Saturday, May 1, 2010

Poll: What should be done about Adderall?

Just like baseball, academics has its own performance enhancing drugs. I received a call from my dad the other day telling me about the 60 minutes special on the prevalence of using Ritalin and Adderall (ADD medication) to enhance academic performance. For individuals who do not have ADD, the drugs help people stay awake and focus better. The idea is that the stimulant effects of Adderall allow for intense focus, and they enable the user to stay up for multiple days while maintaining that focus.

For example, in this video, a couple of students discuss their experience with using Adderall to enhance academic performance. By some accounts, Adderall use among college students and academics has become commonplace.

Given this background, the poll question for the week is:

What should be done about the use of Adderall in academics?

(a) Nothing. It's just like an extreme form of coffee.
(b) Ban it.* Those who use Adderall artificially raise the standard of performance, and the side effects are intolerable.
(c) Promote it. Academics on Adderall can come up with game-changing ideas that help improve our world.

As always, I'm interested in hearing what you have to say. The poll is open for a week, so vote early and often. Tell your friends and colleagues to vote. And, if you're on Adderall and can't go to sleep, voting on this poll ought to give you something to do.

*Update: As using Adderall without a prescription is illegal, this option really means "organizations should do more to discourage illegal Adderall use." By this option, I do not mean to imply that Adderall should be banned for its prescribed use.


  1. On your poll, I don't understand the "ban it" option. ADD medications are already illegal for off-label, non-ADD purposes. Are you suggesting to ban these substances so that even medically approved uses would not be allowed?

    Perhaps an even better question is what should colleges and universities do? Should they apply increased penalties for students who are caught selling or using, beyond the penalties that already exist for non-performance enhancing recreational drugs? What about in the worplace, where executives and scientists regularly use these drugs to extend their hours of focused mental attention each day?

  2. Good points. Thanks for clarifying my intention with that aspect of the poll.

    I intended the "Ban it" option in the poll to give an outlet to people who think that we need more stringent action against the (currently illegal) use of Adderall as a performance enhancer. The more important question you raise captures the intention of my "Ban it" option. I apologize for the poor wording.

    For that matter, I certainly did not intend for that option to mean "ban ADD medication for all uses." There are medically important reasons to have this medication. It is a wonder of modern science that we have developed drugs to help people with ADD overcome the disorder.

    And, you also raise a good point about people in the workplace. The non-prescription use of Adderall is not confined to academics, but to my understanding, that was the focus on the 60 Minutes article.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. I believe the drug should be banned all together. It should not be used by anyone as far as I am concerned. It has many damaging side effects that make its use not worth it. It is prescription speed. It can reduce appetite, change peoples personality, make them irritable and/or depressed etc. The irritability can make them unpleasant to be around and lead to increased consumption of other drugs to "take the edge off."
    People just need to motivate themselves to work hard at something they enjoy instead of being given a drug that makes them work hard. I would say 99% of people who take the drug could get by just fine without it if they wanted to.

  4. Final Tally:

    6 say "nothing"
    15 say "ban it"
    8 say "promote it"

  5. Ban it, nobody wants to work next to a Lance Armstrong.


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