Are we on the cusp of a future where we can just take a pill to work longer, learn faster and achieve more? Is that a world where we want to live?
“Jason,” a pre-med student at Georgia State, holds leadership roles in several clubs, has conducted research with doctors at a local hospital and still makes time for his girlfriend, who’s also a college student. And most recently, Jason has taken a weekend restaurant job to help pay his rent.
“I used to use weekends to catch up on my school work, but I don’t have that anymore,” he says. But these activities haven’t prevented Jason from taking a full load every semester. He recently learned he’ll graduate in the fall, a semester early. But how has he managed to study?
Jason clears entire days to hunker down and hit the books, and on those days, he takes a Vyvanse. The central nervous system stimulant, a type of amphetamine prescribed to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can improve focus and concentration. It can also reduce hyperactive, impulsive behaviors, such as the impulse to check Facebook 12 times before you finish reading a single paragraph of your textbook. In some people, these effects improve learning, recall and working memory, the ability to temporarily hold information, such as a phone number, in your head.
“It gives you a hardcore motivation to sit down and study the most mundane topics for a really long time,” Jason says. “You can do work that you would otherwise procrastinate on. Procrastination is a serious issue in college.”
When Jason told his longtime family doctor that he couldn’t focus in school, the doctor skipped the standard ADHD testing and said, “You seem like a really motivated student, and I’ve been in your shoes before,” Jason recalls. Then the doctor wrote him a prescription for Vyvanse.
But many more pre-meds take ADHD medications than just those who have a prescription, Jason admits.
“Quite frankly,” he says, “they go around like candy. If you don’t have a friend who has it, you’ll have a friend who knows someone who has it.” Continue reading