adderall. You may ask why I feel this way, and my reason is simple. As was mentioned in the post, in our world one of the most important things in life is obtaining a solid education. By denying students with ADHD the right to use Adderall, we would be disregarding 5% of our young simply because they struggle to pay attention in class.

    In my opinion, that is not only ridiculous but in fact neglegent to do. I say this because if we decided to not provide 5% of our world with Adderall, we could be passing over the opportunity to help educate someone who may be the next Steve Job or Bill Gates. How do you think we would feel if that were to happen? Albert Einstein for example, suffered from various learning disorders and went on to become one of the most important innovators in our world’s history. I definitely understand that students who do not have ADHD view it as cheating when “normal” students take Adderall as a study aid, but as is outlined in the post those students are breaking federal law and if they were caught could be prosecuted or kicked out of school. Just as is mentioned, people break all types of rules in society, regardless of how stiff the law may be. The way I see it, there is no way we can simply stop supplying Adderall to the 5% of students who need it just because there are a small number of people who use the drug to gain an edge in the classroom.

  12. ywjpeter Says:

    I think your argument is fair. The fact though is that there is a statistic that shows that a lot of college students who do not have ADHD are using this drug. What was funny is I was watching the news at home two days after the lecture that talked about adderall and this topic came up. There is a lot of people using this drug and not only people suffering from ADHD. It does not give an extra advantage to people with ADHD as it levels the playing field and promotes fairness, but on the other hand like it was said in lecture this does give an extra advantage to normal students, which in comparison is like athletes using steroids.

    Is this considering cheating? Yes, I do think so just because of the level of focus one is able to achieve and I don’t think the professors point was so much against the use of adderall within students suffering from ADHD but the unfairness it brings when adderall enters the picture in campus in general. The point is adderall is not only a drug accessible to those who “need” it but also accessible now to the whole of society. It is inevitably going to be used and people will be caught but many won’t which makes students who are not using it at a disadvantage.

  13. kaitlinlapka Says:

    I believe that the use of this drug is considered cheating. I do not have ADHD nor have I ever taken Adderall, so there may be some thoughts that I am a biased person here. However, someone who also needs the drug may be be a biased person in this debate too. Basically, I think if you don’t need it, and take it then you are a cheater. You are also going against the law.The one point I remember from lecture being very important was this: “If you need Adderall, that is an indication you do not belong in college.” A very firm and valid Darwinian arguement- survival of the fittest. Technically, people who can’t focus do not belong in college. However, many people who can’t focus are also smart enough to be in college. Does this equal up to a prospective college student or not? They only have half the qualifications unless they take a drug created by the US to give them equal opportunity. Where I think most of this debate stems from though returns to my original point and the point at which I think Professor was trying to think about: Are people who take the drug without needing it cheaters? In my opinion, I think yes.

  14. ldahbour Says:

    I agree that Rawlsian principles of justice support the use of ADDERALL. These principles of justice state that the worst off should be as well off as they can be. In other words, the society should hold the interest of the lower class. Any inequalities that exist should work in favor of the worst off not in favor of the best off. This is the case with students receiving prescribed Adderall, because they are being allowed to use the drug, while others with the disorder are not (given the illegal status of its unprescribed use as you cited). Also, Rawls is against the idea that people with higher attention spans should command the use of Adderall because it is defying the interest of the lower class and creating an inequality that is not in favor of the worst off (those with ADHD).

  15. bmauto21 Says:

    When talking about any over the counter drug, one must always take into account those who abuse that drug. Adderall may be abused in the sense that kids who dont need it, will take it in order to be more focused but how can one judge whether people with ADHD who are prescribed it and people who aren’t prescribed it are feeling the same affects. While it is thought that people with ADHD use the drug to focus better, it also provides them with a boost for academic purposes. How can one person tell whether a person who doesn’t suffer from ADHD is experiencing the drug more simply because he doesn’t have the disability. For all anyone knows, these two people can feel the same effect but because one is disabled it is ok for them to take it while the one who isn’t disabled actually doesn’t have the advantage for school work. While Rawls may be against the illegal use of the drug, I disagree that it is unfair because no matter what everyone should get the same advantage when it comes to academics. There are people who sell this drug to make money when they are prescribed it. If they are selling it, then that means they do not need it as much as someone who suffers from ADHD severely. If a person has a mild case of ADHD, why should they be allowed the drug when someone who doesn’t have ADHD is not allowed to use the drug. They both would experience the same outcome although one person may have a mild case of the disability.

    • goldman13 Says:

      Respectfully, i don’t think you can make an assumption as to how ADHD victims react to adderall. Based on your view that “it is unfair because no matter what everyone should get the same advantage when it comes to academics,” i came to the conclusion that you don’t have ADHD (and therefore don’t have an adderall prescription). I don’t either. But, whether it is a mild form of ADHD or a severe one, it is not up to you to draw the line between the adderall-worthy and those who aren’t. If someone is diagnosed with ADHD by a licensed medical professional, and is subsequently given an adderall prescription, then in my opinion, they need that drug and deserve to take it without ANY scrutiny from other students.

      Just a side note, there are different milligram doses of adderall and different forms (extended release, normal pill etc). Each form and dosage are molded to fit the individual patient. Therefore, someone with mild ADHD will have a prescription that is weaker than the prescription for someone with severe ADHD.

      More importantly, i am a little bit shocked and pretty disturbed by how strongly people feel about the actions of their peers (I don’t mean to post this as a reply to bmauto21’s specific post). Do your own thing, manage your own schoolwork, and worry about yourself. There are always going to be people that do things to get ahead but that shouldn’t (and doesn’t) change the way you perform. I don’t like the idea of people cheating to get ahead either, but I’m not going to complain about it. Instead, I’m work harder and prove to myself that there are natural and morally in-line ways of achieving academic success. If an ADHD student needs adderall, let him/her have it. If you think that is going to throw off the curve for your next exam, then you are not putting in enough work.

  16. adamstillman2011 Says:

    I agree that people who have ADHD should be allowed to take drugs like Adderall to help them focus in class. As someone who does not have ADHD I do think that it is unfair for someone to illegally obtain and consume Adderall if they do not have ADD. In my opinion this is no different than an athlete like Barry Bonds taking Human Growth Hormone or other steroids. Adderall is a performance enhancing drug. Performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed on the baseball field and certainly not in the classroom unless the student or athlete has a legitimate medical diagnosis, and will benefit greatly from using the drug. Using the excuse of I am taking 18 credits and facebook doesn’t allow me to focus is not grounds for taking Adderall.

  17. benjishanus Says:

    Personally, I believe that adderall should not be allowed. I feel that it undermines the integrity of the student body and is not fully justified simply because students may have a case of ADHD. The fact of the matter is that there is no way to regulate what students get their hands on the drug and actually use, therefore, the only way to legitimately deal with it is to make it illegal all together. It has gotten to the point where people depend on this drug more than they depend on their own capabilities and study habits, which in my opinion is unacceptable. I understand that there are various people who “suffer” from ADHD, but in my mind, that is something that people must learn to deal with, just like any other issue in life. Students must learn to rely on taking good notes and forcing themselves to study and develop good study habits, not fall back on a controversial drug.

  18. benjadler Says:

    For those of you who do not know, Adderall is an amphetamine, the active ingredient in you guessed it… meth. Anyone using Adderall is therefore not using a medicine, but rather a drug that should not be in their possession. Now I am not sure whether you can become hooked or not. But I do know that (based on a little bit of Wikipedia research) that both amphetamines and caffeine are alkaloids, which, in both of these cases, are used as psychoactive drugs. Therefore, any sort of energy drink or caffeinated beverage used to study (not just Adderall) should be an unfair advantage when studying.
    However, I believe using any of these substances too much can be a case of dirty hands for your own body as you risk harming it in order to achieve higher grades (bad action for good result). If a person is willing to do that, than I think Rawls should look the other way and allow them to do so at their own discretion and make that fair to others since this individual is choosing to mess themself up. Caffeine and Adderall have the same active ingredients as cocaine and meth amphetamines, I think that in itself would be enough to steer any reasonable individual away.
    With all of that being said, what do you think this says about our culture’s stress on grades and acceptance into good schools and programs?

  19. emmaschneider11 Says:

    I certainly don’t think there is any issue with students who legitimately have ADHD using Adderall to aid them in school because that is the drugs’ purpose. However, it cannot be denied that some students abuse the drug and use it illegally to give themselves n edge. In my opinion the use of Adderall in these cases is not so much an issue of cheating but rather an issue of illegality.

    Using prescription drugs that were not subscribed to you is a crime. If a student it using Adderall that was not prescribes specifically to them from a doctor they are breaking the law. I am on the fence about whether this is cheating, because in a sense the person is using the drug to obtain the same effects as coffee and such thing, just to more extreme extent. However, whether this is cheating or not really doesn’t matter because the student should be punished either way because they are committing a crime.

    Personally, I would never use Adderall to help me focus, because I think it is wrong, but also because I don’t need it. I have the ability to focus on studying if I need to so I am not tempted to use the drug. I understand that others may not feel the ability to focus and study when they need to and may be tempted to use Adderall to aid them. But there are other safer and more legal ways to focus that should be used. I am not sure if it is cheating or not, but I don’t feel that that matters all that much because it is wrong and illegal and should be punished whether it is cheating or not.

  20. ndreynolds864 Says:

    Adderall should not be constituted cheating if the person needs it but like everyone drug out there it is abused and those who abuse is are in fact cheaters. Is it fair that someone needs a certain drug in order to help them focus? The answer is yes because this brings that person to an equal playing field with fellow students who can focus. People abuse so many drugs for recreational purposes but this is just the case like medical marijuana in that if you need it, the drug is not illegal. People who are prescribed to the drug should not be viewed as people who are beating the system because this drug in fact makes them more equal to other students who are not plagued with ADHD. You make many valid points and I totally agree with your arguments. The problem does not lie with the people who NEED it but rather with the people who abuse it.

  21. tylerhoffman1 Says:

    The author frames Rawl’s article in a very interesting way. While I agree that for people who have a genuine diagnosis of ADHD, their use of Adderall is a sufficient way to level the playing field for them. Others, who have family friends that are doctors and who can manipulate a 6-hour test in their favor to obtain a prescription, are gaming the system and are rightfully called cheaters. Rawls would agree that fairness is necessary, but the truth of the matter is that far too many students abuse Adderall to gain performance in academics. My opinions is that academics should be looked at the same way as athletics, and therefore people should be tested. Those who test positive and have a legitimate diagnosis should be able to take the test, those who don’t, should incur punishment.

  22. lnk72792 Says:

    I agree that Adderall is beneficial for students who actually have ADHD. However, more and more students have been abusing this drug. On college campuses across the nation getting adderall is almost as easy as buying a bottle of water; everyone has it. I feel like it is becoming easier and easier to get prescribed this drug as well. It must not be so difficult for students to fake the symptoms of ADHD. I myself know of many people who have faked this disorder with a psychiatrist in order to get prescribed adderall. Therefore, I think that the benefits do not outweigh the harms of this drug.

  23. maddycaroline Says:

    I, personally, think that using adderall in any case is considered cheating. While there are students out there who have very extreme ADHD, there are also those who claim to have it (even if they don’t) and take the drug anyways. I know plenty of people who are prescribed adderall when they don’t really need it, and their ‘ADHD’ derives from procrastination due to over-stimulation. For secondary school students, being diagnosed as having ADHD, also guarantees them more time on school tests let alone standardized ones such as the ACT or SAT. So, on top of these students using adderall for better concentration, they are also given more time than anyone else. With so many students like this using the drug as prescribed, there needs to be a way to compete with their better performance which leads other students to abuse the drug. If there was a way to test for ADHD in a way that can’t be cheated, then I believe the drug (used for those who truly need it) would not be considered cheating. However, as it stands, no matter how intensive the test is, I’m guessing its not hard to fake. The problem is that the use of adderall among secondary and even primary school students has become so common that abuse of the drug is, sadly, bound to happen. Adderall is meant to increase concentration, therefore increasing performance on tests. It is simply not fair for any able-bodied person to be able to do this. Until doctors can insure that only those with serious ADHD get prescribed the drug, the use of it will be considered cheating in any sense.

  24. daniellwang Says:

    Why is taking Adderall considered cheating? We would never consider drinking coffee in order to stay awake a form of cheating, so why Adderall? Adderall is just another tool that students can use to help their studying, like coffee or energy drinks. Humans have weirdly put abstract limitations on themselves and labelled it cheating or unethical. Why? Who decides the line? An analogy might be the difference between mechanical pencils and regular ones. Mechanical pencils are obviously the better tool, they do not need sharpening and have a large supply of lead. Yet, it is not considered cheating to use mechanical pencils. Adderall is simply a better tool for the student, but for some reason, we have labelled it unethical.

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