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Monday, June 12, 2006

New addictions affecting our students

"Smart Pills"
Back when I first created my MySpace and Facebook accounts, I did some browsing and found some pretty surprising info among the "Groups". Students were openly praising drugs like Adderall for helping them study.

Back when I was in school, our only chemical study aids seemed to be Jolt and No Doze (no link...maybe they're out of business?). No Doze was seen as dangerous enough to warrant a "very special episode" of Saved By the Bell about Jesse getting addicted to caffeine pills (a classic episode that lives on, here and here, in YouTube land). In my Residence Life years, we heard rumbles about Ritalin abuse, but my RA staff didn't feel it was widespread on our campus. Those who were using prescription drugs weren't talking about it.

Somehow, attitudes have shifted and students are open about using pharmaceuticals. The Washington Post finally gave the issue the front cover (though of the Style section) yesterday. The students quoted in the article are pretty candid. One UVA graduate said they showed up here in the last two years. A student at University of Delaware said he was shocked by a survey he did for a class project.

"With rising competition for admissions and classes becoming harder and harder by the day, a hypothesis was made that at least half of students at the university have at one point used/experienced such 'smart drugs,' " Salantrie writes in his report. He found his hunch easy to confirm.

"What was a surprise, though, was the alarming rate of senior business majors who have used" the drugs, he writes. Almost 90 percent reported at least occasional use of "smart pills" at crunch times such as final exams, including Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera and others. Of those, three-quarters did not have a legitimate prescription, obtaining the pills from friends.
The pressure to succeed and gain admission to a top grad school is mentioned over and over again, as is ignorance about the prevalence of these drugs.

I hope three things:

First, obviously, that people come to their senses and stay away from this stuff.

Second, that high schoolers aren't getting in on this. The side effects are bad enough for adults (liver failure!?!), I can't imagine how bad they'd be on bodies that are still developing.

Third, that students who don't pop pills will be seen as having the real smarts and those who use "Smart Pills" will be seen as having artificial smarts. I see a difference between an A that results from planning ahead and studying hard verses one gotten because of a drug-assisted cram session.



Onine Gambling
Another sort of addiction is taking hold of students: online gambling. The Sunday New York Times published and article about this disturbing trend.

What I found most surprising is that some colleges are allowing tournaments to take place on campus.
Some schools have allowed sites to establish a physical on-campus presence by sponsoring live cash tournaments; the sites partner with fraternities and sports teams, even give away a semester's tuition, all as inducements to convert the casual dorm-lounge poker player to a steady online customer. An unregulated network of offshore businesses has been given unfettered access to students, and the students have been given every possible accommodation to bet and lose to their hearts' content. Never before have the means to lose so much been so available to so many at such a young age.
The gist of the article is that students are losing thousands to these online sites and spending most of their waking hours (even ones in class, thanks to wireless internet) gambling.