In professional sports, doping on performance-enhancing drugs can cost you your job. But the newest market isn’t on the field: It’s in the cubicle.
There’s nothing like that feeling you get after a hard day’s work. Whether you run a lawn service or a law firm, are a blacksmith or a wordsmith, turning in after you’ve given your job 100 percent is its own reward.
But for a growing number of young professionals entering the workforce, 100 percent doesn’t cut it anymore. Many, who feel the need to perform beyond the natural limits of their brains and bodies, are turning to prescription ADHD medication to give them a crucial edge over the competition.
Writing in The New York Times, Alan Schwarz shares stories from young professionals like Elizabeth, a Long Island 20-something who says not doping at work when others are is like playing tennis with a wooden racket.
“It’s necessary,” she told him. “Necessary for survival of the best and the smartest and highest-achieving people…there’s a certain expectation of performance, and if you don’t meet it, and I’m not really worried how, someone else will.”
That’s why, for millennials with college diplomas in hand, popping pills and pulling all-nighters has now become a way of life. Schwarz explains how finals week works like a gateway drug for young people, getting them hooked on stimulants and the superhuman productivity these medications give non-ADHD sufferers. Students get these pills from classmates, dealers, or even by faking symptoms for pharmacists. But once they start, they’re not likely to stop—not even after their tassels are turned. And in the current job market, many say they can’t afford to stop.
“[I]n interviews,” writes Schwarz, “dozens of people in a wide spectrum of professions said they and co-workers misused stimulants like Adderall, Vyvanse and Concerta to improve work performance.”
But all that productivity has a high cost. According to a 2013 report, emergency room visits for prescription stimulant overdose tripled for adults age 18-34. And in just two years, the number of patients entering drug rehab for stimulant abuse spiked by 15 percent.
All major stimulants can cause anxiety, addiction, and hallucinations—especially if taken in high doses. But heavy users say they also suffer insomnia, profuse sweating, and heart palpitations. And the toll that it takes is not just physical. There’s the long-term effects on patient’s lives and souls as well.
“It’s a crutch, and it becomes a crutch immediately,” said a Texas lawyer fresh out of rehab. This young type-A told the Times how before he checked himself in, he and his colleagues took dangerously high doses of Aderall to work through the night, all in pursuit of partnerships with their firm. Clients were thrilled by their productivity, but this lawyer says his Faustian bargain cost him his friends, his job, and ultimately his marriage.
So what can be done? Well, tightening restrictions on medication and retooling rehab centers is a start, but we can’t just treat symptoms. The deeper problem lies in a worldview that wrongly defines success as profit, meaning as power and position, and relationships as a means to our self-selected ends.
It’s the same worldview that leads millions to turn to diet pills, self-help books, and presidential candidates with pie-in-the-sky promises. It’s a worldview that wants quick answers and quick fixes, instead of True Truth.
And it’s a worldview that, like all false worldviews do, sells us a false god and a wrong identity. The god is the god of stuff—that somehow the acquisition of things, money, status, and prestige will fill the hole in our hearts that Pascal said could only be filled by God. And as the 135th Psalm tells us, we become what we worship, and so our identities become our productivity, which needs constant upgrading—even if by doping.
Christian—the good of work is part of the good news we have for the world: that we matter to the God in whose image we are made, and that our work matters to Him because caring for His world is an act of worship, inherently meaningful, especially when done for Jesus Christ who invites us to put down the pills and enter His rest.
— by John Stonestreet
Stonestreet is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and is heard on Breakpoint. Copyright© 2015 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.