Adderall has a reputation as a drug for overachievers. Every semester, students take Adderall to help them finish term papers and study for final exams. People working overtime use it to help them meet deadlines. The problem is that Adderall is basically prescription meth. Using it to get an edge at work or in school can lead to escalating doses and possibly addiction. Some people consider the risk worth the reward. Does Adderall actually make you more productive?
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Adderall’s intended use is to treat ADHD. Most doctors are now reluctant to prescribe drugs to young children with concentration problems, but older children, teens, and young adults are often prescribed Adderall to help them concentrate. For people who need it, Adderall can be beneficial. People with untreated ADHD are especially prone to addiction. Treatment that might include medication makes recovering from addiction much easier.
People taking Adderall who doesn’t need it might become addicted to it in much the same way as if they were taking cocaine or meth. Whereas people taking Adderall for ADHD remain at a steady dose, people looking for an edge tend to escalate. As their tolerance builds, whatever boost they originally got from Adderall begins to wear off and they need more for the same boost. Adderall interferes with sleep, so this can quickly lead to a downward spiral of getting too little quality sleep and then taking more to keep going the next day. People trying to quit Adderall after becoming addicted typically find they are depressed, have very little energy and have trouble concentrating.
This cycle is not sustainable in the long run, but even in the short term, the advantages of Adderall for productivity are questionable. It’s true that Adderall can help you focus for hours at a time, but the focus is only one small aspect of productivity. For example, you could focus intently on writing your name 3000 times but it wouldn’t do you much good. It’s much better to continually evaluate what you’re doing, whether you could do it more efficiently, and whether you need to incorporate new information.
There’s no evidence to suggest that Adderall really improves studying. Focusing is not the same as learning. Studies show, in fact, that you learn better when your studying is less efficient. Taking more breaks, stopping to look back at earlier information, and even changing text to a font that’s harder to read has shown to promote greater retention than blasting through chapter after chapter in a textbook. As for writing, Adderall can make you feel like every thought that comes to mind is brilliant. Without sorting those thoughts critically, your writing can turn out to be a complete mess.
While it feels like Adderall can help you power though, it’s often better to work smarter, not harder.