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Pay Attention: Using Stimulants Without a Prescription

Monday, Jan. 23, 2012

The best student comment on "Pay Attention: Using Stimulants Without a Prescription" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, Feb. 5.  Finalists are selected by "likes," so click the Facebook icon above to let your friends know about The Big Q contest  

Jill has always had trouble focusing. In middle school and high school, she has struggled to maintain her attention on class, homework, and other academic responsibilities. If not for her own determination and the encouragement of her parents, she probably would have never gone to college as she does now.

However, with midterms just around the corner, her inattentive tendencies are flaring worse than ever. And with poor grades after her first semester, she needs to do well on these tests to keep her GPA above her scholarship’s cutoff. Fortunately, a friend of hers, one familiar with Jill’s problems, has a prescription for Adderall and offers some to Jill so she can concentrate better during finals.

Jill only plans to take the pills this one time considering summer is so near. She doesn’t think she’s getting an advantage because her peers can already focus better than she can. She really needs higher grades this semester to keep her scholarship.

Is it all right if she takes some Adderall? Here are some resources that may be helpful:

Is Using Study Drugs Cheating

Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy (Nature)

Adderall (& Other Stimulant) Abuse on Campus

Framework for Ethical Decision Making


Photo by hipsxxheart available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.


Comments Comments

Robert Whitt said on Jan 23, 2012
The way the case is portrayed, it is easy for me to sympathize with Jill and say that she should take the pill. However, we must consider that she is breaking the law by taking a drug she isn't prescribed, and even if it is just this one instance it doesn't dismiss the wrongness of the act (i.e. if you stole just ONE time, it is still stealing, and it is still wrong). Contrary, we could say that it is the law that's wrong and not Jill's choice to take it. But according to St. Aquinas, laws are supposed to derive from reason which then leads us to the common good. If we allow Jill to take Adderall, we must then allow everyone to take it, which would then lead to a general increase in drug abuse. And if we have drug abuse, the common good suffers. Thus, the law we have on prescription medication is justified and Jill should not take the drug. A tougher question is this: If Jill goes to the doctor and is told she doesn't have ADHD (even though her experience with others tells her otherwise) would she be justified in taking Adderall then? - Like
Guest said on Jan 25, 2012
In this case there are 3 judicial issues that bring light to a very common and rapidly increasing problem. Drug Abuse is a term that is loosely used when passing judgment on another for behavior. There is a fine line between drug abuse and drug use. Abuse is excessive and overdependent. Use is within moderation and for a medical treatment. In the case of this student, it was not abuse or illegal because it was given to her as one would offer an over the counter Tylenol. If it was purchased then the term illegal can be used because neither party is authorized to sale or purchase the medication which has already been prescribed. Should Jill continue using her friends prescription medicine for her obvious medical condition which she has not consulted with a doctor? No. Jill has acknowledged that she is having problems and thus it is time for her to go to see her doctor so that he can prescribe her own medicine for her noted mental condition. Doctors today are induced by pharmaceutical reps to prescribe a certain medication that is new to the market for stock options and commission incentives. Thus, the question now is how do we stop doctors from abusing their authority by prescribing medications that do not properly treat the patients main issues? This in my opinion is the catalyst for rampant drug abuse of prescription pills that we see today. Doctors are under oath to practice ethical medicine, thus that means evaluating patients to the full extent to offer non addictive remedies for patient's medical conditions. This leads to my last and final point, is Adderall the only option to help Jill's ADHD? We all know that the answer to that question is No. - Like
Theo Groh said on Jan 26, 2012
I think Jill's case is a bad example. In her case, it seems like she has a recognized and longstanding attention problem that she should take up with a medical professional. The true problem lies with students who do not have recognized and long standing attention issues, but take prescription uppers like Ritalin to give them a competitive edge. From my own experience, Jill's case is the exception rather than the norm. What offends other students who don't use these drugs, and most likely prompted the student complaints at colleges like Weslyan is that bright and talented students who are recognized on deans lists, participate in honors society, or student government, or other organizations that confer prestige and academic recognition maintain their GPA with the use of performance enhancing drugs. Part of College life is competition. Competition for success, for recognition, and hopefully for opportunities that will help in life beyond college. I see this emerging controversy in the academic world as comparable to the one that the sports world has undergone in recent years. Especially in the world of professional baseball there have been real questions raised about how to count or discount the achievements and records of players who broke those records under the influence of performance enhancing drugs. Does Barry Bonds really deserve the record for overall career homeruns over Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth if he was using steroids at the time? The same applies to Academics. Is it really fair to say that two students that graduate with highest honors are comparable if one of them used performance enhancing drugs and the other one did not? I find that in my own experience, as someone who does not use these "study drugs," that I feel a great sense of unfairness in having to compete against other students who have an artificial advantage. That is not to say that I am a purist. I drink alot of coffee, and drink energy drinks on occasion, when I need to pull an all-nighter. I find, however, that the difference lies in the fact that the "study aides" that I use are freely and readily available over the counter. I can take them without participating in the illegal use of a B controlled substance. Like in sports, every Athlete wants to get that competitive edge, but we have rules in professional sports indicating what is legitimate and illegitimate ways of getting that edge. The final problem that this issue raises is an issue for the colleges themselves. If bright students cannot complete all work, or cannot complete all work well, with the natural and legal means available to them, then the colleges need to consider the workload they are giving to their students. If it is just not possible to succeed without these enhancers, then the academic community needs to realize and address this problem. Personally, I am not sure that that is the case. Using drugs to get through college lets students get away from the realities of academic life. It promotes the idea that discipline, planning ahead, and good study habits can all be replaced by medication. - Like
Andrew said on Jan 26, 2012
I do not believe that law and ethics are related per se. What is legal is not necessarily ethically right (cheating on your wife), but what is illegal is not necessary ethically wrong (a 20-year old toasting with champagne at a wedding). I believe that, as an adult, Jill has the right to govern her own body as she sees fit, so long as she is prepared to accept the possible consequences of her actions. The more problematic issue I see here is her friend, "X." X's relationship with her doctor is based on the premise that he or she prescribes drugs to treat X's medical disorders. She is violating that agreement by distributing Adderall to her friends. Furthermore, her insurance company (if applicable), has agreed to pay for X's medical care, not her friends'. X giving out pills, paid for by her insurance, is the moral equivalent of asking a friend for rent money and then spending it at a bar. - Like
Cordelia said on Feb 3, 2012
I believe Jill should not invest her money on "cheating" drugs to help her pass a class. Jill should have studied and worked hard throughout the semester to be at good standings in all her classes. Overall, Jill should not take the "cheating" drug and self-motivate herself with her studies. - Like - 8 people like this.
Julie R. said on Feb 4, 2012
I do not believe that Jill should take the Adderall. Jill should definitely talk to these problems with her parents, her school psychologist or her doctor. If she does choose to take the medicine from her friend, she may later become hooked to the pills and use them in an unhealthy way, especially because she wasn't briefed on any of the risks and especially because she doesn't have a prescription. Another negative consequence of her actions is the fact that her friend could get into serious trouble if the school were to find out that she was "sharing" or "loaning" her pills to someone who has not been medically or psychology diagnosed with a condition that requires those pills. - Like - 26 people like this.
Linda said on Feb 4, 2012
Jill should not take the Adderall. There are many serious consequences that could follow as a result of her taking a prescription drug that is not prescribed to her. Firstly, she does not know if these drugs will have any kind of side effect on her system. The Adderall could aggravate her system and potentially harm her due to the fact that she hasn't talked to a doctor or licensed professional about how to take the prescribed drugs and what to do if she experiences any negative side effects. Secondly, she could develop a really bad habit of turning to these drugs whenever she feels like she's in a time crunch which could eventually lead to her abusing this drug. If she feels that she has any kind of medical or psychology problem there are definitely many resources available to students either at their university or through their doctor. Thirdly, her friend could face serious charges if anything happens to her friend. The legal system could be involved if Jill does encounter some kind of serious side effect with the drug. - Like - 22 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on Feb 9, 2012
A clear analysis of the ethical issues. That's how the judging panel described Linda's comments on this case and why we've given her this week's Big Q prize of a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Congrats, Linda. - Like
Stephan S. said on Jan 30, 2014
Here we are, i feel in the middle of a very weird problem. She could take the pills but then who would be responsible for the consequences if there are such? Well I think she will suffer the consequence without being the responsible . On the other hand it may depend on real need that she had. Is that a need. Is the grade worth the risk. To a certain extent it is the same as those students who are extremely sleep deprived. I believe there is a very large responsibilities that the school/organisation, should bear. - Like - 1 person likes this.
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Tags: adderall, cheating, studying