With 5.3%of college students currently prescribed ADHD medications, Adderall & its newer, “difficult to abuse” progeny, Vyvanse have just been used in massive quantities all over the country to get heads through finals. There’s a beautiful round up of how Adderall is used/discussed in digital spaces by Tazin Karim Daniels here. While plenty of people are going to hem and haw about it, if 47% of 12th graders say it would be “easy” to obtain this stuff, let’s take our heads out of the sand and try and understand why.
In a word, pressure. When kids & adults take the stuff to study/test/work, it helps. This is the elephant in the room in campuses across the country, and people have begun to speak out about it. From something called the College Life study, a longitudinal (read: over many years) study, 61.8% of college students are offered Adderall or Ritalin at some point in their college careers. 31% have used it. This isn’t a cigarette, or pot, this is a prescription designer stimulant, that 1 in 3 have used at some point in their academic career. And they say it’s easier to get than pot. We can shake our fingers at the kids, but with heroes like Lance Armstrong, and a scattershot of relevant baseball players from the last 25 years, who are we to judge?
And they can facilitate achievement. I’ve treated investment bankers who take Adderall to find a competitive edge. And sometimes it works. Medical residents (who you might think might know better) routinely take attention-deficit-disorder medication so they can keep up. And sometimes it helps. Young associates at prestigious (read extraordinarily competitive) law firms going into “trial mode” often pack a vial of Adderall along with boxes of documents, flow-charts, and a new suit. And sometimes they are the ones who make partner.
More and more people will try to do for their attention, concentration, and memory what Lance Armstrong did for his athletic endurance.
Here’s another article from Forbes that provides surprisingly harm reduction focused info on Adderall use for career/life enchancement, or as he terms it “Brain Doping.” There’s some decent information and he does slam home the point that this is the equivalent of using steroids, except for your brain. It might be safer than rocking anabolics until your balls drop off, but it is definitely not a free lunch.
Let’s not think burners, ravers or creatives are immune to this stuff. I’ve seen event managers/producers use this stuff to stay up, focused & alert while everyone’s running around in capes & footie pajamas. We’ve all seen festie kids who haven’t slept in days but they’re grinding their teeth a bit less than the ones who have been snorting crank. This is because Adderall is a more modern & therefore “designer” drug than amphetamine. We’re better at manipulating chemical structures now. And Vyvanse is a perfect example of this.
Vyvanse is an interesting sequel to adderall. Many claim that this is just a cheap “sequel” to keep Adderall on patent & and keep the dominant script out of the hands of the generic market (which happened to Adderall in 2009). However, an interesting shows up in the trip reports if you take a look at the accounts of it. Unless you’re willing to hydrolize the drug, essentially replacing your liver & stomach in the chemical process, you can’t speed up the effects. Like, you can snort it until your nose falls off, it’s still taking 12-14hrs, because the process requires your GI tract to turn it into the stimulant you need. (Those people are a reminder why this article is in a category called This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.)
To be clear, Vyvanse & Adderall are incredibly effective at treating ADHD, and ADHD is still improperly diagnosed with many children that have it not receiving proper care. However, this brings up a crucial ethical question. This is explained masterfully by Joseph Maxwell, but I’ll give the rough example he does to help illustrate the problem (apologies for gross oversimplification for the sake of expediency).
Student X is ‘normal’.
Student Y is diagnosed with ADHD.
On his own, X achieves a 3.2 GPA.
On his own, Y is only capable of achieving a 2.5 GPA, clearly less than X.
However, since he is prescribed to Adderall, Y is able to achieve a 3.5 GPA.
If X had access to Adderall, he could have achieved a 3.8 GPA
It is clear that Y ultimately out-performs X because of the Adderall boost.
~Populi Magazine, Joseph Maxwell
This is a question we all have to ask ourselves. Every college kid is, every lawyer, doctor, stock broker, and still millions more are. What do you think? Should we still prescribe it, knowing that it’s being used for performance enhancement? Should we not, keeping many neurodiverse individuals from living full, healthy lives? Do you know people that take it recreationally or for performance enhancement? Join ravelrie, NY DanceSafe, Stay Safe Seattle & I on Twitter at 4:30pm EST/1:30 PST to talk about this!