Is ‘More Than 50%’ of Harvard Law School on Drugs?

Lance Armstrong photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images; Malcolm Gladwell photo by Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.
Lance Armstrong photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images; Malcolm Gladwell photo by Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images.

Lately it may seem like everyone and their brother has a podcast. I mean, heck, we do. In case you missed it, Lance Armstrong does too. It’s called The Forward and it has had a solid, if not eclectic guest list including athlete Bo Jackson, comedian Bill Burr, former Esquire editor David Granger, boxing promoter Bob Arum, and singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.

Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers, was a guest in October. Armstrong and Gladwell’s conversation turned to performance enhancing drugs and therapeutic use exemptions. Gladwell commented on how debates about high performance in sports parallel debates about high performance in society. By way of example, he pointed to extraordinarily high uses of drugs like Adderall among students at elite universities. From there, Gladwell went on to speculate about students at Harvard Law School…

Malcolm Gladwell: “If you go to Harvard Law School, I would, I don’t know, I would…

Lance Armstrong: “I want to hear this number.”

Malcolm Gladwell: “I would venture that more than 50% of the students are taking something. Whether it’s Provigil to help them study, or Adderall the day before some major test.”

(at 31:15 below)


Am I naive or is anyone else surprised by how high the number was that Gladwell put out there? More than 50%? Could he be right?

Earlier this year, the Journal of Legal Education published a study on law students and substance abuse, including use of drugs to enhance academic performance. Among other things, they found high uses of prescription drugs without a prescription, including Adderall. In November, followed up on that research calling Adderall use by law school students “a dirty little secret.” They tried to get comment from Harvard Law School about the extent of the problem there, but were unsuccessful: repeatedly contacted Yale Law School, Harvard Law School and Stanford Law School, and their deans’ offices, seeking comment about the misuse of Adderall and similar drugs among law students. These schools, generally considered the top in the country, were asked whether they were addressing any Adderall abuse problems.

A Yale spokeswoman said no one was available to comment. A Harvard spokeswoman said the school had nothing to contribute to the story.

A Stanford spokeswoman emailed a statement that said the school was concerned about the well-being of its students but that it was “not aware of any students here with this issue” and did not have “anything to add” to the story.