On Teen Health: using ‘good grade pills’ to get into college

English: Adderall

Adderall. Image via Wikipedia.

In case you missed the front page story of today’s New York Times, Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill, here’s your link, along with a few quotes from the story to follow.

“Everyone in school either has a prescription or has a friend who does,” the boy said.

“Once you break the seal on using pills, or any of that stuff, it’s not scary anymore — especially when you’re getting A’s,” said the boy who snorted Adderall in the parking lot.

Paul L. Hokemeyer, a family therapist at Caron Treatment Centers in Manhattan, said: “Children have prefrontal cortexes that are not fully developed, and we’re changing the chemistry of the brain. That’s what these drugs do. It’s one thing if you have a real deficiency — the medicine is really important to those people — but not if your deficiency is not getting into Brown.”

“Isn’t it just like a vitamin?” asked one high school junior from Eastchester, a suburb of New York.

“Right before everybody took the PSATs, a bunch of kids went to the bathroom to snort their Addies,” she said.

While a few official responses in the article play down the teen student estimates of usage, I wondered about our own high school.

Usually in our household, the teens go for the comics from the local paper, then the local and national sports pages, leaving the rest of the sections to the parents.

Today, Mod Squad Pete saw this article — top of the fold, page one — and snatched up the section. We talked about it later. Sure enough, the stimulants are readily available, the usage is recognizable (especially with first-time users), and SAT and AP Exams provide a real trigger. More from the article:

One consensus was clear: users were becoming more common, they said, and some students who would rather not take the drugs would be compelled to join them because of the competition over class rank and colleges’ interest.

A current law student in Manhattan, who said he dealt Adderall regularly while at his high school in Sarasota, Fla., said that insecurity was a main part of his sales pitch: that those students “would feel at a huge disadvantage,” he said.

Matthew Herper, who writes about science and medicine for Forbes, wrote The Questions about ADHD Drugs the New York Times Didn’t Ask. He states the article provides no evidence that the use of stimulants is new nor on the rise, yet:

I worry that we’re over-using these stimulants, both as a medical treatment and as a performance enhancer. There are other ways to learn to focus. A dose of Ritalin is not the same as a cup of coffee.

There are many ugly sides to the college application process, including the perceived necessity to do whatever it takes to get into a ‘most selective’ college, whether that’s cheating on an SAT, padding the community service / extra-curricular section of the resume with stuff the student doesn’t give a whit about, parents writing the essay, and more.

This side, with its long-term health consequences, mental health complications, and legal issues, looks like one of the ugliest to me.

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Filed under High School

2 responses to “On Teen Health: using ‘good grade pills’ to get into college

  1. This is why getting into an Ivy League school isn’t always the bees knees some people think. Who wants to pay $50,000 for their kid to hang around druggies and cheats?

    Mike may not be at the best college but so far this summer he’s gotten a job and read three novels. I feel confident he’s on the right track.

  2. Pingback: On Teen Health: getting ready for college. | Dr. StrangeCollege or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Journey

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