I was first introduced to Adderall a few years ago by a friend deep in the anorexic abyss. At the time I wrote it off as just more evidence of the all-consuming nihilism of the disease. Not only was she starving herself, working out hours every day and popping diet pills like candy but now she was taking prescription meds too – just one more thing to maintain her tortuously thin frame. To her though it was significant: it allowed her to maintain her focus and mental functioning during an illness that is notorious for compromising both. Yet, I wrote it off. Anorexics will also tell you to punch yourself in the stomach every time it growls and to drink vinegar to dampen your hunger. Crazy talk. (And you know that being stuck in the revolving door of eating disorders myself, I mean that with love.)

Other than the occasional mention of it in relation to superskinny celebs (ahem, Lindsay Lohan), I forgot about it until today when an acquaintance of mine brought it up again. To encapsulate a very lengthy conversation, the general idea is that while she does not have ADHD – the disorder for which the drug is legally prescribed – she takes it every day and sees huge benefits from it. After hearing about it from another friend (and trying out a couple of Friend’s pills), she managed to wrangle a scrip from her doctor under semi-false pretenses. But oh was it worth it, she raved. Not only does she have laser-sharp focus now but she can get an entire day’s worth of work done in 5 hours!

In addition to making her the Energizer Bunny, it’s also made her a Playboy Bunny. “I never worry about my weight now!” she exulted and then chastised me in the same breath: “You’re too obsessed with your exercise and food. You just need to learn to chill out about it, like me. I eat whatever I want and exercise when it feels good and I’m 15 pounds lighter than I was in high school!” Which is true, incidentally. I have long admired/been irritated by Girlfriend’s ability to maintain her modelesque figure without any apparent effort.

“But you’re taking drugs,” I replied pointedly.

“So?” She was entirely unremorseful. “They’re not addictive and they’re not diet pills or anything. In fact, all they do is make me more me!” I must have looked incredulous because she continued, “You know those days you have when you’re totally on? Everything runs smoothly, you have tons of energy, you don’t forget anything and you do the best work of your life?”

“Um, yeah.” While few and far between, I do have those days. They’re awesome.

“Well with Adderall you can have those days every day.”

Some scientists actually agree with my friend. In the December 2008 issue of Nature magazine, several researchers posit that we should be promoting Adderall and other cognitive enhancing drugs saying, “Society must respond to the growing demand for cognitive enhancement. That response must start by rejecting the idea that ‘enhancement’ is a dirty word.” They make the case that these drugs have very few side effects and provide a lot of benefit even for people without the illness or disorder they are designed for. This off-label, Brave New World use of the pharmaceuticals has been popular for a decade with college and high school students looking for an edge, not to mention the Hollywood starlet set.

Think of it: a pill that not only increases your energy, mental capacity and functioning but also makes you effortlessly thin! It is kinda perfect, right?

My mind has been rolling that one around all day. It’s one thing to be promised effortless weight management – especially when I’ve had to put so much work and energy into figuring out a healthy relationship with food — but it’s the mental acuity that really has me wondering. They say you lose 10 IQ points with each kid you have. I’d say that’s a conservative estimate. Between the exhaustion and the monotony and the making up of rules you never thought you’d have to make (“We don’t lick everything at head height in the grocery store, darling!”), my mind is like Jell-O riddled with buckshot. (True story: I actually had buckshot Jell-O once. A friend gave me a quail full of teeeeny bullets that were impossible to remove but I tried to cook it anyhow. The meat on plate comingled with my Jell-O and… gross.)

And you’re telling me a pill can fix all that? (Except for the part where I let my food touch?)

My gut still thinks it’s a bad idea though. So today I’ve been looking up all the bad things about Adderall on the Internet. And the Internet being, well, the Internet, there are plenty of bad things out there. For one thing, Adderall comes with the ominous “black box warning” from the FDA meaning it can cause death or serious harm. There are also reports that it increases anxiety – something I certainly don’t need any help with — and heart irregularities. Not to mention that these drugs haven’t been around long enough to know what their long-term effects are going to be. And I’d be lying if I didn’t add that part of it is just jealousy. It’s not fair that I have to measure up to these perfect medicated women! Whose clothes always match! And who never forget to pick up their child from preschool! And whose houses don’t look like Mordor envisioned by IKEA!


PS> I am not now taking Adderall nor have I ever done so in the past. The only prescription drug I take is my anti-depressant. Which I will probably be on forever. Sigh. Just wanted to make that abundantly clear.

around the web


  1. I can’t do that.

  2. I heard from friends about being on adderall highs and getting everything in life accomplished in one day. I actually have adult ADHD and it makes me frustrated and slightly disgusted that people are using this prescription to be cognitive super heroes when I need it to get through 5 pages of a book I desperately need to study without dissolving into tears. Sigh.

    • @L: L, I’m with you on that. I have ADHD as well and am disgusted by ppl playing they have ADD/ADHD just to get the meds. As it is, I can only get a one-month Rx for my Ritalin as it is, because of ppl abusing it. Betcha it’s gonna get worse now. 🙁

    • @L: same here L, but although my ADD isn’t as bad as yours is, i still get the times that i can’t focus, and considering that i’m now off my meds i’ve been feeling much more independent and like myself every day. But in my bad ADD days A.K.A. when i was in elementary school i was very erratic and distracting to the classroom, but when i got put on them i was very withdrawn and still didn’t do any better on my homework, simply because i did not do it since it was too easy for me and wasted my time.

      P.S. For all those with ADD/ADHD out there please hang on it gets better if you can learn to control it a bit more.

      P.P.S. I have not touched any ADD/ADHD medication for 4 years now and am feeling great because of it XD

  3. I have thought about doing this. Like seriously sat down with my parents at talked about getting ADD/ADHD meds. My reasoning had/has nothing to do with weight more as there are days where it feels like my ability to pay attention has been severely fractured since obtaining my MBA. I really want to do it to feel more focused. I’m open to a very low dose and only during week days. However, I have the same worries and apprehension when it comes to questioning the long-term ramifications of using these types of drugs. So for now I’m just dealing with my inability to focus for long periods of time. I am not completely against the idea.

    • @TheMeanBlackGirl: I done it. I’m not ashamed about it but I’m scared about the long-term effects. No one knows or can give me a clear indication of what the drawbacks are. But I have found out that it does reduce short term mental anxiety attacks but I feel restless and scattered when I’m off it. I can confirm that although it may not give you a dopamine-like dependence I can’t go without it.

      • @Patti: I hear you. Thank you. Word on the web is that these drugs can change your brain chemistry. And though it’s not a dopamine effect, the fact that you can’t be “you” again off of it, would lend itself to the idea that there may be some addictive qualities; if not just unwanted and unchangeable side effects. It’s a lot to think about. Have these drugs been out for 10 years? If so there has got to be some preliminary data that leans one way or the other. Sans that information, taking the drugs still seems like a good idea, considering I feel unfocused and slightly anxious “normally.”

  4. Is it really that serious? How about a natural way of focusing called detox.

  5. I’ve taking it once during college my roommate gave it to me. I was super focuse during my finals it was great but I wouldn’t do it again.

  6. Personally I resent those who obtain prescription ADD medication if they don’t need it. Not only is it a class 2 felony to posses Adderall if it’s not prescribed to you, but it can make it more difficult for the people who do need it to get prescriptions.

    I suffer from Adult ADHD and take Vyvanse which is similar to Adderall and have had friends actually ask if they can “have some”. Of course I told them no, and explained why but it’s ridiculous that people use what is supposed to be a controlled substance as a way to get ahead. A close friend of mine told me his former law school classmates used to use Adderall all the time without actually needing it. Go figure some of them were in the top of the class but I can’t believe they were willing to risk their future careers (failing the character and fitness section of the licensing exam or being disbarred) just so they could out perform their classmates. People like that are on the same level of those who falsify an ADD/ADHD diagnosis so they can get extra time on standardized tests. They make it harder for the people who actually need that extra time to obtain it.

    Then again, you have to wonder what kind of doctor gives out medication to people they know don’t need it.

    • Lala, I love scrupless people who are on point and seldom waver to weakness. But that is not me. May I be the voice on the other side.

      People who are driven to succeed at all cost go big. At whatever cost it takes to have an inch above the competition is what will have to suffice to get ahead. By this time, every hard working, intuitive grad student, mom and pop show owner and K-Mart worker realizes how fickle this economy is…one day your vacationing in Beverly Hills…the next day you are working the block, begging for dimes. Can happen to anyone.

      When we are bight eyed and bushy tail kids they tell us…just put your mind to it and you can achieve anything…then you wake up and realize to make that dream happen you have to make tough decisions that question your faith. If you want it bad enough……that integrity you prided yourself on takes a back seat to a knew reality.

      Again …it is a very insecure world we live in and if popping Adderall or another pill gives me an advantage…..full steam ahead.

      I commend people like you who follow the rules and are successful at it. I tried following the “so called” rules and failed miserably. However I’m not going to live some mediocre life just cause the cards are stacked up against me.

      • @veggiechick:

        Word, sometimes following the rules lead you nowhere.
        and this is coming from a life long “goodie two-shoes.”

        I like to think i would take it if I could.

      • @veggiechick: Girl, I seriously fear that one terrible day you will discover that sacrificing your integrity to avoid “some mediocre life ” was the worst decision you have ever made. Once you start down that proverbial slippery slope, it goes vertical very quickly. Small ethical compromises here and there that have no negative consequences lead to greater and still greater compromises, that eventually lead to a nuclear flameout. Everyone who walks that road swears they will be smarter than those who previously flamed out. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you and all you’ll be left with is the shattered pieces of your life. Once compromised, integrity is very hard to recover. Esp these days when ppl are more interested in ripping apart their fellow human beings rather than encourage them.

  7. Chile I don’t mess with those hard prescription drugs they have been proven lethal time and time again, not to mention these newer super drugs where no one really knows the long term side effects.
    In the end there are no shorts cuts, good old fashioned proper nutrition and excercise will never be topped for fotness and weight management IMO.
    Now if you have ADHD or some other anxiety issues, I would thoroughly research holistic and natural herbal remedies before I went with hard prescription meds. Isn’t marijauna helpful for treating anxiety in some people?

    • @OSHH: As a person with ADHD I couldn’t agree more. And after researching those natural remedies, ADDers should really work at building a life that compliments who they are instead of trying to medicate themselves to fit in boxes that don’t fit them. But, I guess that’s for another article, lol.

  8. I have taken it for several months now. I can say that all of the assertions made by your friend are true: It certainly helps with focus, and it makes you lose your appetite, which in turn makes you lose weight. HOWEVER, everything in life comes at a price. Do you really think you can be “effortlessly” thin and eat whatever you want with no consequences? First of all, sure if you take this drug everyday, your appetite will be suppressed, but on your off days you’re going to binge like crazy especially if you’ve forgotten to eat. Which, will result in you possibly gaining weight. No problem, you can keep that in check, right? Well, the biggest issue with taking Adderral for weight loss is the biggest plus. You forget to eat. And to be truly thin and healthy at the same time you need to eat and remember to eat the right things. So, let’s look at the bigger picture. You might look thin on the outside but your heart, muscles, and every other part of your body may suffer due to malnutrition and lack of energy to exercise. Simply put, you’ll be skinny fat (appear to be thin but really have a high body fat ration). That’s only if you try to let the meds do the work for you. But there’s an even bigger issue. I felt that I experienced minor muscle loss while taking it. I’ve tried to do some serious googling on the subject and have only found a few body builders complaining about the same thing–but I have to trust what my senses are telling me about the drug. Now on to the attention and wonder woman causing side effects of it all. First and foremost, this is a drug. And, I do believe that we have been brainwashed to believe that a pill will fix everything for us. Sure, maybe it will fix your attention problem and allow you to “do” more. But the first line of defense is to always do the least amount of harm. Considering we really don’t know the effects associated with this wonder drug long term, I’m trying to embrace more holistic approaches first. If there’s a problem with our bodies or our mental health (e.g. ability to focus) 9 times out of 10 there’s a reason for it. Inattention, overeating, or undereating or just symptoms of the problem. I actually have ADHD and it definitely seemed to cure my inattentive symptoms at first. However, I realized the source of anxiety was my job. After a while, no matter what the dosage the super bunny effect wore off and I was still left with feelings of being ineffective. So, you can save yourself the headache of yo yoing weight, and increased anxiety by getting to the root of your problem and going from there. Perhaps the solution isn’t to rev yourself up more to do more, but to do less so that you can focus on your health and family more? If you do decide to use it, I’d start with the lowest dose possible and use it sparingly, when you most need it. And remember, there is never ever a pill to fix all or even some of your problems. It has to be a part of a larger plan of action. Hope this helps.

  9. Personally, when first diagnosed with ADHD, my doc suggested Adderall and I did *not* have a good experience with it. Ritalin or Concerta helps me keep my focus and to sit still. But Adderall twisted reality around a strange bit that I did *not* like. I read later that I wasn’t the only one.

  10. Very interesting comments from both sides of the isle. I have been taking Adderall for a couple of months now. Let me give a bit of background information in order to lay the foundation for my opinions on this subject. I am in my late, late 30’s…39 and I have 4 children. Needless to say, my life is very busy. But my busy life isn’t really the issue. My life has always been busy. I have fought depression most of my life. I have in the past few years developed some serious nervous anxiety. I am scared to death of anti-depressants or any medication that could make me, less me. That is just my personal opinion about drugs that I have never taken. I have tried to eat healthy and exercise to control my stress and anxiety. Through my 20’s this helped me manage. Through my 30’s, I have found that I am just running on fumes from trying to keep my head above water.
    I finally sought counseling for my depression and overwhelming feelings of failure. After therapy and a referral to a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD….I thought this was funny, because I didn’t “believe” in this diagnosis. I was always told that people with ADD/ADHD were just people looking for an excuse. I have never been an excuse makers, so I thought I would embark on some research regarding my diagnosis and special diets or herbal remedies. Anything that would keep me away from medications. There had to be a better way to manage my ADHD.
    I have realized through self-examination and refection through therapy, that I have ADHD all along. I realized that everything I have ever done or accomplished has taken me 300 times the effort that it takes for “normal” people. I realized that pure youthful stamina was the only thing that gave me the ability to manage my life. When I say manage, I mean, barely get by. Barely accomplish the tasks that had to be done. I lived a mediocre life, not because I didn’t work hard, or wasn’t as smart as other people, I lived a mediocre life because I couldn’t focus my energy or pay attention to something long enough to finish it. I had depression because I constantly felt like a failure and I didn’t know why. I had anxiety because I ran around on hyperdrive all the time with no direction.
    After exhausting all of my other options as far as diet, exercise and ADHD management therapy with my doctor and therapist, I chose adderall. I do still go to my therapist to evaluate my ADHD life skills, because adderall helps clear things up in my brain and increases my ability to focus, but it does not make my lists and prioritize my time. I do that, no drug can do that for me. I never thought a drug could change my life, but it has.
    I have had some of the side effects that others seem to experience. I have lost about 18lbs since starting the medication. I don’t mind the weight loss, because I was about 40 lbs overweight, but I have realized, that I have to have a plan to maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight. If you take adderall, you have to be conscious of the need to plan your meals. I have chosen vegan shakes to supplement my diet when I just don’t feel like eating. I always feel thirsty and this is how I have chosen to try and control my weight loss. I cannot imagine my life without this medication. That is itself scares me a bit. I never want to go back to the way I was before. I try not to think about the long term effects. But I do know that my life was unmanageable before and now I actually have a life that is productive. I have been able to do things in the past 2 months that I have never been able to do before. I have a clean house. I don’t miss appointments. I have been able to work on an finish projects that I have started and just never finished.
    Adderall has not made me some super human with incredible cognitive powers. It has made me a person that doesn’t give up at 9:30 am and want to go back to bed because I’m overwhelmed and can’t concentrate. It has made me a person that can function on a day to day basis without the pain and stress of constant self-hate, anxiety and depression. By the way, the depression is gone. I didn’t have a chronic depressive disorder. I had a chronic failure disorder that caused me to work myself over. I just wanted to live a “normal” life like other people, and now I can. I hate drugs and I hate my dependency on this drug. I hate it that I have to take this medication everyday for the rest of my life. But I don’t want to go back to the life I was living before.

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