Venkata: Study drugs are not the answer

It’s time to re-evaluate dependence on Adderall and Ritalin.

by Uma Venkata

As many of us know, plenty of students on campus find themselves reliant on study drugs. There’s such a market that two weeks ago, the Minnesota Daily reported on a pair of entrepreneurial students who marketed an “alternative to Adderall,” NeurOwl, to be sold at Maxwell’s Market in Marcy-Holmes. Though we’re used to it, step back: a commonly acknowledged, publicly held, University-wide study drug routine is alarming. But there are different reasons why. Some may think that the study drug dependence points to excessively strenuous coursework. I disagree.

School isn’t too hard. Humans are strong. I believe that all coursework at this school, even that of the busiest Ph.D. student, is completely feasible. It’s just time management. Go ahead and consume all the coffee you want — it’s not vital, Mitt Romney made the campaign trail without it — and the legal magnitude of drinking it is absolutely nowhere near that of taking unprescribed Adderall or Ritalin. Caffeinated soda, black tea, espresso — there’s an abundance of OK ways to energize under strained time management, even if you don’t want to delve into baby-step substances like NeurOwl or straight caffeine tablets. 

But habits take days to form, and especially depending on the person, gateways are quite a real thing. Dependence on external consumables really won’t train us for challenging, fulfilling, rewarding careers. Coffee is one thing, and pharma-dependence-effect pills are another. Though we may not think so for ourselves, they’ll lower the barrier to consuming other things for on-demand drive, like alcohol and illegal drugs—which are already lynchpins on trading floors, state legislatures and newsrooms. And they’re not healthy there, either.

But the most worrying thing about study drug habits is that they indicate that our perspective on college itself is slipping out of place. No law requires us to be here, and it’s nothing less than a privilege to afford the time and money — or to bank on repaying the loans — that allow us to be here. The world is changing, and so must we. Education is the light of the past, the present and the future. University of Minnesota students are armed with a Public Ivy full of brilliant instructors, researchers, administrators, classmates and facilities management — what a giant on whose shoulders to stand. Oh, and we have the Internet as well — where practically anything is at our fingertips.

Because we’re given so much, it’s a disservice to ourselves to undervalue our time here at school. The wrong way to go about college is to let it slip through our fingers in a rose-goggled daydream of weekday Netflix, socializing and partying — and then pop study drugs to cram our way through a hangover the next day. 

College is an investment in the future. Yes, now’s the time to figure out who we are, what we want to do, what kind of person we envision ourselves growing old with — and yes, it’s possible to do that and healthily keep up with rigorous coursework. And the more time and stress-management you can muster, the better off you’ll be for the future. That means you actually can be who you want, get your dream job and leave time to find exactly the right person. It’s a small price to pay.