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Adderall: Fad, Fashion or Over the Counter?

written by: •edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 4/26/2010

In a report on the CBS Show 60 Minutes, both Adderall and Ritalin, two drugs prescribed for attention deficit disorder or ADD are becoming a fad with college students trying to study and make the grade. The way things are going, could Adderall be fad, fashion or over the counter?

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    What Is Adderall?

    ADHD DAT Wikimedia Commons According to PDR Health Online, Adderall is a neuroenhancer, stimulant-like drug used to treat ADD, ADHD, and narcolepsy.

    For those suffering from these conditions, Adderall offers focus, clarity, and concentration; perhaps considered a breakthrough of its kind when dealing with ADD—getting youngsters to focus on the tasks, schoolwork, and social challenges at hand.

    Does Adderall work? Yes, according to scientists, doctors and psychiatrists but it is safe for long-term use? While the evidence is not in on long-term use, it has been show to raise blood pressure levels and cause certain heart ailments.

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    The Fad of Adderall

    White Pills Wikimedia Commons CBS reporter Katie Couric’s report on 60 Minutes showed stunning acceptance and abuse of Adderall in students and yes, professors. Why use Adderall? Some students said it helps with passing tests and making the grade through enhanced concentration. One Harvard professor (who was prescribed Adderall as an undergrad) said by taking the drug, he was able to finish a book much faster. Is this the professor we want teaching our kids?

    Also interviewed in the 60 Minutes story was psychologist Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania who is dong a blind study on Adderall. Farah offered the opinion that enhancing our brains with neuroenhancement drugs like Adderall will someday be as fashionable as cosmetic surgery.

    Farah, along with the help of some colleagues wrote an article in Nature Magazine that stated of Adderall, “we welcome new methods of improving our brain function.” Katie Couric countered, “you endorse the use of neuroenhancers but you compared them to exercise, nutrition, and sleep.”

    So, if this enables us to test better, understand complex problems better or even play a better game or write the next best book, is it fad, fashion or over the counter or really, over the top?

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    The Problem With Adderall

    Again, PDR Health Online says there are some problems that have already been seen through taking Adderall. These problems included heart-related problems including sudden death, stroke and heart attacks in adults prone to heart conditions.

    Other side effects include mental disorders including hostility, aggressiveness, and even bipolar disease.

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    Adderall: Fad, Fashion or Over the Counter?

    College Graduate Students Wikimedia Commons As a parent and grandparent and prior Montessori-like school board member, I couldn’t help wondering how other parents (and grandparents) would feel if they found their children in colleges and universities in America were taking the drug, even if it wasn’t prescribed—meaning they were buying it illegally?

    A student in Dr. Farah’s study indicated he could definitely tell when he was given the drug and not a placebo because math problems were tackled and completed, without “elegant solutions,” or creativity.

    So is making the grade in a robotic way OK? What about creativity? Further, what about creative competition?

    Another student interviewed by Katie Couric said the use or abuse of Adderall is being seen now in this generation of college students, meaning we’ll more than likely see more of it and only then will the side effects or legalities come into play.

    Is Adderall fad, fashion or an over the counter option for the future? That question is not only debatable but also curious.

    A friend of mine whose son was married recently said of his bachelor’s party, “they didn’t drink and watch strippers, they played Scrabble.” I’d like to think this groom and his friends chose the Scrabble option because it’s fun and friendly and plain old good competition. I do hope none of them took Adderall to win the game.

    To be sure, pharmaceutical companies will race to produce more mind-power drugs but what’s wrong with the old fashioned way of making the grade—hard work? This 60 Minutes report did give me pause. Who is taking Adderall or Ritalin to gain the edge? Hopefully, it’s not your child, or worse, your co-worker writing the same report as you trying to get that promotion.

    Both Ritalin and Adderall may be fad, fashion or soon over the counter, but for now, more studies are needed and, in my opinion, if it works for true suffers of ADD and ADHD (or narcolepsy) that's a good thing. Why so many others are buying it illegally is simply not right or studied enough, however, and will for sure be a hot, debatable issue.