The juniors at Boston University’s School of Management refer to this time of the semester as Hell Week. As the deadline for our Core business plans approaches, we are driven to dementia and insanity.
Pulling all-nighters is not a new thing on the international college scene. What’s new is the way Americans do it.
It’s not uncommon practice for college students to take stimulating drugs to help them stay awake for days in a row and to hyperconcentrate before exams and projects. The most popular “medication drugs” are Ritalin and Adderall. Their main ingredients are methylphenidate and amphetamine.
Under the influence of these stimulants, students get a rush of energy and become extremely focused for several hours. They become so efficient they can cram a semester worth of material into a 12-hour all-night study session. After the effect has passed, they crash.
These stimulants are in fact prescription medicine for children and teenagers with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)*. Those who have access to the prescription drug turn it into a profitable business. One pill costs about $5 and can keep you going for 5 or 10 hours (it comes in long and short acting forms).
*(You have not heard of ADHD? Probably that’s because you don’t live in the States. In my opinion, ADHD is a medical hoax rather than a medical condition. I believe it is like the connection between Sadaam Hussein and the attack on 9/11, or like the claim that French women don’t shave their armpits: it’s a purely American myth. Some of the ADHD symptoms include: inability to stay still and quiet, difficult concentration, and hyper-energetic behavior. However, for the sake of objectivity, I have to say that there is significant scientific proof supporting the claim that ADHD is a legitimate disease. I leave it to you to decide whether it’s overdiagnosed and whether it could or should be cured. )
While the existence of the ADHD disorder is questionable, Adderral and Ritalin’s effects are very real. College students don’t seem to mind the fact that they are taking powerful pills for symptoms that they even don’t have.
While some stimulating medications are sold with prescription in drugstores and resold by “studious” college students, other stimulants are widely available in convenience stores. 5-Hour Energy is an energy drink that comes in a small bottle the size of a shot. It supposedly contains herbal stimulants, caffeine, amino acids and vitamins, which give you a strong energy kick.
Four Loko, which was recently banned in Massachusetts, is another strange energy-enhancer in a can. It is a 12% alcohol drink mixed with an energy drink. Consumers become very awake from the caffeine boost without realizing that they are getting drunk as well… until the caffeine effect wears off and they black out.
After all I learned from my American peers about the (ab)use of energy enhancers during Hell Week, I have only one question: Whatever happened to getting a healthy good night’s sleep?