"It used to be on the fringes completely, but now it's seeping into the mainstream," says Steven Roy Goodman, a college and graduate-school admissions consultant in Washington. "If you're one of hundreds of kids fighting for one of 10 spots, you'll do everything you can to get the extra edge."
William Pollack, a psychologist and director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at Harvard University's McLean Hospital, says he has spoken with more than 50 students who say they've used stimulants to raise their test scores. "I've seen it become a trend," Dr. Pollack says.
More than 6.4 million prescriptions for Adderall were filled last year. Some of these prescriptions are being used by students seeking a quick fix for studying.
A Yale University junior said Adderall helped him read the 576-page novel "Crime and Punishment" and write a 15-page paper — all in 30 hours.
"In earlier generations, people would take NoDoz and get themselves high on caffeine and that sort of thing," said the student, who asked not to be identified. "This is more efficient than that."
Twenty-four-year-old Chul Yim is among those considering Ritalin as a stimulant to help him focus before his important law school admission test.
"What was described to me is it gives you tunnel vision. You focus on the question. Once you're done with that question, you move on to the next question and you still have that energy," said Yim.
I'm not arguing for using these drugs. But if you are considering a drug like Ritalin note that the benefits are likely to be greater for someone who is easily distracted. If you think your mind stays focused while taking a test Ritalin is less likely to provide a benefit.
Also, lots of brain enhancers really present you with a trade-off. See, for example, my post Caffeine Alertness Comes At Cost Of Word Recall. A stimulant amphetamine-based drug like Adderall can make a mind race too quickly or make a person jittery. There is no guarantee it will provide a net benefit. Though I can easily imagine someone taking the SAT twice, once normal and once on Adderall. Even there, it might make more sense to try practice tests with and without your preferred drug to find out if it really will help you.
I personally would be reluctant to start using an amphetamine. There is the real danger of permanent neuronal damage. If you are not scared by the idea of using stimulant drugs you really ought to be. See my previous posts Methamphetamine Addict Brain Scans Show Extensive Losses and Partial Recovery From Methamphetamine-Induced Brain Damage. You only get one brain. Do not abuse it.
For some alternatives also see my previous posts Scientists Demonstrate Best Way To Use Caffeine and Modafinil Boosts Human Mental Abilities. Modafinal may be safer than amphetamines when the need is simply to avoid sleepiness and time sleeping. But I'm not convinced that modafinil doesn't exact some cost in the form of some permanent damage. Use any of these compounds sparingly.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2004 November 16 03:16 PM Brain Enhancement|