The weeks leading up to finals are when I usually start getting texts from people who normally don’t speak to me during the year. Various forms of “Hey, so I have a lot of exams coming up” and “I have to study non-stop the next few days” start flowing in, all followed up with a request for one thing — my prescription for medication I take to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
I’m so used to it that when I was first contacted about writing this, I thought the individual was going to ask if they could buy my ADHD medication, not if I could write about it.
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Aside from the fact that the distribution of my medication is both morally and legally wrong, the requests are also completely misguided.
College students everywhere seem to think these drugs are nothing more than a hyperactive, hyper-effective form of an energy drink for them to use when it’s time to cram at the end of the semester. It’s like the pill is a secret cheat sheet for school. But this could not be further from the truth.
Even more distressing is that by flirting with these drugs, students begin to think that how they feel on these meds is how we prescription holders and ADHD patients feel every day while on them — intensely focused and motivated to get all of our work done. There are even kids who believe our prescription gives us an unfair advantage.
I require that medication just to be able to focus as much as “normal” people do every day and to function the way a student has to in our education system. If I didn’t have my medication everyday, not just during finals, I would certainly fail out of school. When I forget to take it, I might as well not go to class: I can’t even make it half way through the professor’s first sentence without forgetting what he said. I won’t realize for a good half hour that I’ve stopped listening and started thinking about everything else happening in my life. My brain insists on incessantly multitasking on irrelevant matters rather than focusing on the task at hand.
Students abusing the medication and using it one week a semester to study in overdrive makes it seem like it’s just a little extra help to make things easier. People start to see those who are prescribed ADHD medication as lazy and just searching for an easy way out.
They fail to recognize that it is a medication for a mental disorder and learning disability. My need to take this medication to function in a way that society deems normal is one of my least favorite things about myself. The effect it has on my mood, personality and already existing anxiety are a nightmare.
I wish my brain was able to cooperate the way the school system wants it to all on its own, but it can’t. Seeing my classmates and friends casually pop this drug as a way to stay awake longer and be over-stimulated just makes it seem like it’s no big deal and is very demeaning to those who need it.
Since I was 12 years old, I’ve relied on this drug. It’s not to give me a leg up during finals week or to give me a kickstart when I made the choice to sleep late or go out with friends but to simply survive academically. It is exceedingly disrespectful, not to mention physically harmful, to ingest the drug without a prescription. Study harder. That’s what I’m trying to do.
Lauren Van Hoof ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in chemistry.