Trigger Warning: If you’ve experienced problems with recreational amphetamine abuse in the past, this post could negatively impact you.
Additionally, please note that all discussions about ADHD medication in this post are related to people who do not have ADHD, but take ADHD medication for recreational or ‘productivity’ purposes only. I’ve gotten many comments from people who only half-read this post. Taking ADHD medication if you have ADHD is a positive thing and this post is not disputing that.
There are only 24 hours in a day. Between balancing work with family issues and attempting to maintain a social life, all while completing any other daily tasks, finding the time to complete everything may seem impossible.
One popular options that people take advantage of to get the full 24 hours out of their day is to turn to Adderall.
However, taking Adderall (or any similar ADHD medication) without a prescription and a doctor’s supervision does more harm than good — and it doesn’t even provide enough “good” to make the drug worth it.
Many people think that abusing Adderall will make them more productive – but there’s a difference between being productive and just keeping yourself busy. If you don’t have ADHD or a similar disorder, taking Adderall will likely give you a boost in energy, but is it actually making you more productive?
The Very Real Dangers of Adderall
I don’t want to share this with you, but I will if it helps you understand why I’m so against using Adderall or other, similar medications under the pretext of boosting your productivity.
A very close friend of mine began using Adderall when, like so many other college students, he was experiencing some burnout due to a heavy course load one semester. Over the last four years, my other friends and I have watched him turn into a shell of the person that he was before he started using Adderall.
Did we do anything to help him? We tried. But by the time we even realized there was a serious problem with him it was too late.
We encouraged him to stop using it, but he didn’t want to. He had excuse after excuse to keep taking his prescription (which he had easily obtained by naming off a few well-known ADHD symptoms to his doctor).
It’s not like your friend just comes over to you one day and is suddenly strung out on this stuff. It’s a much slower, subtle process that you might barely even notice at the time.
Your friend mentions that they’ve been taking Adderall to stay up and study, then they start using it to get more done around the house. And eventually they take it to help them do… everything.
What Does Adderall Do?
Normally, people have a baseline level of stimulation. If they consume the likes of caffeine, nicotine, cocaine and amphetamine, their brains go into overdrive.
The opposite is true of ADD/ADHD sufferers, however: Given stimulants like amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (both of which are present in Adderall), they experience understimulation, which helps them focus.
That’s why Adderall is often prescribed for the abovementioned sufferers, who usually find it difficult to concentrate on any single task.
The pill is also popular with many people who are trying to be more productive, because one of its tasks is to help prevent narcolepsy, or falling asleep at random times.
For people without narcolepsy or ADHD, Adderall makes them feel wide awake and gives them tons of energy to dedicate to whatever tasks the need to get done. Many college students use the drug to help them study for tests, or when they have numerous projects to complete.
One of the reasons why the drug feels so effective is because it stimulates the release of dopamine, a chemical most people associate with “highs” and feeling good.
However, the relationship between the two is more complicated than that: Dopamine is, in fact, an inhibitor. Specifically, it inhibits cells that release another inhibitory agent called GABA, thereby exciting the body’s nucleus accumbens, a.k.a. Pleasure Center. Since ADD/ADHD sufferers have low levels of dopamine, they need all the Adderall they can get.
While taking Adderall, people have the notion they’re being more productive. In reality, it’s likely they’re experiencing the so-called placebo effect, i.e. they do well because of their strong belief the drug helps, not because the drug actually works.
Also, most of the evidence about the drug’s positive effects is anecdotal at best, so take it with a grain of salt.
There’s even evidence to suggest Adderall may make you less productive when it comes to certain tasks.
According to Claire Advokat, a psychology professor at Louisiana State University, stimulants may improve memory retention, but they can also diminish performance in tasks that require planning, thinking on the spot and thinking outside the box.
Additionally, a study from the University of Pennsylvania found that Adderall has little or no impact on the creativity on the average creative people (though the opposite is true for people who aren’t creative to begin with, for some reason).
And, when you’re taking Adderall or Ritalin every day, you end up missing out on a lot of sleep – and that starts to mess with your brain after a while, too.
When we noticed that our friend had a serious problem with Adderall, it was mostly because of his memory. He couldn’t remember anything: where he put his cigarettes, his car keys or his phone.
Then, he started forgetting other things. Like, what kind of music I liked. And my favorite character from our favorite TV show.
The Dangers Behind Adderall
People who take the drug without ADD/ADHD run the risk of causing serious harm to themselves. Doctors constantly monitor Adderall prescriptions because it does contain addictive qualities. As previously mentioned, the drug creates sensations of euphoria, so someone who self-administers the drug can become dependent and require more of the drug to feel “productive.”
Other health risks from taking Adderall include many heart problems — elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and heart attacks or strokes. Breathing issues may also occur, as well as dry mouth, insomnia, loss of appetite and weight loss. Mental health can also be seriously affected depending on how you administer the drug. People who snort Adderall have the tendency to become violent and possibly suicidal. If people already have a history of anxiety or depression, Adderall can worsen these feelings.
Let’s not forget the ethical questions surrounding the use of the drug.
Is it fair for an Adderall-abusing student to obtain the same — or higher — grades as a student who gets by with sheer hard work and normal sleeping hours? Will office workers take Adderall in order to cope with increasingly high-pressure corporate environments? Is it all right to put your health at risk in the name of improved productivity?
If that’s not enough to dissuade you from taking Adderall, take a look at all these horror stories from others who’ve become addicted. All of them have one thing in common: They all got to the top the quick and easy way — only to crash back down to Earth in the most painful way possible.
Safer Options for Being Productive
Adderall is a drug that, when prescribed by a doctor, can help ADHD and ADD patients remain calm and focus more. However, it should not be taken recreationally or with the hopes of cramming for a mid-term exam.
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Instead of illegally taking drugs, here are options you can use to be more productive.
- Create a calendar with a detailed timetable. Instead of trying to finish all your work in one fell swoop (as Adderall addicts tend to do), break it down into manageable chunks. For example, you can read one chapter of the required textbook each weekday, instead of all seven chapters on a Saturday.
- Form study groups. The benefits of study groups outweigh that of self-study — as long as you study with people who want to make the most out of the session. You can go off-topic to talk about “fun” stuff once in a while (hey, talking about academics all the time can get boring), but be sure to get back to business as soon as you’re done.
- Prioritize your tasks from most important to least important. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed with work. In case you’re having trouble figuring out which is which, you can sort them into the four categories outlined here.
- Complete similar tasks at the same time. Let’s say you have a required reading and a paper for philosophy, and another paper for physics. Instead of finishing the tasks on a per-subject basis (i.e. finishing everything for philosophy before proceeding to physics), you can finish them according to the type of task. You can take notes for philosophy and physics at the same time, while scheduling the reading for later.
- Have rewards for completing difficult tasks. All that hard work can be exhausting. Have a tub of your favorite ice cream ready in the fridge once you’re done with everything. If you’re health-conscious, a bowl of fresh fruits can perk up your mood and taste buds at the same time.
- Get enough sleep each night. Ideally, you should have seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Also, keep your bed sheets nice and tidy, turn your thermostat to 65 degrees, and turn off all lights.
Even if you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to finish everything, Adderall is not the answer.
Besides causing actual harm to the body, Adderall does very little to actually help increase productivity; instead, it just makes you feel as if you’re being more productive.
There’s a reason why the drug should only be administered by a doctor. The risks of taking Adderall without a prescription are not worth any of the perceived benefits.
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