Study Drugs: Cheating?

December 1, 2011


Not long ago, but long enough for me not to recall the specific date of the lecture, Professor LaVaque-Manty asked us a question: Should the use of Adderall by students not suffering from ADHD be considered cheating? I feel that the answer to this question, like many others posed to us regarding political theory, depend largely on our personal beliefs regarding a particular topic rather than any identifiable facts. In particular, It seems to me that a persons personal feelings on the issue of whether or not the use of Adderall by functionally normal individuals should be considered cheating depends upon our answer to a question posed at the start of the term: what is the purpose of school?

While exploring the issue of College’s purpose, we were given three possible reason: that the purpose of college was to network, to separate the ‘smart’ and the ‘dumb’ through grading, or for the gaining of knowledge and personal growth. For the sake of not talking about nothing, I will not talk about the importance of networking to the issue of Adderall being considered cheating, because I don’t see any.

It seems that a persons beliefs on the purpose of college in particular should have a major impact in determining their belief as to whether or not Adderall should be considered cheating. I will now attempt to extract the logical answer from each side of the issue.

College is needed so that the ‘smart’ and ‘dumb’ can be separated by the grading system

      Some feel that the purpose of college, and arguably all schooling, is to separate the more capable individuals, those with greater natural capacities to learn and take in knowledge, from less capable individuals. Due to the competitive nature of this way of thinking, where the achieving of better grades than your peers is the ultimate goal, the use of Adderall by students not suffering from ADHD must be considered cheating as it manipulates natural inequalities and would help and otherwise less capable person to achieve higher grades, effectively breaking the system. However, If the purpose of the system is to separate individuals based on who is naturally more capable, then the use of Adderall by people with ADHD must also be considered cheating, as it manipulates their natural abilities in the same manner as it would other students, and therefore renders the system less effective in carrying out its own proposed purpose.

College is for the gaining of knowledge and personal growth

     Some feel that the purpose of college is (or should be) the gaining of knowledge and the personal growth. This however, unlike the previous way of thinking, is not competitive, and is in many ways, anti-competitive. If the purpose of college is simply to gain as much information for one’s self as possible, and the use of Adderall or other study drugs make that process easier, not only should it not be considered cheating, but could arguably be a benefit to all.

Ultimately, The question I see is a question of competition. If a person feels that School is competitive for the sake of being competitive, then that person should probably believe that the use of Adderall by any student, not merely ADHD-free students, should be considered cheating as it gives the student using it an unnatural advantage. If a person feels that schools is competitive (or not competitive) for the sake of personal knowledge and growth, that person should probably believe that no use study drugs should be considered cheating, because the purpose of school is not to compete, but to improve one’s self, and in ways, study drugs may aid that.

What do you think?


From the comments so far, it seems like most of you are thinking about why Adderall use IS considered cheating, but that is not what the question asked was, the question was: SHOULD it be considered cheating? The idea I was trying to get across was the importance of competition to the issue. I feel that, If you BELIEVE the purpose of school should be competition… to make the cream rise to the top if you will, then Adderall use must be considered cheating because it makes learning (or the process of learning) easier for anyone who uses is and therefore breaks the system. If you believe that school SHOULD not be competitive, but rather should be focused more on a person trying to better themselves, then Adderall use cannot be cheating, because cheating implies that a person is competing unfairly with others… if the system is not competitive, how can there be unfair competing?

The real point of the article though is not necessarily just the issue of Adderall or study-drug use, but the way in which a person’s belief on an issue may be dependent, atleast in part, on their beliefs on other issues.

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11 Comments on “Study Drugs: Cheating?”

  1. elmatts25 Says:

    I think the issue should be better addressed with the question: what is the definition of a normally functioning individual? The purpose of school was addressed in class and even after that discussion I could not come up with a concrete answer for whether or not using Adderall is cheating. I agree that since taking Adderall without a prescription is illegal it is most likely cheating. However, there are MANY students who are prescribed Adderall and don’t necessarily NEED it. What determines whether or not you need it? Whether or not you are a “normally functioning individual”. I understand that if we look at it from the perspective of college being a way to separate the “smart” from the “dumb,” Adderall would be allowing the dumb to seem smart. I do agree that college separates the smart from the dumb, but I don’t think Adderall can really change someones overall intelligence enough to be considered cheating. Just because someone has a hard time focusing does not mean they are dumb. Similarly, just because someone can easily get work done doesn’t mean they are smart. There is more, than anyone can even fathom, that factors into the “Are you smart?” equation. Furthermore, someone might function normally but what if they feel they are capable of functioning superiorly and need Adderall to do so? I would bet that if 10 students were chosen at random – without seeing their medical charts – you would not be able to distinguish which students took Adderall (legally or illegally) from those who did not. I don’t see any reason why Adderall should be banned and I don’t think it is cheating. If you are prescribed Adderall, way to go. If not, good luck.

  2. joecotant Says:

    First off, I want to approach the topic of the function of school that you discuss in your post. In my opinion, I find the purpose of attending college to be a combination of both the components you mentioned: to separate the ‘smart’ and ‘dumb’ through the grading system, and for the gaining of knowledge and personal growth as a student. I think we all can agree on the fact that we attend college to learn concepts, facts, and techniques that are to meant to aid us somewhere down the road in our lives, in whatever field that may be in. Going along with this mindset, we can apply both the theory of separation and the idea of personal growth to a college education. Through the grading system, students are all learning the same subjects within all of their classes, yet there a distinction between each student. One student may understand a topic better than another student, which eventually allows us to come to the conclusion that school is separating the ‘smart’ and the ‘dumb’, or sometimes referred to as the ‘fast’ and the ‘slow’. In this way, the purpose of schooling can be considered a separation mechanism. On the other hand, every student is learning each concept and technique to evolve them as a student and as an individual so they will have the opportunity to apply these skills to something in their near future. For this reason, the reason we attend college is to gain a broad range of knowledge and develop as an individual.

    Regarding the topic of Adderall, I would say I am a somewhat opposed to the illegal and improper use of such a drug. Personally, I am an extremely competitive person and I truly look down upon students who have to cheat their way into receiving exceptional grades. There are some people that absolutely NEED these drugs to function properly in school, while others use Adderall for the sole reason of getting that “upper-hand” on other students that are not using it. Although I realize students go through thorough tests and are prescribed these medications by certified doctors, I know that it is the most overly prescribed medication on the market. Both of my parents are doctors and they agree that it has become nearly ridiculous how many of their other friends who are physicians prescribe kids Adderall with such ease. In addition to this, students who are taking this drug can undergo terrible side-affects. In my opinion, everyone is a unique individual and has their certain strengths and weaknesses, and these weaknesses should not have to be supported or reinforced through the use of an artificial source of help. Clearly, the topic of Adderall use in schools has become one of great magnitude.

  3. euriosti Says:

    I think Adderall should not be considered cheating, regardless if it has been prescribed or not. The drug simply helps you focus. How the student uses that focus is an entirely different story. The ambition and desire to study still needs to be there. It’s not like Adderall prevents procrastination, it would only help you focus while you procrastinate. Plus, we all learn information at different speeds. Just because a student used Adderall to study doesn’t mean that they absorbed any more information than a student that didn’t take it. Therefore, I feel that Adderall really isn’t as much of an advantage as many may think. And with respect to whether we approach school with a competitive nature or with the mindset that we are just here to learn, we should all have a common goal. We can’t get away from being graded in all of our classes, so that is something we must accept. But we all should have the ambition to learn as much as we can while we are here and strive for the best grades. But a few years out of college, those grades we worked so hard to earn aren’t relevant anymore. We will use everything we have learned on a daily basis at work. As students of University of Michigan, we all should strive to represent our institution in the best way possible. Regardless of our grades here, we should want every employer to look for Michigan graduates. In the end, it’s what we learned over the years and not the grades we got in college.

  4. weinben Says:

    The use of Adderall increases focus and attention span what is capable of without it for students for whom it is not prescribed for. This gain in abilities by using unnatural substances not through one’s own hard work, will power or perseverance would be considered cheating in many forums, like professional athletics or academia. However, the use of Adderall and other similar drugs is so widespread that to go without it seemingly leaves one at a disadvantage when compared to other students of similar intellectual prowess and those above it. Using adderall allows students to complete hefty amounts of work in fractions of the time it would take to finish naturally, because aside from the gain in attention space Adderall gives, it makes you want to work hard and gives you a certain drive one might not have access to readily. Perhaps this effect is caused because students don’t want to waste the Adderall by not doing work, or maybe it is simply a result of adderall itself. Nevertheless, it is this willingness to do work and get tasks done that many site as the primary benefit of the drug. Like how most people think everybody used steroids in the MLB to level the playing field, most kids seem to be using Adderall or other other brand name drugs to get tedious work done in shorter amounts of time so kids can pursue other extracurricular and activities with the new amount of free time. So the idea of adderall being an unfair advantage seems to beckon the question, but if everybody is using it, what does that say about students my age school , or even nation, wide? Do we condone the use of adderall, even though it is potentially illegal and unethical, because the results make it worth it? Does the use of adderall say that kids my age are more Machiavellian in nature, who excuse breaches in morality to get outstanding results? Perhaps. But it can also say my generation is more resourceful and goal driven than others.

  5. madelinedunn Says:

    When thinking about my answer to your question, “What is the purpose of school?” many things come to mind: to make friends, discover what is it you want to do with the rest of your life, for networking purposes, and to learn from scholarly professors that have been in your same shoes before. When it is time to go off to college it is the first time that most students are on their own and able to make decisions based on their own will as opposed to the will of their families. This new found freedom will lead to both good and bad choices.
    One choice many students make is to take the drug Adderall. This drug has not been around for enough time to really see what the long term negative effects are on the brain. They could be minimal, or catastrophic. We know that for the most part, when people are using drugs that are not prescribed to them, more bad than good can come out of the situation. However, even those who do have a legitimate prescription to the drugs do not always obtain it on legitimate terms. I have heard of many different people pretending that they need Adderall when really they just want a leg up on studying and test taking. There are families with “doctor friends” who will get their kids prescriptions to this drug so that they have an easier time with school. We can all agree that college is hard, especially if you go to the University of Michigan. However, that does not mean that taking study drugs are the only way to get by.
    Whether or not taking Adderall is to be considered cheating is a touchy subject. When I drink caffeine, which is a drug, I am able to study for longer periods of time and therefore I can get more work done. Adderall is just another drug that works like caffeine, however in a more magnified sense. Whether someone is taking Adderall, caffeine or wearing noise canceling headphones, they all serve the same purpose of aiding one’s scholastics. My questions is: are using ALL of these considered cheating? I don’t think so.

  6. bbarocas Says:

    For the most part, I tend to agree with the author that whether or not Adderall is cheating depends on which purpose you think college is to serve. I believe that the primary goal of higher education should be to gain knowledge and personal growth. Getting an education is ultimately whatever you make out of it, and those who make the most of it will come out stronger and better than the rest. It is very important to take away as much as you can from your collegiate experience and grow as a person so that you are better prepared for the real world. If this is in fact the case then I do not think Adderall should be considered cheating for several reasons. First, people are free to make a choice, and if they think that the best way to improve their self-knowledge and performance is through a drug then that should be up to them. If we are truly striving to achieve this goal of self-knowledge and growth then Adderall can certainly help us achieve it if used the right way. I strongly agree with euriosti, when he says that Adderall is not cheating because of what the drug does. Like he said, it simply helps you focus. The rest is entirely up to you. While I have never used Adderall, I know people who have, and many of them have only been hurt by it. Just because it helps you focus does not mean that it will do so in a good way. It is just as easy to end up focusing on the wrong thing or focusing in a negative way than it is to focus in a way that will help you perform. However though, I do feel that if you look at college from the competitive standpoint of separating the smart from the dumb, then it is easy to see why some would consider it cheating. It does have the potential to provide an unfair advantage, and that does not sit well with many people. The drug is meant for people who have actual health issues, not to be taken advantage of by kids looking to get help studying. To me this is not only unfair, but also somewhat wrong. People are taking advantage of a drug that is meant to help a serious issue in order to help themselves reach the “smart” side of the scale. In the end, it is a debate that will only continue to grow as the number of students around the country using Adderall continues to increase. If students want to only worry about doing whatever it takes to perform in the classroom, then to them Adderall may help. But the real important theory to me is the one that asks what you will do with your life after college, and how you have grown as a person. And whether you consider Adderall cheating or not, taking it will not have a positive effect on that.

  7. alexwillard Says:

    I do not think that Adderall is a form of cheating. Adderall is essentially the same as a vast amount of caffeine and gives you the ability to focus for long periods of time. How you want to use that time is up to your discretion. If you use it to study I do not believe that this is a form of cheating it is merely a study aid such as notes. If we were to classify Adderall as cheating we should incorporate monster, coffee, or any caffeinated substance that also us to focus for long periods of time. When thinking about Adderall along these lines it is not something that can be defined as “cheating”.

    Stating the above I do think Adderall in its current form of distribution is an unfair advantage and a form of cheating. If Adderall were made accessible to the public I would have no problem in stating that is not a “cheaters” drug. But since it is not accessible to the public and only select few have access to it, besides those diagnosed with ADHD, I’m talking about the wealthy, I believe that it could be defined as cheating.

  8. Jason Cohen Says:

    I recently just commented on a very similiar post regarding Lance Armstrongs increase of red blood cell regimine. I believe that if one is prescribed Aderall, there is nothing wrong with taking it during the crucial period before finals. However, purchasing it illegally is unacceptable and breaking the law. Therefore, yes it is cheating. I believe at Duke University if you are caught using Aderall, or “study candy” without a prescription, there are severe consequences that possibly include expulsion. Perhaps other prestigious universites should follow in those footsteps to uphold their academic integrity. Just a thought

  9. William Burton Says:

    Most of you are looking at the use of Adderall as Cheating because it is illegil, but that is not what the question asked was, the question was: SHOULD it be considered cheating? The idea I was trying to get across was the importance of competition to the issue. I feel that, If you BELIEVE the purpose of school should be competition… to make the cream rise to the top, if you will, then Adderall use must be considered cheating because it makes learning (or the process of learning) easier for some and therefore breaks the system. If you believe that school SHOULD not be competitive, but rather should be focused more on a person trying to better themselves, then Adderall use cannot be cheating, because cheating implies that a person is competing unfairly with others… if the system is not competitive, how can there be unfair competing?

    The real point of the article though is not necessarily just the issue of Adderall or study-drug use, but the way in which a persons belief on an issue may be dependent, atleast in part, on their beliefs on other issues.

  10. mturner1013 Says:

    I personally think that the college is competitive. You are graded against your peers, and that grade can heavily effect what you do when you graduate college. If college wasn’t competitive, than why when you get out of college do most jobs and all grad schools ask to see your gpa? They want to know how you fared against your fellow students, not how much knowledge you attained. Also, another way to prove that it is competitive, is that in most cases, the person with the better GPA, will get the higher paying job, or get into the better grad school. So now to the question of adderall, if college is competitive, do I consider it cheating? The answer for me is no. If a student is not ADD or ADHD and takes adderall I don’t consider that cheating. I personally think that in our time, everybody is “ADD”. You can get a prescription for adderall very easily just cause you can’t stay focused in class because its boring or something. I understand that some students have a harder time than other students, but when it comes to taking adderall, the student is still the person doing the work. Its not like if you don’t have ADD and you take adderall someone magically appears and does all your work for you. That does not happen, so it is not cheating. When you take adderall, regardless of health conditions, you do your own work. You may be more focused, and don’t sleep, but it is still you personally doing your work. In that case it I don’t think it is cheating, even when I consider the point of school to be competing against your peers for a better grade.

  11. jrmeller Says:

    I find that both sides that you addressed are too absolute. College should have some form of competition within its institution, but it should also be a tool used for the benefit of the students to gain further knowledge. In all the established educational institutions I have attended in my academic career, a heavy emphasis has been placed on earning high grades. Students feel pressured that in order to succeed in their years following college, they need to score as high as possible while they are enrolled in college. Drugs, like adderall, tend to be a viable option for those who feel such pressures.
    I have an older brother who suffers from a severe learning disability and adhd. He is without question BRILLIANT. He graduated from John Hopkins with honors, and now studies at the London School of Economics. He needs medication to help him focus and do his work. I do not consider this to be cheating, but more so as a means to allow him to optimize his academic potential. I do understand that individuals without adhd use the medication to help them study, but those individuals need to understand that drugs like adderall are really for those who need it, and that those who use it without a prescription are at risk of becoming addicted to that substance.

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