LOS ALTOS, CA, September 9, 2013 – It used to be all you needed to do well on your high school calculus test was a disciplined study plan, a good night’s sleep, and a hearty breakfast. Nowadays you might need to add a dose or two of Adderall or Ritalin as well. Or so it would seem.
The pressure to get good grades in order to be accepted by the best colleges and universities, combined with an often crushing load of extracurricular activities, has convinced an increasing number of high school students that the only way to stay ahead is through the use – and frequent abuse – of prescription drugs.
“It’s throughout all the private schools here,” said DeAnsin Parker, a New York psychologist who treats kids from affluent neighborhoods like the Upper East Side, in an interview last year with New York Times reporter, Alan Schwarz. “It’s not as if there is one school where this is the culture. This is the culture.”
Adding to the problem is the fact that these drugs are all perfectly legal, although not always obtained by legitimate means. Some students will pretend to be suffering from classic symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) simply to be given a prescription that they will then use themselves or sell to others. Although these medications are designed to relax someone with this condition, those without the disorder find that it gives them the energy they need to study for hours on end and maintain focus during difficult tests.
Although one of students quoted in the Schwarz article didn’t think ingesting these so-called academic steroids was any different than taking vitamins, the practice can lead to depression, mood swings, and even long-term addiction to other drugs, both legal and illegal.
Unfortunately, asking these kids to “just say no” is simply not enough to get them to change course, especially when the apparent reward outweighs whatever risk is involved.
Sometimes the more effective approach is for parents and educators to instill and encourage a more balanced understanding of success and a stronger, perhaps even more spiritually based, sense of purpose and identity. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” Jesus said, “and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Presumably “all these things” would include decent grades and a good education.
Mary Baker Eddy, a late nineteenth and early twentieth century theologian and educator herself, described the upside of such spiritual pursuits in even more specific and contemporary terms. Referring to what she called “the laws of God” – including what Eddy understood to be God’s unconditional and unrelenting love for each and every one of his sons and daughters – she said:
“Business men and cultured scholars have found that [an understanding of these laws] enhances their endurance and mental powers, enlarges their perception of character, gives them acuteness and comprehensiveness and an ability to exceed their ordinary capacity. The human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance, escapes somewhat from itself, and requires less repose. [It] develops the latent abilities and possibilities of man. It extends the atmosphere of thought, giving mortals access to broader and higher realms. It raises the thinker into his native air of insight and perspicacity.”
Endurance. Acuteness and comprehensiveness. Insight and perspicacity. These are just what every student desires and requires in order to be successful, both in school and throughout their lives, and what every one of us has the capacity to inspire and support.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional, and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California.
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