Finals week. The words conjure up a stream of crazed thoughts among the best of us. Hours spent staring at the library clock, Facebooking or reading that stupid paragraph over and over until it registers. College students are not supposed to have the will, desire or aptitude to actually sit down in the library and study continuously for hours on end.
Enter 2008, and I find myself sitting in the 24-hour study room at 12:30 a.m. on the Tuesday of finals week. I am not surprised by the abundance of people in the room at such a late hour. I am surprised, however, at the task of finding someone who does not have some sort of stimulant in front of them. Red Bull, Rockstar, cappuccino, triple-shot espresso, Coke, Pepsi. Everybody has something keeping him or her awake and focused. The tension is palpable; everyone is on edge from the combination of stimulants, stress and lack of sleep. This is the society Generation Y has grown up in.
I could delve into a psychological analysis as to why there has been such a proliferation of stimulant use in the 21st century, but I will concentrate on what I believe is a bigger problem: the use of certain prescription drugs by students without prescriptions. This has recently gone through the roof. The most popular drugs are amphetamines such as Adderall, which helps a person stay awake and focused. Students buy these innocuous-looking pills from other students who, rightfully or not, have a prescription entitling them to use the drugs.
The pills are cheap, the short-term side effects are minimal, and the effects are undeniable. In the frenzied pace of the University of California quarter system, where finals and midterms are everything, popping an "Addy" can be the quickest way to an A.
There are no punitive short-term side effects that would inhibit students from taking the pills without a prescription, and the nonchalance with which some take them is frightening. The effects are so beneficial that even if there were strong side effects, these might not deter students from taking the pills. America as a society has no idea how far-reaching the abuse of these pills is. They know that pills for attention-deficit disorder are over-prescribed, but they fail to realize that students abusing them without prescriptions is an equally serious problem.
Can Adderall in schools be discussed on the same plane as steroids in sports?
Steroids are a performance-enhancing drug; they give an unfair and illegal advantage to athletes who take them. What better way to describe Adderall than a performance-enhancing drug?
Neither Adderall nor steroids has been studied enough to safely say that long-term side effects are minimal.
I believe it is both illegal and unfair for students without a prescription to take these drugs. Students who do not take Adderall but still study for hours have a right to feel they are being cheated.
It's time students and faculty alike realize that stimulant use among students has gotten out of hand. Adderall abuse is just the worst face of it. We are living in a world in which taking a caffeine pill is often easier than buying a cup of coffee and where consuming 24-ounce Rockstar energy drinks with 75 grams of sugar is considered the safer alternative to pill-popping. We need to publicize the problem and start doing something about it.
David Rabie is a third-year student at UC Santa Barbara majoring in history.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times