Project Open Voices: “An Even Playing Field”


The Thrill is proud to feature personal narratives courtesy of Project Open Voices, a coalition of students providing a platform for open dialogue on campus. Today’s essay is titled “An Even Playing Field” and was authored anonymously. If you want to share your story, email If you would like to remain anonymous, you can submit by signing into a second email account: (password: kenyoncollege). 

*The Thrill previously published this post in April, 2013, but we felt it was worth re-posting.* 

Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Concerta, you know, “study aids.” I can almost guarantee that come finals, midterms, or any other significant period of academic stress you will encounter at least one, if not more students abusing these medications without a prescription. The widespread use of such stimulant medications is no secret on this campus. I mean I know my friends do. I know you don’t see it as a big deal and that you mean no harm.

But as a student with a learning disability that requires me to take such medications, I wish I had the courage to tell you that every time you just “pop an Adderall” or whatever you make my life ten times harder and you trivialize something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I want to tell you that these pills make me feel numb and empty inside. That I would give anything not to take them, or more precisely not to need them. I wish you knew that when you sit down and, in two hours or less, crank out that final paper I’ve been working on for over two weeks, you raise the bar and set the expectations of professors to an impossibly high standard that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to reach. I don’t have any magic pills or study aids. What turns you bionic, I need to reach normal.

12 responses

  1. This is more important than most can even begin to understand. The abuse of study drugs should be considered an academic infraction. The nonchalance of neurotypical use of stimulants on this campus is absolutely astounding. It’s just not fair to those of us who are using them to literally reach some semblance of being normal. It is cheating to turn yourself into a superhuman, while those of us who actually need prescription stimulants are struggling to maintain ourselves at a normal level.

    If you casually take these drugs when you don’t have prior issues with dopamine in your brain (i.e. learning disabilities that are aided by the rise in dopamine stimulants provide like inattentive-type ADHD), you WILL damage your dopamine receptors, and you WILL start to develop irreversible ADHD symptoms because of it. And I assure you, you do not want to be like me. Living with ADHD is like forging a battle with yourself every day. You don’t want every single assignment and every single seminar to be nearly impossible to sit through and complete. You don’t want the uncomfortable moments when you have to ask people talking directly to you to repeat themselves because you realized you weren’t paying attention for what seemed like 2 seconds but was actually 2 minutes. You don’t want the feelings of inadequacy and the emotional consequences of an inherent lack of focus.

    Your recreational use is also making it harder for us to get the drugs we need. The controls put in place on obtaining Adderall, even if you have a prescription, are absolutely insane and sometimes block people who truly need it from getting it.

    If you have a prescription and just sell it, find another way to make money. If you buy Adderall from your peers, please use your money in a way that slightly less damaging and unethical.
    You are cheating and you are making my life infinitely harder. I have absolutely no sympathy for your workload or stress levels. Live a day with severe inattentive ADHD, and then we’ll talk about managing workloads.

  2. My ADHD is something I have a complicated relationship with, and perhaps not as negative a one as some of the previous posters. But for the love of all things academic, when I hear that you are abusing my medication, the medication that I need to function at the level where I can HAVE a not entirely negative relationship with my ADHD, I want to scream. Loudly, unendingly, in your ear, for every single second that that stuff is in your system. And then I’m going to keep going. All the next night, so you know what it’s like when I don’t take the sleep medication that I take to counteract the actual medication that I take so that I could, with the ADDITION of time and a half on my tests, be a physics minor.

    When you fuck with my drugs, you make it so that I couldn’t get more than three months of them when I went abroad for four months. The insurance company wouldn’t let me because people want my medication. If you haven’t figured it out, that meant there were days when I went without my medication.

    My mother put me on these medications because she was constantly worried about my safety and my emotional/mental health. I need these meds. And you don’t. And that doesn’t matter to you at all. And I hate you for it.

  3. GOD this is so stupid. If you don’t want other people taking your medicine, DON’T SELL IT TO THEM. If other people are cool with selling their medicine, THAT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. ffs.

    • my only hope, Anonymous, is that no one likes you, because to have any emotional attachment to such an apathetic idiot is truly tragic.

      • Seriously what makes you think you can just butt into other people’s business and tell them what they can and can’t do?

    • Except that drug companies only make a certain amount each year – there’s a limited supply. Pharmacies get their entire year’s supply all at once. That means that they often have shortages, which makes it extremely difficult for those of us with actual medical needs to obtain it. Sometimes you have to go to pharmacies several towns over because everything nearby has run out.

      If you’re going to buy them, you have to understand that it’s often at the expense of others. It’s a selfish choice.

    • It also drives the prices WAY up. A few years ago Ritalin was $10 and now even the generic methylphenidates are more than $100 per month with insurance.

    • I think you missed the entire point–it IS people’s business, because when non-ADHD people take ADHD meds it sets an unattainable standard for those with the actual disorder. See, it says it right there at the end: “you raise the bar and set the expectations of professors to an impossibly high standard that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to reach.” Clearly you didn’t read the article–maybe you have ADHD! Ask your doctor.

  4. I promise you that people who are cranking out adderall driven papers aren’t the ones setting the curve in your class. They are either slackers who don’t have the drive to excel or people who spread themselves to thin to write to do their best work. If the kid with the best grade in your class takes study drugs, they’re probably doing you a favor by not setting the bar as high as they could under normal circumstances.

    It’s a valid concern that people taking study drugs adversly affects the supply to people who need adderall, ritalin, etc. to function. It’s also valid to say that students are too cavalier with drugs that could mess up their neurobiology. Furthermore, I’d even respect the argument that study drugs are outright cheating (but that opens up caffeine and nicotine to examination as well, right?). But let’s not pretend that adderall leads to students doing outstanding work that intelligent. or even diligent, students are incapable of producing.

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