What are Smart Drugs?

Opposed to recreational drugs like marijuana, heroin or cocaine, smart drugs are normally prescription substances obtained illegally by teenagers or young adults to boost attention, wakefulness, and academic performance. ‘Smart Drugs’ include Adderall and Ritalin and now Modafinil, a medication for narcolepsy is on the rise among students, according to an article in NYU News.

Why are Students Using Smart Drugs?

The mistake that many people use when talking about these sorts of drugs is that they don’t completely understand the motivation to take them. While drugs like marijuana or cocaine are used for recreation, Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil are often used to help students and other young people cope with the stress of everyday life or boost their test scores. It’s not about having fun at college, it’s about getting through college.

The Danger

Many people use these drugs the way others use caffeine – just a little something extra to get through the day. Because they’re available from a pharmacy, the people who use them generally don’t consider them to be dangerous, even if they can cause a host of dangerous side effects including hallucinations, depression and in extreme cases, death. They are seen as a safe, helping hand to get through some of the trickier parts of life.

Need for a Policy Change

Drug policies across the country fail to make the distinction between smart drugs and recreational drugs, and disciplinary action is the same for both. NYU’s student health initiative Live Well NYU is advocating for a policy change regarding smart drugs. They’re advocating for educational initiatives about using prescription medication safely and disciplinary action that focuses on education and support rather than punishment.

If any university, including NYU, is to address the growing threat of smart drugs properly, they need to attack the problem at the source: the stress of student life. A proper campaign when it comes to smart drugs would look less like security and focus on giving potential smart drug abusers with academic and social resources that may help them cope better with student life. The mental wellness and stress-reducing services at NYU do not really address the stress that leads students to use smart drugs, and a university policy aimed at reducing smart drug usage on campus needs to be based on student life. The university policy should utilise these tools to create a safer student community.