Neuroenhancers improve test scores, but have hidden dangers

Study drugs | David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

Study drugs | David Delgado/The Daily Cougar

Late-night cram sessions are not foreign to college students, and neither is the resulting groggy aftermath of such sessions. With this in mind, reaching for an energy drink or cup of coffee for a burst of energy to keep you going is understandable.

The controversy is about something with a little bit more push — specifically, neuroenhancers, the method some students use to get their extra burst of energy. Common neuroenhancers that students take to help them academically include study drugs like Ritalin, Donepezil, Modafinil, Adderall and Vyvanse.

Advocates of neuroenhancers say that their use results in higher test scores, increased cognitive function and focus, increased memory, and most important to the argument, that they are relatively safe with little abuse potential inside of prescribed doses.

Strong stimulants are frequently used, prescribed or not, by army troops, police officers and doctors to help them keep themselves alert and focused.

However, overuse of these drugs can lead to addiction, dependency, cardiovascular problems, increased blood pressure, headaches and sleep deprivation.

To most, the risk of a few headaches is a fair price to pay to possibly ace a test. Though use of such medication is widely known, there has been no crackdown on their use due to lack of major incidents involving neuroenhancers, and the medical gray area in which they lay.

With short-term safety almost guaranteed by advocates of these drugs, the attention falls onto the unstudied long-term effects of non-prescribed use of neuroenhancers, and it becomes an argument of ethics.

A main concern is whether using such drugs, in an effort to preform, constitutes cheating and places students who do not take such drugs at a disadvantage.

Fairness is hard to measure in the academic field because students are expected to learn the material on their own, with the use of traditional study enhancers like a tutor, computer program or copious amounts of caffeine.

It’s impossible to treat neuroenhancers on the same level as energy drinks or coffee; to do so would either be saying it requires no regulation, like caffeine, or that caffeine should also be regulated.

Furthermore, some of these neuroenhancers have a similar makeup to cocaine, and are sometime used as an alternative to such. College students should see this as a huge red flag.

Additionally, the dosage of a drug is specified to the individual with the prescription. This means that some doses will obviously be stronger than others. Therefore, an additional danger associated with these drugs when taking them without a prescription.

Some students may do fine on a smaller dosage, but unintentionally place themselves in danger if they accidentally take a dosage that is too strong for them.

Future studies will reveal more information on the effects of taking these drugs, but it is also likely that these drugs will become increasingly more potent. And as the use of such drugs becomes more accepted, fewer students will hesitate to take what is seen as good option to keep ahead. And as pressure continues to mount on college students, it is easy to see why more may decide to start using these drugs.

Marcus Smith is a creative writing sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].


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