Consuming an edge: ADHD, stimulant use, and psy culture at the corporate university

Transcult Psychiatry. 2013 Jun;50(3):371-96. doi: 10.1177/1363461513490720. Epub 2013 Jun 20.


We examine "psy" on the college campus. Psy refers to ways of knowing and acting on ourselves that shape everyday life psychologically. We suggest that there is an "elective affinity" between psy and the neoliberal management strategies that now dominate the "corporate university." We describe ways that psy organizes college life by drawing on the history of college health services; interviews about mental health and services at a university in Canada; and historical, social, and media accounts of student mental health and pharmaceutical drug use-both prescribed and not-on campus in the US and Canada. By the 1990s, for the first time, many students were arriving at college as already experienced consumers of psy with diagnoses and prescriptions. We approach this and the increased use of medication as an aspect of the psy-campus. We focus on stimulants, using ADHD to illustrate the blurring line between treatment and enhancement. Students who use stimulants-with or without prescription-do so in the same way: instrumentally in relation to academic demands. The blurred line between academic stress and psychiatric distress is further illustrated by "clinic notes," an institutionalized practice that enables all students to act on academic pressure as a matter of mental health. We describe the links between psy and institutional branding and marketing to illustrate the role of mental health and wellness services in the corporate university.

Keywords: ADHD; college mental health; corporate university; neuroenhancement; pharmaceutical stimulants; psy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology*
  • Burnout, Professional / drug therapy
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology*
  • Canada
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / standards*
  • Students / psychology*
  • United States
  • Universities / organization & administration*
  • Universities / standards
  • Universities / trends
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants