Even though I cultivate a significant distance from my students and do not believe in being buddy-buddy with them, students tend to feel very comfortable in my classes. We have a lot of group activities in which I participate, so even in a big classroom we get to know each other quite well. So they share things they might not have otherwise revealed to other "adults." (Yes, they actually refer to themselves as "kids" and to me as "an adult." Which sounds especially funny when the "kid" in question is a 6 foot 5 football player. Besides, quite a few of the "kids" in my classes have actual kids of their own.)
Once I asked students what they did to prepare for exams. I'm very naive in many respects, which I'm always ready to confess. All I know about hard drugs is what I've seen on television. I have no idea which drug is supposed to be sniffed, injected, smoked or eaten. As for prescription medication, unless I'm so sick that I'm being carted into the ER, I'm not going to take any. I don't even take Tylenol or have it at home. So my question to the students was aimed at eliciting information as to whether they prepare for exams by going over their notes alone or get together in groups to help each other. Innocent things like that.
Imagine my surprise when in response I got a list of medications that students routinely take to help them concentrate and stay awake while they are preparing. Turns out there is a tradition of taking ADD medication as part of preparing for exams. There are also "coffee pills" and other things whose names I didn't even manage to remember. Students just kept rattling them off like it was the most natural thing in the world. When I recoiled in horror, the students found that funny. Now they must think I'm some hopelessly ancient fuddy-duddy.
Since that conversation, I stopped giving cumulative final exams because I don't want to drive my students to a drug addiction. It's sad, though, that these young people have such a cavalier attitude to drugs. It's also quite shocking that they believe - for some unfathomable reason - that their own young brains are insufficient to carry them through the finals week. When I was an undergrad, I never took less than 6 courses per semester (I was in the Honors program). I also worked while going to school. Sometimes, I wouldn't get enough sleep and felt tired. But I managed to do very well in the program without even thinking about medication. Today, however, my experiences are seen as outdated by the new generation of students.