Good things are supposed to come to those who work hard, right? For a lot of us, this holds true. For me, however, I cannot say that this phenomenon has totally manifested itself. Actually, who am I kidding? It hasn’t manifested itself at all. I spend excessive hours memorizing my teacher’s words, verbatim. I sacrifice social outings for seemingly pointless SI sessions and I put my blood, sweat, and tears into making sure that every single mechanism from my Organic Chemistry lectures is permanently drilled into my brain.
What is the return? Earning the average, if that, on every exam and feeling absolutely terrible about myself. Each time that Canvas notifies me that an assignment was graded, I swear I have a seizure. Like clockwork, I force my trembling, sweaty fingers to swipe right and open the notification. As the page loads, for what seems like forever, I remind myself that I studied. Not only did I study, but I studied hard. I will be fine. I have to be.
I pretend to be surprised when I see that my grade is nowhere near the 90% that I worked so hard for. Lowering my expectations has never been easy but accepting meritocracy is never going to be something that I will ever bring myself to do. Unhealthy? A bit. Frustrating? Beyond.
As someone who is diagnosed with severe ADHD, my friends think I am crazy for refusing medication. I spent a fair share of my childhood experimenting with ADD medications; it became a routine for my doctor to prescribe me a medicine that he promised would be better than the last, only to find me back in his office one month later, pleading with him to take me off medication, once and for all.
Every single medicine that I tried seemed to punish me in a different way. Whether it was extreme jitters, an unhealthy level of rage that would never level off, or bouts of deep, deep depression, ADD medication never seemed to be on my side. There seemed to be no medicine in the world that would help me to focus while also allowing my personality to stay somewhat static.
I would never wish the side effects of ADD medicine upon anyone, which is why I find myself so confused with the Adderall=A’s culture at Tulane. Of course, everyone’s body reacts differently to medication, but how different do my friends (who are not diagnosed with ADD, by the way) feel from how I have felt if they are warning me of their bad moods and uncontrollable anger the night before an exam? Am I crazy for thinking that my well-being and happiness is worth more than a possible A on a test, paired with a nasty come down from a drug?
I get it. It feels effective. But is there any other way to do well in school without abusing dangerous stimulants? Human anatomy isn’t designed to work in constant overdrive mode. Instead, our bodies are defense mechanisms that work to protect us, even when we intentionally introduce harmful stimulants to our systems. I wish that the bad moods, rapid heartbeats, and a refusal of any food was taken as a warning sign, rather than just as “something that happens” when we take stimulants. Here is how human bodies are known to react to stimulants, especially if these bodies belong to students without any sort of diagnosed attention disorder:
- Chronic sleeping problems
- Easily agitated
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate, which leads to intense throbbing and pounding sensations
- Trouble breathing
- A really fast come down
- Heart attack
As I am collecting all of my thoughts, I feel like a hypocrite in denouncing the behavior of my peers. I get it. I know what it feels like to fall behind and even more so, I know what it feels like to engage in the never-ending game of catch up that all Tulane students seem to be permanently engrossed in. Moreover, I know what it feels like to loosen up and give myself permission to engage in risky behavior; no matter what it is, whatever starts as a “one-time thing” always turns into a habit that becomes impossible to break.
While I wish that I had the answers, I am not sure what alternative solutions would look like. Perhaps change should start within the student body; if more people became aware of the harmful and potentially deadly ramifications that come with abusing stimulants, maybe students would be more inclined to study without any sort of neuroenhancement. Or perhaps the issue lays within the pressure that is put on college students.
Sure, it sounds simple to put in work and meet deadlines, but matters become more complicated when due dates pile together and expectations are heightened with each passing semester.
It makes me sad that so many of my friends feel that study drugs are the only way to do well in school; I think that this thought has a lot to do with the supersonic speed at which college students are expected to understand, retain and regurgitate. Isn’t there another way for us to do well?
COVER PHOTO: USA Today