This week we learned a lot about the presence of nutritional aids, psychological aids, and pharmacological aids in athletic performance, but these influences exist in academic performance as well. Amphetamines, caffeine, etc., are commonly used in academic arenas and/or events to achieve a longer attention span, alertness, focus, and higher academic performance.
Most have heard of “study buddies” and the use and abuse of them, but our generation is the first generation that has grown up with prescribed amphetamines. When our parents were growing up, hyperactivity and inattentiveness were not medical conditions, but part of the reality of childhood. For many of us the illicit use of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin is quite obvious, but these drugs are also facts of our lives. A good portion of our generation grew up taking these drugs every morning during grade school! Up until I was about 10 years-old complete strangers would approach my mom and say, “You know, they have pills that can help your daughter.” This was during the early to mid-nineties (I was born in 1990).
Whether or not they are personally prescribed, ADD and ADHD medications are readily available for studying for an exam, testing, and doing assignments. So, how does widespread use of these drugs shape and reshape the academic playing field? Cyclists Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie gave statements that they used performance-enhancing drugs, just to stay in the race. The overall level of competition, the game itself, was changed because of the widespread doping by cyclists in the 1990s to early 2000s.
“The doping controls were not very good, and we came to believe that we needed to use banned substances to compete at the very highest levels,” said George Hincapie, US Postal team captain from 1999-2005, USA Today.
I do not mean to argue that students of higher-education are all ‘doping’ with study drugs. I am not at all arguing that everyone or even a majority use drugs to excel academically, but I am arguing that similarities can be drawn between academic and athletic use of performance-enhancing drugs. The greater cultural impacts of these drugs on academic and athletic landscapes is cause for further examination.