Field Notes: An Rx for IQ?

by Berniece Jones, professor of health and human performance

If you follow any sport from baseball to cycling, then you’ve read plenty about performance enhancing drugs. The pressure to get ahead in academics is just as intense, so it’s little surprise that some students abuse their own version of performance enhancing drugs known as neuroenhancers.

Neuroenhancing drugs include Adderall or Ritalin and Provigil. Adderall and Ritalin are stimulants commonly prescribed for children and adults diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Provigil was designed for individuals with narcolepsy.

According to articles written by Christopher Lane, Margaret Talbot, and Martha Farah, there seems to be a trend of students taking Adderall and Provigil to increase cognitive abilities. Some students use prescribed drugs for these purposes while others buy them illegally.

Do Adderall and Provigil make you smarter?

No. Adderall and Provigil are purely focusing agents. Students taking these drugs won’t suddenly know information they didn’t previously, but they may focus on single tasks for longer stretches of time, remaining hypervigilant through all-night cram sessions, for instance.

It’s easy to understand the temptation to take neuroenhancers. Students are pulled in countless directions: producing good grades to keep scholarships, attending social events, working part- or full-time jobs, and juggling multiple technologies to keep up with friends.

While coffee, Red Bull and Mountain Dew will likely remain the drugs of choice for most students facing all-nighters, the abuse of neuroenhancers may continue to grow. Students must know that every drug carries risks.

Good time management, a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep will forever remain the best performance enhancers out there. And no one will call you a cheater for using them, either.