Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and Mark McGwire are all pockmarks on our generation’s sports memories. But are we any better than they are?
With finals week fast approaching, it will become tempting and irresistible to many to break the law and use unprescribed amphetamines like Adderall to enhance brain function and help them study.
In reality, this is “academic doping.”
It is a problem in colleges across the United States that, for now, is going relatively un- combatted by administrations and law enforcement.
However, with the rise of drugs like Modafinil, there could be real changes in the way students use and hide their use of performance-enhancing study drugs.
Modafinil — known as Provigil in the U.S. — is like Adderall. It increases the alertness of the user, but it is not an amphetamine. Users say that it makes previously mind-numbing tasks into veritable walks in the park.
One user told New York Magazine that the drug was like “The Wizard of Oz,” where everything that was black and white became colorful.
The difference between Modafinil and drugs like Adderall is their prescribed uses. Adderall is meant to combat ADD and ADHD, but Modafinil was approved by the FDA to treat narcolepsy, a much more serious sleeping disorder.
Its use has not fully proliferated to the college level yet, but in the fast-paced investment world of New York City, stockbrokers are ordering three-week supplies so that they can keep up with their work.
People who had little motivation before are now kicking it in gear and grinding out work like it’s their job.
This begs the question on whether we’ve become lazy or whether these drugs actually make a difference in the way we approach our work. If it’s the latter, then we are no better than the steroid users we admonish in the national media.
If students are using study drugs to get ahead, then they are cheating themselves and everyone else into thinking they are capable of doing something that they are not.
Amphetamines help students stay up the night before a test to cram. But if we have to obtain prescription drugs just to stay awake the night before an exam, doesn’t that mean that we have not been able to manage our time well enough?
Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way.
It all seems harmless now, but when Modafinil and its future versions reach campus in a large way, then there will be real questions as to what is fair and what is not.
If there is a drug comparable to the one from the film “Limitless” floating around, how are we supposed to measure the actual merit of students?
One answer is that we have no base merit anymore. That’s to say that we’ll all be tweaking on Modafinil. If we take away sobriety, then we are still on the same footing.
But we could be facing a much bigger problem.
What if our universities note that there is an unfair advantage given to those using the drugs? Does LSU become like Major League Baseball, where we have to give drug tests to prove that we are not cheating?
It’s quite possible that with drugs like Modafinil, this may be the road we are heading down. The academic world has become so competitive that a school or government — after all, acquisition of prescription drugs is illegal — may have to come back in and level the playing field.
This plan would, no doubt, undermine what trust remains between students and the administration. But with prescription drug use skyrocketing, they may have no choice but to curb student use.
This is only, of course, if our generation continues to use narcolepsy medication to get through daily tasks. You wouldn’t think we would need something so strong, and there’s always the possibility that we give it up.
But the odds are against us.
Eli Haddow is a 20-year-old English and history junior from New Orleans.