Film & TV

Performance Enhancing Drugs: On the Silver Screen and on Campus

On the silver screen, drugs have always seemed to play a major role. From old Hollywood to twentieth century cinema, we have seen many films glamourise stimulants by using them for recreational purposes. With the release of films like Limitless, however, there is no disputing that we are seeing a shift from ‘trendy’ drugs and instead focusing on their ‘performance enhancing’ abilities. It’s this shift in cinema that may be encouraging our own Nottingham students to take drugs – not to get high on a night out, but to enhance their studies…

The 2013 American film The Wolf of Wall Street recounts Jordan Belfort’s career as a corrupt stockbroker in Manhattan. What is obvious is that the character takes cocaine and Adderall, not just at social events when the firm scores a great client, but to help him focus in his demanding job. So does this mean that students are just as a stressed as a New York City stockbroker if many are also taking performance enhancing drugs? Perhaps. With our January exams having passed, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the burden of writing coursework, revising modules and practically living in Hallward library is (momentarily) over. With this workload and the stress that tags along, it isn’t hard to see why so many are turning to drugs like Belfort to help succeed in their degrees.

It seems that the big screen has definitely influenced students to use drugs to combat university pressures but can it really be argued that drugs like Ritalin and MDMA are only an alternative to stimulants like cigarettes and coffee? Students say it helps them to concentrate, with some even calling them ‘miracle’ drugs, suggesting they can be a substitute for traditional stimulants. Cinema has always glamorised drugs and the audience doesn’t have to look further than Pulp Fiction to see just how euphoric Vincent feels when misusing drugs. Some students used to take drugs for this reason, to get high and often check out of responsibilities for a moment. Now they take them to get higher grades and mentally check in. These ‘smart drugs’ are helping many students to boost their mental performance, with many users on track to achieve a first.

‘Smart drugs’ have been condemned as cheating and caused concern about their safety. Ritalin, for example, has side effects of insomnia and depression but many students are determined to ease their anxiety. We see the same scenario in the 2011 thriller Limitless in which the character Eddie Morra has writer’s block so takes ‘NZT-48’, allowing him to use his brain’s full capacity. Morra is able to remain alert for hours, vastly improving his work. Students are also taking advantage in the same way to fit everything in. With the stress of careers, the increase in tuition fees and maintaining a social life, a small drug that promises enhanced productivity, more hours in the library and the potential of a better degree seems very attractive. Then again, are these drugs really an irresistible way to combat fear during deadlines or are they just a dangerous craze?

Shanai Momi    

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Film & TV

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