The Unseen Truth About Study Drugs

A Formal Roast Of The Tab

By Amanda Hudson

I usually don’t click on articles from The Tab UK when scrolling through my Facebook feed because I think they’re akin to The Mirror or The Daily Mail in that they’re all noxious, click-baiting money-grabbers whose only motive is to get more views by publishing articles they know will anger people. However, the Cardiff branch of The Tab published an article last year written by Lydia Baxter that was titled ‘Study drugs are for quitters and the weak’. Since I have ADHD and take prescribed medication for it, I thought I’d give it a read.

I can’t say I had much hope in the first place, but I thought she’d at least present a somewhat valid argument. I was wrong, to say the least. Not only was the writing style deplorable and demeaning, but the few “facts” Baxter did present were misinformed and problematic.

First and foremost, the article fails to mention that many people require ‘study drugs’ to study. Along with a particular deficit in attention span and focus, people with ADHD lack a sufficient supply of cortisol and dopamine (the chemicals in our brains that motivate us). Without some sort of synthetic assistance, even the simplest of tasks can be difficult for ADHD minds to complete, and are often times accompanied by feelings of dread.

Of those who take ‘study drugs’ to revise, Baxter says, ‘you’re just crashed out and in need of the motivation to get up and open a book prior to the exam date like the rest of us. If you don’t learn to work hard and motivate yourself now, when are you going to?’. This is a pretty steep assumption to make since an estimated 6 percent of adults with ADHD are undiagnosed and remain unaware of their disorder. This means those undiagnosed adults would not have legal access to “study drugs”.

What’s more, there are many other mental illnesses that cause low cortisol and dopamine levels (i.e. depression, adrenal fatigue syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.). While the article doesn’t explicitly say it, by not mentioning an exception of an ADHD diagnosis to their incontrovertible dogma, Baxter condemns even those who are diagnosed and use medication to study to a categorisation of lazy, incompetent drug-addicts.

It would be one thing if Baxter attempted to spread awareness about ADHD, and perhaps commented on how the use of medication by people with ‘typical’ minds further divides the playing field; instead, this article comes off as a whinging-fest about how bitterly unfair her life is for not having the means to take a medication that many can’t afford not to take.

Baxter warns her audience, ‘If you can’t use your degree to build a career because you were too high to actually process what you “remembered” […] your employer will realise that you’re just a burn out with an over-reliance on study drugs and fire your arse’. This statement assimilates the effects of taking ‘study drugs’ to recreational drugs with memory loss side effects. The only ADHD medication that has ever worked for me is Adderall, so I can’t speak knowledgeably about other existing brands. However, I can guarantee from personal experience that it’s not even remotely close to being ‘high’, as Baxter claims.

ADHD medications are amphetamines, and amphetamines act as a stimulant in the brain (just like caffeine). By taking amphetamines, you get the same feeling you would get if you downed four cups of coffee in one go, without the jittery side effects. To argue that users forget everything they learned whilst on the drug and wouldn’t be able to apply it to their profession afterwards is plainly a lack of understanding about how amphetamines work.

Lastly, one of the many reasons this article is so problematic is that it sounds like the author is trying to fear-monger people into opting out of medication if they need it. Medication for mental illnesses and learning disabilities are already such taboo subjects. We don’t need a misinformed, presumptuous writer adding to the already muddled confusion surrounding medication. My suggestion? Let people do what they want. If it helps them motivate themselves and they’re okay risking the consequences of taking it illegally, let them.

NOTE: I’m making amphetamines sound really good. However, amphetamines can have harmful side effects if misused or abused, and they’re illegal if you take them without a prescription. I’m in no way condoning taking amphetamines to further your studying capabilities if you’re not diagnosed; but I’m also not condemning it. As with any other illegal substance: it’s your choice, make smart decisions and know your limits.


Amanda Hudson

Image courtesy of The Guardian

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