Did you see those Chinese schoolchildren hooked up to drips while they were studying? I’ve got a piece in today’s Daily Telegraph which points out that much more far-reaching “cognitive enhancement” in happening in schools and universities in the West – and spreading.
The creepiest image published this week shows Chinese teenagers hooked up to IV drips in a classroom, feeding amino acids into their bloodstreams so they can concentrate harder on their National College Entrance Exam. The school, in Xiaogong, central China, is unapologetic. Parents ask for the drips, it says, because otherwise their children become exhausted swotting for examinations that will determine the course of their lives.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions. Those ruthless Asians! So this is where the “tiger mom” thing leads – to a jab of the needle to make sure the homework gets done and your son or daughter ends up working for a bank rather than assembling iPhones and thinking about topping themselves.
But hang on. In America between 2003 and 2007, the number of parent-reported cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) increased by nearly a quarter. That’s a million extra children taking medicines far, far stronger than amino acids.
Let’s leave aside the sensitive question of whether ADHD is real. Instead, we should ask: how many of the millions of Ritalin and Adderall pills handed out for ADHD are taken by students who weren’t prescribed them, but who have traded them from friends or siblings?
Attention-deficit pills are popular with young people for two reasons. First, since most of them are amphetamine-based, they can give you a nice buzz. Second, you can be cognitively “normal” and still find your concentration magically boosted. Which is handy, if you’re just about to sit SATs or college exams.
Last summer I sat in the canteen of one of America’s most expensive universities. I was interviewing a professor for The Fix about the use of doping as a study-enhancing tool. He said there was a lot of it about. But I could have worked that out for myself, because in the background we could hear college kids discussing how much Adderall they’d need to finish their term papers.
Posted in: Drugs, Pills
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