School on full speed: An issue of academic integrity

Four writers weigh in on the growing use of prescription drugs to study. (Photo by Adele van Wyk)

Four writers weigh in on the growing use of prescription drugs to study. (Photo by Adele van Wyk)

This week, I asked my writers to weigh in on the increasing abuse of so-called “study drugs” on university campuses. This catchy term refers to the non-prescribed use of drugs meant to treat ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder), such as Ritalin and Adderall, by students hoping to get an advantage in their studies. In case you hadn’t heard (but since you’re reading this, you probably have) these drugs allow those not dealing with ADD or ADHD to focus intensely for hours—perfect for banging out a term paper or cramming for a final in one sitting.

There could be a million reasons—one for every individual user—as to why these drugs are a growing trend on campus. For some, they’re a way to excel in school and multiple extracurriculars at once. For others, they’re a way to focus on having fun until the day before that paper is due. They could also be a solution for those who feel the pressure to do well on a full course load, but who also have to work to pay tuition. Maybe it signals a growing epidemic of concentration. Maybe my generation is lazy/too competitive/overachieving. Everyone has a different answer.

Whatever the cause, the effect of study drugs is a widespread issue of academic integrity. Students taking study drugs to cram for an exam are comparable to athletes using steroids in their sport. In both cases, drugs artificially enhance the user’s competitive edge, pushing the body beyond what it can naturally accomplish. The use of drugs is, obviously, illegal in sports, and their discovery will cause athletes to lose their titles. But in academia, no one is testing our blood samples as we flood the Dalplex for exams. Study drugs slip under the radar, and anyone who uses them can get away with it.

I’m not advocating that Dalhousie start monitoring student bodies. But this is an issue that must be addressed. Currently, Dal appears to hold no policies regarding study drugs. Even the “other forms of cheating” section on the university website doesn’t list an official stance on it (unless you count the reference to “irregular procedures,” which could cover all manner of sins). If Dal decides to declare this an issue of academic integrity, clarifying the website, as well as detailing their policy right next to the plagiarism blurb on class syllabuses, would help students understand the gravity of this offence.

Study drugs will likely always remain untraceable, but Dal could do more to make their use preventable. By keeping silent, Dal sends the message that the use of study drugs isn’t a problem. It is—but students need their school, not their opinions editor, to tell them that.

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3 Comments

  1. […] MORE: School on full speed: An issue of academic integrity […]

  2. David Longmire on January 31, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Taking a drug to enhance your ability to study does not seem at all unethical. It isn’t cheating at all.

  3. […] MORE: School on full speed: An issue of academic integrity […]

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Samantha Elmsley

Samantha was Opinions Editor of the Gazette for Volumes 145 and 146.

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