Just Because It’s Legal, Doesn’t Mean It’s Right

by aller1 on November 4, 2013 - 11:21pm

The use of drugs for recreational purposes is seen today as shameful, immature, and unlawful in the United States. However, Laura L. Finley discusses that the use of prescription drugs for educational purposes is sometimes overseen (if not encouraged) in some school districts, and the comparison between the use of marijuana, a drug commonly known to be used recreationally, and Ritalin. Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a prescription medication used to treat ADHD, ADD, and narcolepsy. This drug belongs to a category of central nervous stimulants, and acts to focus one’s attention and concentration solely on a specific task to be done.  Data collected states that many schools allowed teachers and counselors to recommend to a parent/guardian to put their child on medication. Dr. Lawrence Diller even describes in his book Running on Ritalin one school having a secretary hand out pills on a tray labeled with the names and pictures of students. This system of illicit trading has almost no medical consensus whatsoever, and studies from the Health and Healthcare in Schools found that almost half of the 649 school nurses observed unlicensed personnel drug administration, some being teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, and even students. Obvious in its medical use, many teachers favor the use of Ritalin and Ritalin-like substances in the classroom because disorderly students are now much more controllable. Although the use of marijuana is frowned upon and the use of Ritalin is encouraged, there are many similarities between the two drugs. One similarity is easy access – marijuana is easily accessible, and many suggest that doctors in the U.S. are too quick to diagnose a child/teen with ADD/ADHD, so drug accessibility easily becomes more attainable (Casey, 2007), and even without a prescription, statistics show that Ritalin is easy to purchase online simply with a credit card. Another similarity is why teens use drugs. This articles highlights reasons like relieving stress, to appear “cool”, to alleviate anxiety, parental use, and just out of pure boredom. Attitudes about these drugs are also similar. Teens see these drugs as no big deal, and statistics show many teens see these drugs as no big deal because they either know a friend that does the drug and sees nothing wrong, or they see these stimulants as any other common stimulant (e.g., Red Bull) in a “safer pill form”.  Students also said that despite these drugs having harmful effects, its benefit outweighs its risks A final similarity is the way our culture sees drugs. In this day and age, eastern treatment revolves around the use of drugs—for almost anything and everything, so naturally growing up with drugs all around seem to almost “die-down” its danger. As many similarities as these drugs have, marijuana and Ritalin have many differences. One difference is their drug effect. Ritalin is classified as a highly addicting drug, with long-term side effects such as impaired cognitive and intellectual processes. Marijuana on the other hand is not known to have any long term effects, and is said to effect psychomotor ability and intellectual performance, but will disappear within a few hours. Also, Ritalin is often prescribed for students who are struggling in school, and parents/teachers may consider these drugs to help enhance academic performance; marijuana is simply not. Finally, schools pay more attention to the misuse of marijuana, however don’t always reflect on how bad prescription drugs can be.


The main conclusion in this article is that regardless of whether or not drugs are seen by society as good or bad, it is important to recognize that any substance put into the body can have harmful effects. The chemical substance is still foreign to the body and shouldn’t be misused. The key question that the author is addressing is “why the hypocrisy between the use of marijuana and Ritalin?” and is backed up by pointing out the similarities and differences between the two drugs like the circumstances for the drug use, the effects of each drug, and the use of the drug from an adolescent’s point of view. Finley’s main assumption underlying her thinking is that she argues that Ritalin has an equal amount of “bad qualities” as does marijuana, however it is encouraged by the school district for the teacher’s sake—not the students’. Instead of working harder with more professionals on trying to help a student focus, The United States favors that “if there’s a problem, there’s medicine to fix it”. If we fail to take this line of reasoning seriously, the number of kids having to suffer long-term effects of prescription drugs is going to increase significantly. When diagnosing ADD/ADHD, physicians are very vague in conducting an evaluation of the patient, and instead use a more “checklist-like” guide. This is also similar to many other diseases/conditions. Autism, for example, has become broader in its diagnosis over the years, and kids are becoming more easily diagnosed with it. Finally, the main viewpoint in this article is that Finley sees a problem with the distribution of prescription use; whether legal or not, the use of drugs is more common in today’s society, and the misuse/overuse of drugs should be acknowledged.


Finley, L.L. (2007), Our drugs are better than yours: Schools and their hypocrisy regarding drug use. Contemporary Justice Review 10(4):365-381




I agree with you on the fact that drugs today are misused and overused. In one of my classes I wrote a paper on why marijuana is being legalized in Colorado. One study I came across tested to see if marijuana is a gateway drug. Their test concluded that marijuana is in fact a gateway drug which leads to more serious drug use. I would bet that given the way you describe Ritalin as being used it may also lead to other more serious drug use in the future. I think that there are other solutions to this problem than administering drugs. I personally think a lot of that responsibility falls on the parents.