Adderall for Study: Does it Really Make You Smarter?
Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Aug 8, 2018.
Pepping Up Exam Time
Addys, Zing, Study Buddies, Smart pills, Uppers, Beans, Pep pills and Black Beauties. These are just some of the street names used for Adderall.
Originally intended as a medication for children with ADHD, Adderall has become something of a thing among older teens and young adults intent on increasing their focus and energy levels on exam days or during all-night study sessions. It's also a popular feature at parties.
In 2017, 5.5% of high school seniors reportedly used Adderall, but only an estimated 20% of these teens got it legitimately from their doctor. Almost one in two young adults say it's easy to obtain Adderall or similar stimulant-type drugs from friends or classmates. A Boston study of 300 undergraduates aged from 18 to 28 reported one-third misused stimulant drugs. Misusers in this study were more likely to have been diagnosed with ADHD.
Staying Up All Night... But At What Cost?
The problem with taking a drug like Adderall, in the absence of a medical condition such as ADD or ADHD, is that your body starts to rely on it, both physically and psychologically.
Your mind starts to play tricks on you and convinces you that you won't be able to accomplish tasks without it. To make matters worse, your body also revolts during your Adderall-free days, and you feel sluggish, tired, unmotivated, and lacking in energy as you come off your Adderall high. The combined forces of your mind and body both prompt you to take another dose. Before you know it, this relentless cycle perpetuates your need to continue taking more of the drug, and it becomes a daily habit. Congratulations, you are now addicted to Adderall.
Sidestepping A Doctor, Also Sidesteps A Risk Assessment
Before doctors prescribe medicine, they always look at how suitable that medicine is for each individual patient. You're unlikely to come across that sort of consultation from the person selling you Adderall in the dorm next door.
Adderall has caused a number of fatal heart attacks and stroke. Most occurred in people with undiagnosed, underlying heart conditions; toxic levels of the drug in their body; or a family history of abnormal heart rhythms. Strenuous exercise and dehydration also appeared to be a contributing factor.
Keen For Some Company Inside Your Head?
Some people are overly sensitive to stimulants and develop confused thought processes, regardless of what dosage they take. Psychiatric side effects reported with Adderall include hearing voices, becoming suspicious for no reason, or becoming manic.
Adderall can also exacerbate symptoms in people already suffering the effects of psychotic disorder or bipolar illness.
Do You Like Your Fingers And Toes?
Stimulants, like Adderall, direct blood flow to your brain and heart, and away from your periphery (arms and legs).
This may cause numbness, pins and needles, or color changes in your fingers and toes, or make them feel cold. Without good blood flow, any small wounds or cuts make take longer to heal and are more likely to become infected.
Crossing your legs or staying in one position for long periods of time (such as when studying), can make symptoms worse.
Looking For A Faster Way To Get To The ED?
Mixing alcohol with Adderall is dangerous, and sometimes fatal. Some people who have only taken one dose of Adderall mixed with one drink have ended up in hospital. Even though Adderall is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, taking the two together does not cancel each other one out; rather it sends the brain mixed messages that can result in paranoia, depression, migraines, sleeplessness and vomiting.
Even the heart can be affected. Adderall prompts the heart to beat harder and faster, whereas alcohol sends signals to slow the heart down. A confused heart is more likely to beat out of rhythm and arrhythmias have been reported after Adderall and alcohol have been taken together.
In addition, Adderall dulls the feeling of being drunk. Which means you drink more and are more likely to get yourself into a situation you would rather not be in, such as a fight or alone with the wrong person.
Not Worth It
Taking a prescription medicine like Adderall for the sole purpose of increasing concentration or pulling an all-nighter study session for school is not worth it. Any short term gains in alertness you may experience are overwhelmingly counteracted by withdrawal symptoms and potentially fatal side effects.
Exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep will do more for your concentration and your grades than any quick-fix pill.
Don't be fooled into taking so-called "smart drugs" in this competitive world. YOU are smart; not Adderall.
Finished: Adderall for Study - Does it Really Make You Smarter?
- Sichilima T, Rieder MJ. Adderall and cardiovascular risk: A therapeutic dilemma. Paediatrics & Child Health. 2009;14(3):193-195
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- FDA Directs ADHD Drug Manufacturers to Notify Patients about Cardiovascular Adverse Events and Psychiatric Adverse Events Feb 21 2007. US FDA. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2007/ucm108849.htm
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