COLUMN: No magic pill for hard work

Not enough is being done to wage an awareness campaign about the danger of study drugs in universities and educational institutions.

With exam time just around the corner, students across universities and high schools are working day and night to prepare for the big day.

However, for many students, studying hard just isn’t enough.

In recent years, a disturbing behaviour has emerged in North American high schools and post-secondary institutions. Though education is one field where one would imagine good intentions and ethical conduct reign supreme, the truth is quite contrary.

Paper mills and plagiarism are widely known problems, but a different type of cheating, in the form of so-called “study drugs,” has also emerged.

Students are illegally purchasing drugs used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or getting them falsely prescribed.  Ritalin, nicknamed “kiddie cocaine,” and Adderall are two common ADHD drugs that students undiagnosed with ADHD are using so they can remain focussed on one task and in a state of concentration for hours on end.

An internal motivation to succeed simply isn’t enough for many of today’s students. Instead, students say they rely on these drugs to enhance their performance and increase their grades.

I consider this cheating, plain and simple. In fact, these drugs (I refuse to call them “study” drugs) have become so popular  that a 2008 University of the Fraser Valley study showed that one-third of Simon Fraser University and UFV students were abusing prescription drugs, including Ritalin.

The number of Ritalin prescriptions issued over the past two decades has also increased significantly in Canada.

We live in a world where quick gratification is common and many have simply forgotten about the importance of hard work. For the student who takes the right path and puts in the extra effort, this is simply unfair.

But students who are taking these drugs aren’t just cheating the system and their fellow students, but also themselves. The side-effects of abusing these drugs might include dependence, insomnia, paranoia, depression, nervousness, and other serious implications.

Obviously, we must look at the root causes of this behaviour, which includes an overly competitive society and pressure to succeed, often created by family and friends.

However, simply blaming these factors will not solve the problem. Students must take responsibility for their actions.

It is quite ironic and sad that the very students who represent the future and are constantly surrounded by a world of knowledge engage in such behaviours. In terms of principle, these drugs are not in any way different from the effect that sports-enhancing drugs have had on the world of sports. Not only should doctors work to prevent unnecessary prescriptions of these drugs, but universities should also strictly denounce such activities and remain alert for students selling such drugs in-person or online.

Not enough is being done to wage a serious public health awareness campaign about the danger of these drugs in our universities and educational institutions, despite the fact that studies and prominent scholars have supported greater emphasis on this approach.

Preparing early, using available resources, and asking questions are excellent ways to achieve high marks – without having to sacrifice ethical beliefs. One does not have to use Ritalin or Adderall in order to achieve this.

There is simply no magic pill for hard work. As retired four-star general and former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated, “a dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University Surrey. He writes regularly for The Leader.

japreet@live.ca

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