Don’t do drugs! Sell them instead

By Scott Cohen

With midterms here to welcome us back from a sea of green, it appears that the time has come to start taking schoolwork seriously again.

And in order to kick-start our brains into productive study habits, our coffee consumption increases exponentially. Recently, I asked a friend of mine if he’d like to join me to study at Café Kopi.

“Cheap caffeine. Only one-dollar coffee if you bring your mug.” I said.

“Caffeine?” he asked with a snicker. “You want some Adderall instead? Two dollars for 10 milligrams. I know it’s twice as expensive, but it’s also 20 times more effective,” he responded.

I told him that I don’t have ADHD.

“So? Half the people who take it don’t either.”

He was undoubtedly referring to the widespread popularity of the pharmaceutical amongst non-prescribed users.

But this comment made me question how many people who are prescribed Adderall, or similar medications, actually need it.

Better yet, since Adderall sales have increased by $70.8 million in 2008, maybe I need it myself.

This concern reminds me of those Sunday nights when I sit in Grainger, agitatedly tapping my pen as I read ThisIsWhyYoureFat.com, wishing I could concentrate on those derivatives in front of me.

It’s moments like these that my TAM 212 grade is asking, “When Adderall is the legal, anabolic steroid of the academic world, to what extent must your inattentiveness be so problematic that you can finally get your hands on some performance-enhancing drugs?”

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders lists the criteria for diagnosing this disorder.

Some of these criteria include trouble listening, difficulty following instructions, lack of attention to details, etc. These “symptoms of inattention” must be “disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level.”

But when a symptom includes an aversion to activities requiring a lot of sustained mental effort (like schoolwork), how does a doctor determine a standard level of dislike that is normal for a given developmental stage?

I contacted the National Institutes of Health and found that there is a surprisingly high level of controversy surrounding the cause, diagnosis and treatment of the disorder.

Firstly, there is no consensus on the cause.

Many scientists insist it is genetic, while biological and environmental factors may also play a part.

Others believe that ADHD is socially constructed and, essentially, imaginary.

Speaking honestly, I realize that I’m a sophomore in political science who can’t even pronounce “basal ganglia,” so I will abstain from taking a position on the complicated science.

But what I do find troublesome is the system for diagnosis and treatment.

Because there is no diagnostic test, like drawing blood or a brain scan, screenings for ADHD lack objectivity.

The DSM lists general and vague criteria, without accounting for environmental factors that may cause symptoms like an inability to listen.

Diagnosis lacks an independent test, and is therefore constrained by cultural subjectivity.

This means that in each screening, a patient is compared to what is considered “normal.”

How perverse is it that if a child’s behavior is inconsistent with society’s definition of normalcy, then we must assume he or she suffers from a disorder?

This kind of thinking “otherizes” those with neurological differences, calling them abnormal and handicapped.

Ultimately, the issue comes down to a narrowly defined mainstream into which all of society is expected to fit.

It is upsetting that the power of this amoeba-like conception called “cultural hegemony” is unable to account for variations in a child’s functionality.

Instead, the result is a sort of discrimination where energetic children are drugged and essentially turned into docile, studious zombies.

When this is the result, it may seem tempting for a frustrated teacher or tired parent to call a child’s behavior “irregular,” thus resulting in the frivolous distribution of behavioral medication.

Should it be the case that Shire Pharmaceuticals continues to successfully propagate ADHD as a problem that needs fixing, then America is headed for quite the dystopian future.

I foresee a generation of post-Ludovico Alex DeLarges, obediently awaiting their next set of instructions in the eerily quiet classroom of society.

The really smart ones, however, will always figure out how to turn a profit.

Scott is a sophomore in political science and probably failed his midterm. Thanks, C-U blackout.