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Competition Sparks Abuse of Prescription Drugs
Reed Horton '14 Contributing Writer
December 19, 2013

In the world of prep school sports, Deerfield values integrity and sportsmanship. If there were a football player on the smaller side, we would encourage him togotothegymtobulkupand not to take any shortcuts such as HGH or other performance enhancing drugs. That would be cheating.

But in the world of academia, where cheating or academic honesty is much more of a hot topic, Deerfield allows people to take these performance boosters all the time.

Adderall or other drugs like it are being taken by a higher and higher number of kids these days and it’s obvious why.

One anonymous senior boy said, “They’re incredible. When I take a pill, I can sit down for four or five hours and just crush work. I don’t ever zone out or lose focus.”

These pills are so unfair that Wesleyan University recently added an “Adderall Clause” to its student handbook, making it academic dishonesty to take the pills without a prescription. But the problem with such a clause is that more and more people are being diagnosed with ADHD who don’t actually have it.

In a 2010 study at the University of Kentucky, 100 college students were asked to take a test meant to diagnose ADHD. Fifty of the students actually had the condition, whereas the other fifty did not and were asked to try and fake it. In the results, the two groups were indistinguishable.

If a student wants a prescription, he can simply walk into the doctor’s office and ask. One junior recounted his tale of diagnosis quite simply: “I went to my doctor and told her that I had trouble focusing. I answered a few questions about my studies, always making it seem like I couldn’t focus and that I was fidgety. After maybe five questions, she wrote my prescription and I left.”

According to data from I.M.S. Health, ADHD prescriptions have risen 56% for kids ages 0-19 in the last six years, and a whopping 141% for adults ages 20-39.

The CDC reports that one in five high school boys has been diagnosed. Although there are a select few who need these pills to function, there are many kids who are simply taking advantage of the system. They don’t have much trouble focusing, but still want that leg up that many doctors are willing to give.

Dr. William Graf, a pediatric neurologist in New Haven and a Professor at the Yale School of Medicine, sums up the issue: “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed too readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”

The process to diagnose ADHD needs to be fixed. Kids like the ones at the University of Kentucky shouldn’t be able to fool doctors into prescribing medication they don’t need. And doctors need to remember that kids are just being kids. They are going to be full of energy and are going to find it hard to focus.

Instead of taking medication, maybe teenagers these days just need to learn how to study.