I spent most of last Sunday night slowly and steadily working through the heap of responsibilities that I had steadfastly ignored in favor of the weekend. I did this despite knowing the pitfalls of procrastination, and unsurprisingly, I was tired when I woke up in the morning. I walked to meet a friend for breakfast, silently bemoaning my terrible decision the whole way there, and when I arrived, she was not in much better shape. We exchanged mumbles, I admitted I’d brought this fate entirely on myself, and her reaction was misguided, although sympathetic: “You want an Adderall?”

I politely declined her offer, but I have no doubt that this quick solution spreads far beyond college campuses. Taking stimulants is often a knee-jerk reaction to feeling tired or unmotivated, and within the past two decades, this solution has risen up to a prominent position. Humans inevitably want to feel that their problems have solutions, and while the rise of prescription pills is relatively new, the quick-fix mentality behind it is not. It affects all of us, and I can’t pretend I can exclude myself from it.

I used to consume energy drinks regularly in high school, and while I have cut those out of my diet entirely, I can’t imagine starting my morning without my usual large cup of coffee. Millions of people — especially college students — have these seemingly casual addictions to caffeine and sugar. This defeatist mindset that we simply do not have enough natural energy is certainly a component in the rise of pill abuse.

The concept is practically ingrained in our brains: we just want to get through the day. Why bother suffering through sleep deprivation — even if it’s self imposed — if there’s a way out? Why slog through writing an essay if taking one or two little pills could suddenly amp up your interest? This is exactly why people in campuses across America offer their friends Adderall as casually as they would offer a piece of gum.

We don’t want to face our problems; we want to push through them in a zombie-like state. The prescription pills I mentioned above are advertised for people with real disorders, but one can still turn on the television at any moment and see a slew of medications that promise to fix any vague discomfort a human could possibly have.

As easily as I made the jump from sugary drinks to caffeinated ones, thousands of people might make the jump from caffeine to pills that promise a brighter, faster life. As modern medicine constantly improves and commercials promise us over-the-counter solutions that are just a credit card swipe away, the temptation seems high. As I turned down my friend’s offer in favor of an oversized espresso, I couldn’t help but wonder if our decisions were that different after all.

6 Comments

  1. Emily,

    I have read that it is a lot easier to kick a coffee habit than an Adderall habit — and much less dangerous in the long run. Also, you get some health benefits with drip and espresso coffee — nothing but drug with Adderall.

    When my wife was in the hospital after she had our son, the nurses kept offering her pain medication and she repeatedly declined, stating that it didn’t hurt but was more, well, uncomfortable. A coworker of mine at the time chided her for not saving them for him. I’m glad she didn’t!

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    1. Absolutely! The attitudes of her nurses and your coworker are exactly what I’m talking about. I’m glad your wife stuck to her decision despite them.

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  2. Luckily I found that sunlight and warmth have lessened my need for Relentless – that and I cannot get it here and Red Bull – my substitute for Relentless – now it is mild coffee as I cannot take strong coffee ………… I find it a lot easier to get motivated by natural things.

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    1. They really can work wonders! I have to admit I’m a bit jealous of you living in Portugal’s nicer climate. Today is finally a beautiful day on Long Island, but it’s been a long, gray and windy winter.

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