Why You Shouldn’t Take Adderall If You Aren’t Prescribed It — For Real.
Throughout high school, I competed near-religiously on my school’s speech and debate team, where I performed interpretations of literature and gave speeches advocating for messages that I viewed crucial to my audiences. Junior year, I reached a block as to what message to go for. I was aware of what issues concerned me, but I wasn’t fully sure of how to go about addressing them. So, I did what most people do when they’re really, really bored.
I turned on the TV.
Scrolling through Netflix, I decided that rather than rewatch Total Drama Island for the millionth time, I wanted to spice things up a bit and watch a documentary. I struggled to find a film that seriously peaked my interest, until I came across one with a popping, comic-style graphic cover titled Take Your Pills.
The film revolved around amphetamine (Adderall, Ritalin, etc) abuse in college students and athletes, focusing moreso on users who did not have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). Typically, in order to be prescribed an amphetamine, you need to have an ADHD diagnosis. Personally, I was diagnosed with ADHD in middle school, but I’ve never been prescribed an amphetamine nor have I used one.
Most of the stories followed a similar timeline: Test is coming up soon, friend has Adderall prescription, friend sells adderall to person, person tries it, gets hooked, gains a dependency, and eventually loses the ability to function properly without taking it. Watching the documentary opened my eyes to a world of suffering individuals trying to loosen the grasp their amphetamine addictions have on them.
When I figured out this was the topic I wanted to pursue for my junior year speech, I immersed myself online to find out how Adderall works, how it impacts those with/without ADHD, and how people who use it frequently become impacted by the drug.
My first move was to visit forums dedicated to individuals struggling with amphetamine addiction, and to see what they’re experiencing. The results I ended up finding were hauntingly more tragic than I expected.
“My physical symptoms and worries have either changed or gotten worse. And I’m finding it almost impossible to find an ounce of love or worthiness for myself. As for health stuff, I have CRAZY bad anxiety at times. It’s pretty much all the time at this point. My legs turn so pale and purple/blue often. Left leg gets a numb, tingly feeling sometimes. I get a red, hot to the touch, splotchy rash on my arms, chest, stomach, legs, basically everywhere but not all at once.”
“This isn’t fun anymore. It hasn’t been for a while. But now it’s taking over my life. The reason I got fired was because I was late way too many times from not waking up to my alarm because when I do sleep, I sleep hard. My mom does the (drug) with me so that’s super hard cause we enable each other. I’ve lost any sort of close friendship’s.”
“I’m so incredibly lonely. I’ve lost who I am and any passion that I used to have. I want it back so bad and I try but when I try, it doesn’t seem to even make a dent. I don’t know how to do it. How do I start, where do I start, how do I save myself when it’s me that’s destroying myself. ”
The more I read, the more I was greeted with dark, personal stories of life deprecation rooted from amphetamine abuse and addiction. My first thoughts were “why?”. Why does a drug that’s prescribed to over 16 million Americans have such addictive tendancies, and how are the impacts so detrimental to abusers, yet so beneficial to users?
The answer to this question was surprisingly simple, yet multi faceted in it’s context. When a child or adult has ADHD, the usual medical response is to prescribe an amphetamine, such as Adderall or Ritalin, in an appropriate, monitored dosage. The medication increases the production of neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, which the brain of an individual with ADHD has a deficit of, and brings the levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain to the regular level seen in an individual without ADHD.
However, when someone without ADHD uses amphetamines, they’re increasing the production of these neurotransmitters beyond the healthy level for a human being, preventing them from being reabsorbed normally and leaving a debilitating amount of chemical messengers in the brain. This results in a dependency on the medication that is seen significantly less amongst users who have ADHD, and when abusers go from taking 5mg to 15mg from once a day to four times a day, they’re increasing the damage their brain is taking more than tenfold.
Contrary to drugs like Marijuana, whose effects can be extremely beneficial, Amphetamines hold little benefits for users who don’t genuinely need the drug. Karen Miotto, director of the UCLA Addiction Medicine Service, argues that research proves the “heightened focus” of Adderall comes from a placebo effect, and in her review of 40 studies, more than half of them found no cognitive improvement in the adults who tried it.
But where’s the stigma? Why do we hold stigma against drugs like Marijuana, which we have seen time and time again do not have harmful effects and is only illegal to do racial bias against Mexicans from decades ago, or Vape pens, which work phenomenally to wean cigarette users off of tobacco, yet a drug like Adderall, which shows relentless proof of harming those without a proper ADHD diagnosis, is regarded as a college “study drug” that kids are “bound to take”.
Amphetamines can be a gift to those who need them, yet a detriment to those who do not. This article is not a call for banning or removing these drugs from the market, because in the right hands and in the right dosage, it can be an amazingly life changing medication. Rather, this article is a call for heightened awareness of the potential detriments this drug can have on users. No class is worth risking potential addiction, and no class is worth seriously harming your mind and body in a possibly permanent manner.