Does adderall actually improve studying and performance?


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Being college students, many of us have either taken adderall, know people that have done it, or have at least heard of it.  This ADHD medication, available by prescription only is a widely abused drug amongst the college community.  Many students take it because it makes one more "alert, focused, and interested" in whatever they are studying.  However, does this "magic pill" actually help increase level of productivity or is it like taking a placebo (meaning the adderall actually has no effect on your focus- it's all in your head)? 

            Adderall is a brand name of amphetamine salts-based medication used for attention-deficit hyperactivity; in areas of the brain, stimulants trigger an increase of the chemical dopamine.

And what exactly does dopamine do?

            According to Doctor Volkow in the articles study, "Dopamine is like a messenger.  It activates the rest of the cells in the brain to pay attention."  This causes one to pay more attention or focus on the task in front of them. 

But how does one acquire these pills if you need a prescription? Only a small percentage of college students actually have a prescription for ADHD medication.  You need to be screened by a doctor and go through a series of tests to acquire a prescription.  Those who have a prescription don't take it every day, leaving a surplus left to sell to students, making it a huge drug market amongst the college community.   

Often, students develop a dependency on the drug, many times not being able to study without popping a pill.  Studies show that students can easily become addicted to ADHD medication like other street drugs.  Abuse of the medication can lead to heart and blood pressure problems.  Also, the dependency could lead into after college- needing it at work as well. 

Now, does adderall actually work, or is it all in our head?

            The answer: No.  According to a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania, adderall did not increase student's performance on various tests- they only thought they did. According to Time magazine, "The research team tested 47 subjects, all in their twenties, all without a diagnosis of ADHD, on a variety of cognitive functions, from working memory -- how much information they could keep in mind and manipulate -- to raw intelligence, to memories for specific events and faces. Each subject was tested both while on Adderall and on a placebo; in each condition, the subjects didn't know which kind of pill they were receiving. The researchers did come up with one significant finding. The last question they asked their subjects was: "How and how much did the pill influence your performance on today's tests?" Those subjects who had been given Adderall were significantly more likely to report that the pill had caused them to do a better job on the tasks they'd been given, even though their performance did not show an improvement over that of those who had taken the placebo.

            The reason why adderall may give one a sense of better focus or productivity is the pill "unleashes the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, triggers the brain's reward system, and can produce a mild sense of euphoria." 

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/22/60minutes/main6422159.shtml

http://healthland.time.com/2010/12/21/adderall-may-not-make-you-smarter-but-it-makes-you-think-you-are/

 

 



2 Comments

This was very informative Kaitlyn. Unfortunately some of my closest friends have been relying on the drug Adderall, to improve upon their academics. Their claims are exactly what you described above, more alert, energy, and focus. Some friends have gotten to the point were they rely on Adderall so much that they proclaim they would not take a test or exam without the susbstance. They are so adamant of the success of this drug that they refuse ton listen to my words of advice to find healtheir, alternative methods for energy and focus. Three foods to healp stay focus include:
1.Beans, they are a powerhouse food for your brain. They contain protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fats that provide energy to your brain. The more energy your brain has the more focused you will feel.
2.Peanut Butter-Vitamin E and thiamin help your brain use glucose to provide energy that helps with focus. Peanut butter is a good source of both vitamin E and thiamin.
3.Berries:The antioxidants found in berries make them a brain food to snack on. The more intense the color of the berry the more nutrition and antioxidants they contain. The seeds in berries contain omega 3 fatty acids, giving them a double dose of brain-boosting nutrition


What to eat during your study time


After reading that post, although i found it interesting, think the experiment seemed incomplete. yes, they determined that adderall had no effect on performance while doing a double blind test, so then why not go an additional step further and, with a separate test group, compare performance with adderall to performance with no pill at all. This would determine if there is a placebo effect that kicks in when people take adderall, which makes them focus and get more work accomplished. I would be willing to bet that be would find a significant placebo effect occurs when adderall is applied.

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