Monday, September 15, 2008

ADHD Addendum

As if to corroborate the last post, Marc Bousquet writes about the popularity of Ritalin and other stimulants on college campuses. The increase in ADHD diagnoses in colleges and professional schools, as well as the illicit sharing of meds for the same issues, may result from the confluence of three factors:

1. As a college degree comes to seem more and more indispensable for even basic economic success, a greater fraction of the population at least attempts to get one. This includes, however, many who are not particularly suited, either intellectually or motivationally, to do the work.

2. As mentioned last time, all of us, but particularly young people, increasingly live in a culture of perpectual distraction.

3. A combination of grade inflation and "winner takes all" competitiveness spurs people to do what they feel is necessary (in a way exactly parallel to doping in sports).

One problem with all this, of course, is the stigmatization of those who indisputably do struggle with ADHD. But in terms of the diversion of meds on campus, it seems that this may be more of an ethical and cultural issue than a substance abuse issue per se. After all, apart from legal ramifications if caught, is the occasional (i.e. once or twice per month) use of stimulants for cramming or paper-writing or whatever really going to have identifiably detrimental effects on a person's life (i.e. withdrawal, inability to function at work or relationships, etc.)? From a purely substance abuse perspective, it would seem to occupy the same gray area as the occasional (i.e. once or twice per month) use of marijuana.

Interesting times...

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