Why we need to talk about Adderall

When used correctly, medicine like Adderall and Ritalin are designed to be effective treatments for ADHD. But its misuse is threatening to overshadow its benefits, writes Amanda Cassidy

"Even when I'm sitting still, my brain is bouncing." A description of ADHD by 38-year-old John Doyle who wrote about his experience living with the condition (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in the Irish Times recently. The mature law-student, originally from Kerry, says he doesn't see his condition as a disorder.

ADHD is a medical/neurobiological condition in which the brain's neurotransmitter chemicals; noradrenalin and dopamine doen't work property. It is a genetic and long-term condition which can affect learning and behaviour through school years and into adulthood.

One medication to treat the condition is Adderall. When used correctly, the medication is an effective treatment for the condition, which affects the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which coordinates attention, decision-making, error correction, affective responses and language.


As a nervous system stimulant, many people with conditions like ADHD have that taking medication changed their life. Elizabet Broadbent describes the benefits. "The drugs did far more than keep me awake. I felt normal. Instead of lazing on the couch, I wrote. I offered to help with dinner, and I threw in some laundry. I wasn’t frenetic, a tooth-grinding maniac. I got stuff done, the way neurotypical people do."

Boost concentration

It is a medicine that is designed to boost concentration, alertness, and energy. But its misuse is the other rise.

Ashley Beeman runs her Fit and Fabulous blog and has been blogging for the past few years. She was misdiagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which she says "ruined her life". She quickly became hooked on prescription stimulant Adderall for its weight loss results.

"I had pretended to be living this really healthy lifestyle to all my followers and I owed them an explanation; I would make up ridiculous excuses like I dropped my prescription script into the lake and they (doctors) would just give me another. On Adderall I would hardly sleep. I would be up all night staring at the ceiling".

She says all her focus was spent on her addiction; "I was always constipated. Sometimes I wouldn't have a bowel movement for up to two weeks at a time. I wasn't focused on my family in any way."

Many people mistakenly believe Adderall is “safe” because it is prescribed by doctors. However, continued abuse of Adderall can lead to long-term side effects and an addiction that can be hard to break.


People abuse such drugs because it produces feelings of confidence, euphoria, increased concentration and a suppressed appetite. In fact, the ability to help users to focus longer and better makes it attractive to students facing ever-increasing demands at school or college.

"I did my thesis in one night"


The rise of its use in Ireland among the student population has seen students buying unprescribed ‘study drugs’ over the internet, especially during exam period.

One UCD student described to The Journal.ie why he decided to take the drugs: "I took Adderall, I took Ritalin, and Concerta. If you have a whole course to learn in one night they work wonders – enough to pass a third-level exam anyway. Once I sat in the library for 13 hours straight and didn’t even take a break, and I did my thesis in one whole night.”

And use of medication as 'study drugs' is on the rise. "In first year you’d see the odd person taking one," pointed out the student in question. "But now it seems like everyone wants them.

Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine - stimulant drugs that increase the activity of certain brain chemicals. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine increase the availability of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Together, these brain chemicals play a vital role in wakefulness and attention helping alleviate problems with hyperactivity and impulse.


Like any medication there are side-effects that include nervousness and mood swings. Children who take Adderall may experience a temporary slowing in their rate of growth and some side effects can include trouble breathing, chest pains, seizures, hallucinations, changes in
vision, unexplained muscle pain, dark colored urine, or changes in skin colour.

Some people with AHDH say they prefer to "be the person they were born" rather than medicate indefinitely, others, like Elizabet Broadbent says she can't live without it.

But whatever your thoughts, the most important part is to firstly not take medication that isn't correctly prescribed. And do not underestimate the effects that mediation can have when it comes to the balance of your brain chemistry on a long-term basis.

Image via Unsplash.com 

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