Debate: Are ‘Smart Pills’ for Students like Steroids in Sports?

November 9, 2015

By Jackson Richman at Red Alert Politics 

Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin have become increasingly popular among college students to help them stay focused for long periods of time. Is it smart for students to take drugs that will enable them to better perform in the classroom? Or is it cheating? Last week the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) hosted a debate at George Washington University about whether or not students should be permitted to take “smart pills,” and most agreed that it should be allowed.

The debate, titled “College Students Should Be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs,” consisted of University of Pennsylvania professor Dr. Anjan Chatterjee and Duke University professor Nita Farahany advocating for the motion, along with McGill University neurotic researcher Dr. Eric Racine and Georgia State University professor Nicole Vincent arguing against.

Duke University professor Nita Farahany argued that students who take “smart drugs” are not cheating.

“We shouldn’t think of smart drugs like taking steroids in sports,” Farahany said. “Life is a competitive game where there are winners and there are losers and spectators on the sidelines. Improving our brains is inherently valuable in and of itself. And not because it offers some competitive advantage for one person versus another. Improving our memory, our motivation, our concentration, our capacities improves our opportunities in life.”

However, there were concerns about taking such drugs. Racine argued that the side effects of these drugs have cardiovascular effects such as cardiac arrhythmias and “heart attacks that can lead to sudden death.”

FIRE’s co-sponsor for the event, non-profit Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US), conducted polls of the audience members pre- and post-debate and found that public opinion shifted in favor of allowing students to use “smart drugs.”

Before the debate, 27 percent of the audience were for the motion while 44 percent were against, with 29 percent undecided. Afterward, 59 percent were for students taking these drugs while 33 percent were against, with 8 percent still undecided.


Schools: Duke University George Washington University University of Pennsylvania