If a drug exists that creates enhanced cognitive thinking — are we required as a society of the shared common good — required to provide equal access to that medication without a prescription?

Some believe we need to give students free access to Ritalin and Adderall in order to help them advance their highest level of learning and that those drugs should be provided without persecution or restriction:

Today, on university campuses around the world, students are striking deals to buy and sell prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin — not to get high, but to get higher grades, to provide an edge over their fellow students or to increase in some measurable way their capacity for learning. These transactions are crimes in the United States, punishable by prison.

Do you think the next advancement of the mind requires artificial enhancement with drugs?

Or are coffee and tea and caffeine and Red Bull and other non-regulated herbal “enhancements” enough for our minds to reach maximum capacity?


  1. I can’t believe they are even considering making Adderall and Ritalin accessible over the counter! These drugs can’t be taken like Tylenol or Advil! These drugs are intended for people with ADD/ADHD. They were purposely designed for people with serious attention problems!
    I wonder if they know that if you are not diagnosed with ADD/ADHD that these drugs have a complete opposite effect? It’s very dangerous and has some very serious repercussions on the heart and other internal organs!
    I have one child diagnosed with ADHD. She is currently taking Focalin. Yes, it does have a profound effect on her. She is a completely different child when she takes it. However, she has to be monitored by a physician to keep a close eye on any potentially serious side effects.
    The drug Focalin is the one drug for ADD/ADHD that has the least side effects. I had to research for a whole year before I would consent for her to be administered Focalin. The realization of the long term side effects of these drugs will ultimately have a impact on the lives of many years later. They cause liver damage, some cause heart problems and hypertension, some even effect the blood. These are not drugs to play around with!
    I am in awe that such drugs are being valued as safe enough to offer to the general public over the counter! Apparently, some one didn’t take their prescription medication … and has completely lost their mind!
    The whole idea is just absurd! Why even have Pharmacies in America if we are going to make such drugs as these easily accessible to anyone who wants them?

  2. I appreciate your experience and your passion on this topic, Heartmelody69!
    I, too, was surprised to see this idea given serious consideration in the medical and science communities — I guess students are self-prescribing these pills and buying them on the black market in order to get a short-term performance boost on exam and study days. The current scientific thinking appears to be that if you allow easier access to the drugs with medical supervision, we won’t have these desperate kids popping pills on their own just to get a higher grade on an exam.
    This sort of reminds me of the early 1960’s when LSD was the new “mind expanding drug” wending its way through the youth communities until deeper medical study was done on the drug to learn its real dangers and long lasting aftereffects.

  3. Drug enhanced performance? Sounds a bit scary. :/ I wonder if they’re going to start random testing before or after exams.

  4. I’m torn on this issue. I’m a college student and I know some of my classmates use these drugs, and others abuse caffeine/energy drinks. Still, most of my classmates who use these drugs do so out of desperation- they’re students who are in over their heads trying to keep up. And it is very much situational- they don’t get addicted, and use the drugs only when they need to, sometimes only for one semester or class.
    For example, all chemistry majors have to pass a full year of organic chemistry, a difficult class. Many chemists hate O-chem and never use it in their careers, but you can’t be a chemist without passing it. Some of my classmates only pass thanks to, pardon the pun, chemical assistance. If they then go on with their lives to be successful and substance-free scientists or doctors, I don’t see much harm in it.
    That said, I wouldn’t want it to be anymore widespread than it is. I don’t want to sacrifice my health to my G.P.A. and I don’t want to be in a situation where most of my classmates are doing just that. I’d rather not see people get in trouble with the law, but I think having these drugs be illegal keeps them a method of last resort. It’s a very complicated issue.

  5. liminallife —
    Why are these students over their heads? Were they accepted into a program of study they cannot handle or successfully manage on their own?
    I know coffee/soda/Viviran has historically been overused in the past to help students cram — but the easy access today to really brain-chemistry changing drugs must be a concern — and I wonder how we came into this condition? Is it due to student laziness or professors that are expecting too much?

  6. I can’t really speak for why college students in general are in over their heads, but in the sciences certain courses are specifically designed to as weed-out classes- the O-chem class is one of these. 200 go in, 50 come out. It’s not ideal, but just because someone is smart enough to get into a university doesn’t mean they will have the right cognitive tools to excel at every subject offered there. I know it makes me sound like snob, but I have a charming chemical burn on my arm to remind why I want a lab partner who passed the weed-out. I’ll carry a reminder of her carelessness to the grave- and she was a pre-med! Still, it was her dream, and maybe a little extra focus would have let her reach it. Maybe with a little extra focus she wouldn’t have splashed the acid.
    As for professorial expectations, all too often academia is infected with the same “I paid my dues, now it’s your turn” mentality that gives rise to hazing. All professors were once students, but rather than making them more sympathetic it sometimes stops them from offering any more help or understanding than they themselves received. After spending years living off a grad student’s stipend and making tremendous sacrifices to get where they are, some professors just don’t see a problem with asking students to make schoolwork the sole focus of their lives. Higher education is enough of a mess even without these drugs.

  7. liminallife —
    That’s a pretty horrible story! How, exactly, did you get acid on your arm? How much of you did the splash eat? Did someone come to your rescue?
    I agree academia is broken. There’s too much emphasis on learning instead of knowing. The diploma matters more than the process of intellectual interrogation. Giving the expected answer is more valued than asking the unique question. We need to find new memes and then propagate them without the hatred for, and the deconstruction of, any new idea that challenges the current and past thinking.
    There is a certain freshness to proclaiming, “I am my own university, and this is what I know…” and let the world come to you or reject you based on your ideas and thoughts and not some ancient idea of what is important and what must first be learned.

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