Drugs, Athletics, College Students, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Stimulants vs Steroids 

Many college students over the last 50 years (at the very  least) have resorted to one or another stimulant to increase their wakefulness while studying for tests.  There is little argument that these substances increase alertness.  The military uses amphetamine-like substances for long flights and other missions where alertness is critical.  

These substances increase concentration,  focus and performance.  Extended use can cause other problems, which have been well documented elsewhere but occasional use can be beneficial.

I am sure there are some who would consider even coffee an unethical advantage but ethics is a complex issue.  There is even a job description for ethicists, but the range of qualifications is quite broad.  In the larger view of things the advantage of performing well without copying the work of someone else is hard to deny:  It’s effects can be life changing.

I think steroid use to increase muscle mass speed is qualitatively more problematical.   Body building may be an example of a different disorder spectrum:  Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).  On one end there are the body builders who strive to perfect their bodies by enhancing every possible muscle. Steroids must be taken over a long time before the effects are visible.  As with intellectual stimulants long term use can cause secondary physiological and emotional problems that may not be apparent for years.

On the other end of the BDD spectrum are the anorexics who look in the mirror and see a distorted view of themselves as overweight and undesirable.  They may misuse other drugs (extended use of amphetamines), bulimia, or fasting to enhance their view of perfection.

Both extremes appear to be qualitatively different from the student studying for exams or an elderly person seeking to better their crossword puzzle ability. All, however, have in common the risk of excess as we see among meth addicts.

Male College Students Believe Taking Performance-Enhancing Drugs for Sports Is More Unethical Than Using Stimulants to Improve Grades

ScienceDaily (May 8, 2012) — In the eyes of young college men, it’s more unethical to use steroids to get an edge in sports than it is to use prescription stimulants to enhance one’s grades, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

And students who had themselves used stimulants without a prescription were more inclined to see such drug use as acceptable, according to the findings, which were published online in the APA journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. This is one of the first studies to compare perceptions of off-label prescription drug use with perceptions of steroids performance enhancers.

“This is consistent with the idea that using performance enhancers is viewed as less ethical in the sporting world than in the academic world,” said the study’s lead author, Tonya Dodge, PhD, of George Washington University. “Interestingly, the students in our study considered off-label prescription drug use as more effective for success than using steroids.”

Approximately 1,200 college freshmen (73 percent white) at Pennsylvania State University answered a questionnaire that presented two scenarios. One described “Bill,” a sprinter for his college track team who does not have a lot of time to train before the championship meet and is worried he won’t be able to improve. He gets steroids from a friend and ends up performing better than expected and wins the championship race.

The second scenario presents “Jeff,” a college student facing midterm exams who is worried that his grades in class may be low. He doesn’t have much time to study so he gets some Adderall, a prescription stimulant, from a friend who tells him it will help him focus at exam time. Jeff takes the pills and ends up getting better midterm grades than he expected.

After reading both scenarios, the students were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with four statements: “Bill/Jeff is a cheater for using steroids/Adderall,” and, “Taking steroids/Adderall was necessary for Bill/Jeff to do well.”

The students were also asked if they had ever misused prescription stimulant drugs, such as Adderall, Ritalin or Dexedrine, or if they had ever used steroids. Less than 1 percent of the sample reported having ever used steroids while about 8 percent said they had misused prescription stimulants in the last 12 months. This compares to 8 percent to 34 percent of college students who have reported misusing prescription stimulants and 1.5 percent of adolescents and young adults who have misused anabolic steroids.

The researchers also asked the men if they had played a sport in high school to determine if that would affect their judgments.

Participants significantly rated Bill, the steroid user, as more of a cheater than Jeff, the prescription drug user. This difference got bigger if the students reported having misused prescription stimulants themselves in the past or if they had played a sport.

Overall, the students were more likely to consider Jeff’s Adderall use more necessary to succeed than Bill’s steroid use regardless of whether they had misused prescription stimulants in the past or had played a sport. “One reason students may have felt Adderall was more necessary than steroids for success is because people may believe intelligence is less malleable than athletic ability. This view of intelligence might have led the students in this study to believe that taking Adderall would increase intellectual capacity,” said Dodge. “This research can help mold future prevention efforts around off-label prescription stimulant use in the academic world.”

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 137,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

Article: “Judging Cheaters: Is Substance Misuse Viewed Similarly in the Athletic and Academic Domains?” Tonya Dodge, PhD, George Washington University and Skidmore College; Kevin J. Williams, PhD, University at Albany, State University of New York; Miesha Marzell, PhD, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation; Rob Turrisi, PhD, Pennsylvania State University; Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, online, April 2012.

About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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