Drugs specifically designed to help those with disordered cognition can be life savers for those with conditions like attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but they should not be prescribed to those who do not clearly fit diagnostic parameters. These drugs can be dangerous for those who want to use them to sharpen well-functioning brains.
The stimulants (like Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin etc.) which are prescribed to patients with ADHD are powerful drugs. They help patients to block out distractions and to think more clearly. Unfortunately, college students have used these medications as ‘smart’ drugs to help them stay awake for study and to improve performance on tests and assignments. Students either buy the pills from kids with a legitimate prescription or they lie to physicians in order to get their own prescriptions.
Most students don’t realize it can be medically dangerous for those without a proper diagnosis to be taking these prescription medications. Stimulants pose a potential danger for addiction. They can also result in risks to heart health and may even produce psychosis. Young people may think that the drugs are safe from these dangers because they are widely prescribed by physicians, but the health risks are very real.
A recent Psych Central article on this topic discussed still another reason for curbing use of ‘smart’ drugs. In Canada, where a socialized health care delivery system is in place, writing too many prescriptions for these drugs is not only a question of ethics and good medicine, but one of limited resources as well. When there are only so many pills to go around, should those who really need them go without because healthy patients are looking for an academic edge?