‘Limitless’ and the college student

Imagine if there was a pill that would allow you to use the full capacity of your brain, enabling you to become the person you have always dreamed of being. Would you take it? More importantly, do you think it would work? Two weekends ago, the film “Limitless” hit the box office, tackling this very phenomenon.

Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is in his late twenties/early thirties, and he has hit rock bottom. Among other things, the deadline for his first book draft looms ahead of him, but he has yet to write a single word. For three days, he sits in his apartment to write but comes up with nothing. Desperate, he takes a pill called NZT, offered to him by an old acquaintance. The man (his ex-brother¬-in-law) claims that NZT has the amazing ability to allow the user to access the full use of his brain, allowing him to be more productive, creative and ultimately successful. Morra downs the pill, wondering at this point, what could it hurt? Sure enough the pill works wonders. He literally becomes a success overnight, finishing his book and going on to make millions.

On the surface, this is just another entertaining film with a catchy plot and great actors (Cooper as well as Abbie Cornish). But the filmâÄôs relevance and connection to college students especially is apparent. As students, we struggle to balance our lives between the academic, working and social worlds. But so often, we get to a point where we realize that it is virtually impossible to do it all. ThatâÄôs where the “student version” of NZT comes to play. Most of the time, these include stimulants in the form of ADHD medicines such as Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse. According to one survey in 2009, up to 25 percent of students reported to have taken some sort of “smart drug” in the past year to help them succeed. Although illegal to consume without a prescription, these pills are not difficult to acquire on campuses, especially around finals time. They all have a similar function: to stimulate the central nervous system, which in return makes the user feel more focused and motivated. Like Morra, why wouldnâÄôt anyone want to take such a pill?

As the movie continues, the downsides of NZT are exposed. It is highly addictive and people become violent âÄî and even kill âÄî to get their hands on the pill. Morra becomes physically dependent so that if he were to get off it he would face incredible pain. When he does miss taking a dose, he becomes unable to carry out his job. Maybe students donâÄôt become violent from taking an Adderall, and they probably wouldnâÄôt die from popping a Ritalin, but this is not to undermine the danger of using stimulants.

Over time, users of any drug âÄî not just stimulants âÄî develop a sort of tolerance. They may become physically or psychologically dependent and are often unable to function as well without it. It becomes a cycle of obtaining the pill or substance so one can function at maximum capacity. Adderall and Vyvanse are amphetamines, a class of drugs known for their habit-forming tendencies. Ritalin is a similar substance. As one book mentions, “There is no question that psychomotor stimulants are addictive.” This does not necessarily mean that the user will become addicted, but that there is a higher potential with stimulants than with other substances. There is also the legal concern: Taking drugs not prescribed to you is a crime. Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin are all Schedule II substances, which means only a doctor is allowed to prescribe them. The bottom line: The benefits of stimulants donâÄôt come without high costs.

The ending message in “Limitless” is clear: Even though they seem to be helpful initially, there is yet to be made a “miracle drug” that has no sort of detrimental side effects. In our modern day, where everyone is on the quest for an easy fix and terms like “delayed gratification” are almost obsolete, it would appear that for every problem, there is a solution; for every ailment, there is a remedy. However, as “Limitless” cautions, there is a price for every result. It is up to the individual to decide, is it worth it?