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Five Myths of Adderall and Ritalin Debunked

Artist: Phil Kiner / Daily Nexus


“Within the last 12 months, have you taken any of the following prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you: Stimulants (e.g. Ritalin, Adderall)?”

This was one of the questions asked in the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment that was administered to a random sample (~1,000) of UCSB students last spring. Nearly 14 percent answered “yes.” If we generalize that to represent all UCSB undergraduates, 13.7 percent would mean approximately 2,500 students reported using these prescription drugs illegally.


A recent study, “Adderall is Definitely Not a Drug: Justifications for the Illegal Use of ADHD Stimulants” was published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse. They interviewed 175 undergraduate students who used Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) stimulants like Adderall without a prescription. These students thought the stimulants were physically harmless and morally acceptable. Let us examine and challenge some of the justifications that helped them come to those conclusions:

1) “It’s the same as drinking a lot of coffee.”

Let’s see, in a latte, there is water, coffee beans (containing caffeine) and steamed milk. Perhaps you add sugar and other flavorings. Adderall is made up of dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, dextroamphetamine sulfate USP,and amphetamine sulfate USP. These increase levels of the neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Adderall is not the same as coffee, diet coke or even caffeine pills.

2) “I have trouble focusing and/or concentrating, I daydream, I get bored easily, I have low reading comprehension — I probably have ADHD. So I’m just taking what I need.”
Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin have made life for many people with ADHD better. Under their doctor’s care, these drugs can help a person function and cope better with their symptoms. But you are not a doctor. ADHD is more than just an occasional inability to concentrate. If you think you have ADHD, consider getting tested. Contact the Disabled Student Program at (805) 893-2668 to make an appointment with the ADHD specialist to discuss your options.

3) “Adderall is prescribed and regulated by medical experts, so it must be safe.”
Adderall is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has accepted medical use for treatment but it has a high potential for abuse, and abuse of the drug can lead to psychological or physical addiction. All Schedule II drug prescriptions are limited to 30 days worth of doses with no refills. The Adderall prescribing information handout states, “Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse.” That sheet’s “warning” and “adverse events” sections list serious cardiovascular adverse events, hypertension, worsening mental illness, headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite and mood changes. Just because a drug is prescribed to one person doesn’t mean it is safe for another person to use.
And always keep in mind that the mixing of two or more drugs can cause a greater reaction than the simple sum of the individual drugs. Sometimes these combinations can be deadly.

4) “I only use it in moderation, during midterms, finals.”
How do you define moderation of a prescription drug that was not prescribed to you? By dosage? 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, 30mg? How often? There are no responsible answers to these questions because the drug was not prescribed to you. Words like “moderation” and “not using in excess” can’t be defined when talking about nonprescribed use.

5) “I’m doing Adderall for the right reasons: not to get high, but to get higher grades.”
I call this the “end justifies the means” argument. “Doing well in college is the reason I’m here, so anything that helps me achieve higher grades is good.” But what defines “doing well in college” for you? Is it just the grade? What does the process of preparing for a test, discussion, lab and paper teach you about yourself? Does the knowledge that it is a federal crime to use a Schedule II drug without a prescription have an influence on your decision to use or not use? Those are questions you have to answer for yourself.

It’s worthy to note that the majority (86.3 percent) answered they did not illicitly use Adderall and Ritalin in the past year. If you generalize that finding to our UCSB population, it would be over 15,000 undergraduates. The more strategies you possess to fulfill your academic responsibilities, the more options you have to succeed. Don’t limit yourself to one strategy. Take advantage of study groups, Campus Learning Assistance Services, Educational Opportunity Program, faculty office hours, mentors, etc. Good luck with wrapping up the quarter and congratulations to our 2010 graduates!


Michael Takahara is an educator with UCSB Health & Wellness.

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32 Responses to Five Myths of Adderall and Ritalin Debunked

  1. K

    September 3, 2014 at 6:43 am

    I’m a UC Berkeley engineering student. I would not be here if it wasn’t for Adderall/Vyvanse (a time-released version of Adderall). I’m not sure how I feel about this article either. However, I’m also not sure how I feel about Adderall.

    Here’s my story: I was taking lower-division mathematics/physics/chemistry/computer science + other courses at my community college. I was physically EXHAUSTED ALL DAY. Maybe it’s just because I’m really passionate, but not smart enough to keep up the way others do… I still couldn’t tell you to this day. I asked a computer science friend how he stays up all night and programs. He told me “Vyvanse” and gave me the speech about ADD. I’m somewhat biased towards psychology (I know there are valid aspects of the field, but it certainly doesn’t meet the criteria to be considered science) but I listened to him anyways. The next week, and I still don’t know why he did this, he handed me 7 pills. I took 1 pill/day and all of a sudden I didn’t yawn anymore. I was focused. I finally was able to come home, eat lunch, and immediately start studying instead of crashing for an hour or two, trying to wake up out of REM sleep, and THEN study. It was like a dream come true.

    I needed to get my hands on a prescription.

    Being skeptical of psychology, I realized I would need to fool someone into thinking I had ADD. I talked to my regular doctor. I told him I had been taking them illegally for 7 days and that they’ve really helped. I denied any negative side effects (which really wasn’t a lie because there were none at that point). I told him “it helps me focus.” He said “anyone who takes a hit of speed or cocaine may feel more focused, but how do you really know you have ADD?” I told him why I was skeptical of psychology. I think deep down he probably agrees because he had me take a “written” multiple choice test. I used common sense when filling it out… but he said it basically doesn’t matter what you put down. Another year passed. I did great and got into UC Berkeley into an impacted engineering major. Lost 30 lbs! Oh I’m age 27 at this point – slightly older. Slower metabolism. 30 lbs is like a miracle!

    Then I moved to Berkeley so I needed another doctor to write me a prescription. Due to UC Berkeley’s policies on stimulants, I had to see a psychiatrist from outside the school – the school insurance still payed for it though. This psychiatrist wasn’t so quick to write me a prescription – he wanted me to take a “quotient” test despite the fact I was already “diagnosed” ADD by my previous doctor (if that’s the right term). The quotient test was 20 mins long and involved hitting the spacebar on a keyboard whenever I see a certain “star” pop up. I figured the best way to pass this was to hit the spacebar whenever I see ANYTHING pop up because I suspect that’s how they test to see if little kids are ADD (if they’re impulsive…etc). This worked. I was clearly ADD by that test’s standards. I continued to take Vyvanse.

    About 6 months went by and I started building a tolerance. I normally get up and start studying before class at 4:30am so I can have peace and quiet in the city, alone. However, I noticed that now at around 12pm, I would crash. Vyvanse is supposed to last ~12 hours and it definitely wasn’t doing that anymore. I told the psychiatrist I needed more, and he agreed to give me 10mg Adderall to take when that happens (insurance will only let you have 1 pill/day of Vyvanse). As a trade-off, I agreed to reduce my initial dose of Vyvanse by 10mg (note: they do NOT have the same effective potency per time… I’m not just trading 10mg before for 10mg after. They work differently.).

    This brings us to the present. For the past 3 weeks or so I’ve had very unusual insomnia. I’ve been on stimulants a total of 2.3 years and it’s only recently started. I took a ruthless summer course (E7) which had me about to lose my mind so I attribute some of it to anxiety, but even after E7 ended I still have had trouble sleeping. I think it might be caffeine from coffee (despite having worked at a coffee shop for 6 years and being a regular coffee drinker for 10+ years) as well as my medication as well as being excited for classes to start – yes I’m really that big of a nerd.

    That also brings me to why I personally have justified using stimulants to myself. I have few friends. I’m 10 years older than the kids at school. I live in the ‘hood in Oakland & I have no wife, kids or girlfriend – nor do I have time for meeting anyone.

    My happiness is getting engineering problems correct and understanding the mathematics behind them as deep as possible. I do not cheat (and it APPALLS ME HOW MANY PEOPLE DO). I don’t snort Vyvanse/Adderall or take more than I should. In some other civilized nations, the idea of ADD isn’t taken too seriously (hence, the subjectivity of the entire topic).

    Would I recommend it? I don’t know. Like the fine print says: Your doctor has prescribed this because they feel the pros outweigh the cons. There are both and you will feel both.

    Lastly, in myth 5 of this article:

    1) The idea of breaking a federal law by illicitly taking Adderall is compared to the importance of getting good grades.

    2) It is also suggested that we should ask ourselves what “doing well in college means” to us.

    For 1): This is a moral issue subject to one’s own values. Obviously, humans cannot be perfect. I chose this to be one of my imperfections. I don’t care that it’s illegal because I, for the most part, live by my own rules (many of which coincide with the legal system – I’m not some badass rebel. But I don’t take the legal aspect of my (or anyone’s) situation into account when dealing with these drugs… the true potential harm is to the individual – take an extreme example with a heroin addict. The choice to shoot up shouldn’t be based on whether or not heroin is legal).

    For 2): Doing well in college means getting by with as little debt as possible for me. UC Berkeley is slaughtering me and I wish I was never accepted – despite my passion for science and engineering. I’m a B student, at best, mostly C’s. If I stopped taking stimulants, I would be exhausted all day and I would have severe concentration issues (trying to transition off of them is tough). There’s no way I’d get through it. So what should I do? I have a friend who was just kicked out and is in $XXXXX debt. Should I do that living in Oakland with no degree at 29? Should I just join the rest of the people on the streets here and give up what I like doing, because I need to stop my 1 pill at 4:30am, 1 pill at 2pm routine? The world is cold-blooded nowadays. If students weren’t so hard up to do X,Y & Z, there might be more room to talk. This is not the case though. If you have a 2.0 GPA when you graduate… you’re screwed. I mean… even engineering jobs will turn you down (although, it’s definitely not as bad as other degrees). This problem has no solution because it is over-constrained. That’s why I don’t attempt to solve problems like this (unless I can use the backslash operator… haha… anyone? anyone?).

    This definitely took a rant-ish direction towards the end and I apologize, but if you look at the cold, hard facts, you’ll see that these “myths” are harder to debunk than this article makes it seem……..

  2. wang

    July 22, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Shut the Fuck up .

  3. David Marah

    June 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Truly moronic “article.” I don’t feel the need to explain why I feel that way, as my other fellow, non idiot friends have already spoken my beliefs.

  4. cffc

    October 31, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    This article is naive.

    1) Nobody claims it is the same as drinking coffee. It is similar in terms of physical stimulation, though, meaning the cardiotoxic risks you mention later are very close to the same.

    2)Don’t romanticize diagnoses. If responsible Adderall usage improves a person’s quality of life, directly or indirectly, and without serious mental/physical/social consequences, then the suggestion that it is being “misused” is a matter of principle and not fact.

    3) Anyone who puts a mood-altering substance in their body has a responsibility to themselves and those around them to have a basic understanding of what it is and what it does, as well as what a safe starting dose is (slowly/carefully increasing, if necessary, to achieve a desired effect). Dextroamphetamine is, generally speaking, a very well-tolerated chemical, and at an appropriate, therapeutic dose, the risks of short term consequences (which don’t pose any grave threat to a person’s wellbeing) are low, and the risk of longterm consequences almost nonexistant. If negative side effects do occur, then the person can simply stop taking it.

    4) Moderation isn’t synonymous with “use as prescribed”. When someone says “drink in moderation”, they aren’t saying that you should drink as “prescribed”. In the case of alcohol, it means properly maintaining one’s health, by staying hydrated and nourished (and getting enough sleep), using the lowest possible dose to achieve its effect without compromising your wellbeing. In the case of Adderall, it’s very much the same, except instead of relaxation, the desired effect is improved concentration while studying.

    5) This is naive. Grades are the most important thing for many of us who are entering competitive grad programs, even more than academic honesty to some (though I find cheating despicable and would never). If a goal is important enough to you, you will probably do what it takes to achieve it, unless it violates some serious and fundamental moral/ethical value (as cheating does for me). I think you will find many people’s attitudes are not governed by arbitrary DEA-backed legislation that is based on a draconic, ill-conceived war on drugs. Many people are fully capable of educating themselves and responsibly using Adderall to enhance cognitive performance.

    On a final note, consider the fact that the government, willing to ruin your life for using unconventional methods in the pursuit of a career, makes billions of dollars through the taxation of alcohol and cigarettes, both substances with essentially NO benefit, as well as personal/social/medical consequences several orders of magnitude higher than low-dose amphetamine use.

    • Joe

      December 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      Thank you for clarifing that.

    • Sebass

      January 29, 2014 at 10:41 pm

      Great rebuttal. I have been prescribed adderall on and off for about 14 years. I first started taking it my junior year in highschool, a good friend of mine noticed that i had a lot of trouble focusing when the subject did not greatly interest me. We were in almost every class together, all honors. I would put every thing off to the last minute, and was a mess in a lot of senses, but managed to get by enough to stay in honors, except for science and history which i loved.
      Luckily for me, his father was a psychiatrist, and had him on the highest allowable dose of adderall a doctor could prescribe. He talked me into trying some of his for a few days, and almost like the flip of a switch, i was a complete different person at school or work.
      Instead of “zoning out” all day and daydreaming i was somewhere else, namely in the the world of final fantasy, but that’s a topic for another day, I was completely focused both in class and at work. It was like the part of my brain that could only be unlocked when i was highly interested in something, was always functioning. My teachers when i was several years younger had recommended to my parents to get me tested, however they scoffed, because ADHD was a stigma to them, teachers might as well have told my parents they thought i had down syndrome.
      So anywase my friend took me to his father, and explained what happened. He grounded his soon and took his prescription bottle away, only giving him what he needed that day. He took me into his study, checked my pulse, blood pressure etc., talked to me for about 2 hours, and told me to come see him once a month. He never charged my insurance, wrote me prescriptions, and in 6 months i went from barely hanging on i honors to getting much better grades, and actually getting a raise and a few months later a promotion at the pizza shop i worked at. My parents found out a few years later in college, and flipped out. I stayed calm and focused, pointed to the date my grades improved, and said had they followed my teachers advice, it would have happened a long time before. Adderall really changed my life, and has made a tremendous impact, and over the years i have recognized the symptoms in others and recommended them to the same doctor.
      In short adderall is not for everyone. If you have heart problems, high blood pressure, or certain emotional problems, it can cause much more harm than good. A lot of people do use it without a prescription; some sniff it, some take a handful to get high; others take it to focus at school, or to make deadlines at work.
      My opinion? I don’t think it should require a prescription to buy at the pharmacy, merely a physical. If you your healthy enough to take it, you should be able to buy it. I need to show an id to purchase sudafed and i am limited to small quatities, why not the same for adderall?
      Sure, some people would buy it, abuse it, go crazy (psychosis is a symptom of adderall abuse) or have heart attacks. Guess what? These same people instead smoke crack, snort cocaine, shoot crystal meth etc. At my current job, i supervise a lot of part time employees who tell me they do a lot of what is stated in this article, buy adderall off their friends at school and cram for tests. One girl, just finished her bachelors degree at Harvard a few months ago, premed. She started medical school this fall. She has a roommate who splits her adderall prescription with her monthly. She is tall, gorgeous, highly intelligent, very capable, and I am convinced she will make an outstanding doctor in a few years.
      Adderall is not for everyone, it will not make you smarter. It will not increase potential you don’t have, and outside of some very specific parameters, it is not a miracle cure. But it can be very beneficial for some.

    • neighbor

      May 8, 2014 at 11:20 am

      You say you would never cheat but taking a medication to help your scholastic performance when you’re not prescribed medication is cheating when somebody next to you is taking the exam without having the medication illegally

  5. Steve Smith

    August 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Would anyone like to hazard a guess at what diet pills housewives got addicted to in the 1960’s?

    I think the Author is simply pointing it that we are quickly becoming a society with a Messina pill complex. A society that is willing to experiment on our most precious gifts….our children.

  6. Agueda Corrio

    June 6, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Academic difficulties are also frequent. The symptoms are especially difficult to define because it is hard to draw a line at where normal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity end and clinically significant levels requiring intervention begin. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed in two different settings for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

  7. anon

    May 17, 2013 at 7:24 am

    The final question is obviously intended to suggest or threaten you with punishment in order to influence your independently intelligent ethical analysis on the basis of the other circumstances without including the invasive voice of their meta-legal, meta-sermonical one-liner.

    Otherwise, the obvious implication of the statistics and the first and second person experiential accounts of the chemical usage and their recounted results is that the concept of “Schedule II” (and scheduling in general) is ridiculous as it is applied to supposedly free-thing and free-acting sentient adults.

    In Actuality, it is absurd to think otherwise… although I certainly do politely and compassionately empathize with alternative perspectives on the necessity of upstanding civic prototypes and self-defined stereotypes unabashedly marketed as to persuade the hypnoted masses to adopt their “good citizen candidates” as typical and righteous exemplars of the expected and obediently self-reinforced personal disposition and conduct.

    • Mike

      May 21, 2013 at 10:58 am

      Could not agree more my friend, let freedom reign!!!

  8. kevin

    April 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    my friend and i have know each other for most of our lives,we grew up together and are now in our 50s,my friend has had a problem with meth and lately with adderal and ridalin,i also had a friend on meth who died at 38 years old, i have known alot of people on meth or similiar drugs,the one thing i have found to be constant in this addiction is
    1. the person very rarely thinks they have a problem,and if they do and get off it they go back thinking they can control it.
    2.when the person doesnt think they have a problem,nothing you can say will change their minds,for the most part.; with my friends i had to stick their nose into the whole denial thing about “how great” their life was but couldnt understand why no one would give them a job or people just “couldnt understand ” them
    3.with many forms of stimulants used the people i have known THINK they are behaving normal, and actually try to make sure they are,while all along people around them are looking at them saying jeez what the hell are they on? it is the most deceptive drug class around,most drugs you know your jacked up and will admit it.

    I had went to visit my friend 2 years ago,he lives a long way from me now,we went out to fast food place and he was standing at the counter for like 4 min ,touching his forehead and pointing at the pictures of food,asking stupid ass questions,start to speak then stop in mid sentance ,scratching his head ,jerking hand and body movements,and the girl behind the counter was looking kinda scared of him. when we finaly gotr our food and left the place i told him,dude you where acting like a full blown meth freak in their ,its no wonder everyone thinks your doing meth! THE ONLY reason he believed me,after some convincing was the fact we have a long history and he knows i would not bull shit him.he was freaking out because he said he was intentionally trying to “act normal”. I have worked with AA and other groups helping drug addicts,i can tell you 100 percent if your doing any kind of stimulant for any reason other than real ADHD people know your jacked up,they just will not tell you. you think you have it under control,but very soon it has you and you dont even have a clue,cant get a job,or if you do cant hold on to it,friends come and go,except for the ones doing the same as you. If you dont have a legit reason for taking this medication you will or are having a messed up life and you wont even know it untill you hit rock bottom or die.

    • Sebass

      January 29, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Your a Moron. You are confusing a crystal meth addiction, with the subject of the article, students occasionally taking PRESCRIPTION amphetamines to study for tests. Yes in some cases this could be a gateway drug, however, very few college students are buying crystal meth to study for exams, and the semester they do, is the semester they usually drop out. Go share your experiences at one of those “drug help” forum-websites.

  9. Anon

    April 3, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    This article strikes me as ridiculously biased against the use of any substance- for any reason.

    “How do you define moderation of a prescription drug that was not prescribed to you? By dosage? 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, 30mg? How often? There are no responsible answers to these questions because the drug was not prescribed to you. Words like “moderation” and “not using in excess” can’t be defined when talking about nonprescribed use.”

    This argument relies on the assumption that non-prescription use of drugs is inherently “bad” or “immoral.” It uses the fact that it’s a “prescription drug” that is “not prescribed to you” to indicate that “you” (I mean this as a general, collective “you”) are incapable of judging for yourself the inherent risks and associated benefits of drug use.

    To point out the fallacious nature of this argument, let’s look at another argument presented earlier in this article: “Let’s see, in a latte, there is water, coffee beans (containing caffeine) and steamed milk. Perhaps you add sugar and other flavorings. Adderall is made up of dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, dextroamphetamine sulfate USP,and amphetamine sulfate USP. These increase levels of the neurotransmitters: dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Adderall is not the same as coffee, diet coke or even caffeine pills.”

    The article presents this in an attempt to draw an artificial separation between “drugs” like amphetamine, and caffeine. However, rather than make an actual logical argument here, the author simply stated the names of the various isomers of amphetamine and their associated salts, before stating his OPINION that adderall is “not the same as coffee, diet coke, etc.”

    While the statement itself is true (indeed, it would be ludicrous to argue that caffeine and amphetamines are chemically identical- it’s simply not true), the author makes the fallacious implication that adderall is somehow WORSE than caffeine.

    The statement made about adderall’s effects on neurotransmitters is true- that is simply how the drug functions. The same is true, however, for literally any psychoactive substance. Including caffeine. Caffeine functions by acting as a nonselective agonist of adenosine receptors in the brain. Thus, for the argument against the use of amphetamines presented here, one must also argue that the nonprescription use of caffeine is also inherently wrong or immoral, since it functions in a similar manner to amphetamine.

    In addition, it should be pointed out that even such simple activities as regular exercise can affect alterations in the brains neurotransmitters. The “runner’s high” is a widely known phenomenon, caused by the release of dopamine. Should exercise, then, be illegal?

    Why is the ingestion of a substance that alters dopamine reuptake inherently morally different than exercise, when both actions result in the same effect?

    One could argue that the cases of caffeine use and amphetamine use are inherently different due to the different physiological means of action, and due to the differences in risk of physiological side effects. However, even this argument is fallacious, as caffeine carries with it the possibility of physical side effects of equitable severity to those of caffeine.

    Using amphetamines with a heart condition can be dangerous; so can using caffeine. Amphetamines are physically addictive. So is caffeine. Amphetamines, in high enough doses or over a prolonged period of time, can cause cardiovascular damage, psychosis, blood pressure problems, hallucinations, and numerous other severe side effects. However, the same can be said of caffeine. The intake of too much caffeine can cause all of these side effects, and even more which are unique to caffeine intoxication. Caffeine intoxication can cause rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle tissue), among other effects.

    Thus, it is misleading to present the case that amphetamines are somehow “harmful” while caffeine is somehow not.

    Another fallacious argument presented by the author is this: “Adderall is a Schedule II drug, meaning it has accepted medical use for treatment but it has a high potential for abuse, and abuse of the drug can lead to psychological or physical addiction. All Schedule II drug prescriptions are limited to 30 days worth of doses with no refills. The Adderall prescribing information handout states, “Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse.” That sheet’s “warning” and “adverse events” sections list serious cardiovascular adverse events, hypertension, worsening mental illness, headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite and mood changes. Just because a drug is prescribed to one person doesn’t mean it is safe for another person to use.
    And always keep in mind that the mixing of two or more drugs can cause a greater reaction than the simple sum of the individual drugs. Sometimes these combinations can be deadly.”

    I would like to combine this argument with another made later in the article, so that I may address both at once. This second argument is presented as follows: “How do you define moderation of a prescription drug that was not prescribed to you? By dosage? 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, 30mg? How often? There are no responsible answers to these questions because the drug was not prescribed to you. Words like “moderation” and “not using in excess” can’t be defined when talking about nonprescribed use.”

    Now, the author is correct to warn of the potential for psychological and physiological abuse of adderall, as there are very real risks involved with its use. However, to argue that the risk of addiction, along with the numerous possible side effects, somehow makes the nonprescription use of this substance inherently any worse than the nonprescription use of any other substance is illogical. Caffeine, as mentioned before, has many of the exact same risks the author mentioned, and is physically addictive as well. The same can be said of alcohol as well (although the side effects risked with alcohol overdose are different than either caffeine or amphetamine, the point still stands that alcohol, as a drug, is as dangerous and as addictive as amphetamines).

    It is illogical to argue that the use of a substance is somehow immoral due to the risks involved with its use, especially when there are substances with similar potential for physical and psychological harm, but of which the use is socially acceptable.

    The second argument mentioned handles the issue of use in moderation. It is absolutely ridiculous to state that there is no possibility for use in moderation without a legal prescription. The blessings of a medical doctor and the Federal government do not give the patient being prescribed a moral carte blanche for their use. It is misleading to even imply that something so simple as a prescription is equitable to use in moderation, and relies on the idea that the law of the land carries with it an inherent morality.

    It is very, very possible for a patient who is prescribed amphetamines (or a wide variety of other drugs, for that matter) to develop a physiological or psychological dependence upon their use. It is also equally possible for someone not prescribed amphetamines to use them without developing such a dependency. Simply having the legal permission to choose a course of action does not alter the risks inherent with that course of action.

    The biggest flaw in the author’s statement that “Words like ‘moderation’ and ‘not using in excess’ can’t be defined when talking about nonprescribed use” is that he ties the very idea of moderation to that of medical prescription. This is fallacious in that it implies the very concept of moderation would not exist without governmental intervention, and indeed there are numerous examples of substances for which this is proven false, both objectively and within the confines of “acceptable” society.

    For example, consider again the case of alcohol. While it is a central nervous system depressant, rather than a stimulant, it still carries with it tremendous risk of addiction, in addition to numerous deleterious physical side effects associated with overindulgent use. It is readily available to most people (of legal age, at least, although age limits are obviously of little deterrence to those who wish to drink).

    However, alcohol is not regulated by prescription (at least in present times, as it most certainly was prescribed and distributed by pharmacies during prohibition). Therefore, it stands to reason that literally ANY consumption of alcohol is “nonprescribed use.” By the author of this article’s own logic it is therefore impossible to consume alcohol in moderation.

    As most people are aware, however, this is patently false. While there are many who choose to overindulge in alcohol intoxication, there are many more still who drink “in moderation.” That amphetamines (or any other drug, for that matter) are legally required to be prescribed by a doctor does not preclude their nonprescription use from similarly being “in moderation.”

    The final point that the author tries to make is as follows: “I call this the “end justifies the means” argument. “Doing well in college is the reason I’m here, so anything that helps me achieve higher grades is good.” But what defines “doing well in college” for you? Is it just the grade? What does the process of preparing for a test, discussion, lab and paper teach you about yourself? Does the knowledge that it is a federal crime to use a Schedule II drug without a prescription have an influence on your decision to use or not use? Those are questions you have to answer for yourself.”

    It is in this argument that the author most flagrantly displays his inherent bias regarding the subject of substance use.

    His statement of “Does the knowledge that it is a federal crime…” makes it clear that he finds the nonprescription use of amphetamines immoral NOT due to the potential for physical of psychological harm, but rather simply due to the legality of their use.

    This thought process relies on the flawed assumption that legality, as presented by Federal law, is somehow intrinsically tied with what is and is not moral. That the nonprescription use of amphetamines is illegal by Federal law does NOT indicate that their use (and the consequent breaking of that law) is somehow inherently moral. It simply is what it is- the act of breaking a law.

    It is incredibly naive, and, most importantly, dangerous, to assume the morality of actions simply based upon their legality. What of slavery? Slavery was, for most of history, explicitly legal to practice- and yet today it is reviled in most cultures and is regarded as extremely immoral.

    What of civil rights? For most of history, suffrage was denied both to women and to ethnic minorities. Does this mean that the denial of their basic right to representation was moral?

    Blind belief in the morality of law is an incredible danger, especially to modern society. It is the civic duty of every citizen, and society as a whole, to CONTINUOUSLY QUESTION the morality of the law. To neglect this would be to invite stagnation and injustice.

    It is of utmost importance, when confronted with the prohibition of a substance or an action or a thought or a belief, to question the justification of that prohibition. It is through this that society matures as a whole.

    This article, however, simply espouses the viewpoint towards drug use which is held by the current United States federal government, with very little independent thinking or analysis. It simply states “this is bad, because it’s bad” and offers nothing more to support its case other than that provided by its obviously biased and circuitous logic.

    I would like to also mention the case presented by that of cannabis. It is a Schedule I drug, according to the scheduling system of the federal government. Which, according to this article’s assertion that amphetamines are dangerous due to their status as a Schedule II substance, would indicate that the use of cannabis is markedly more dangerous or deleterious upon its users.

    However, this is not the case; in fact, the use of cannabis (especially through methods of consumption alternative to combustion) has fewer deleterious effects on the mind and body than even caffeine. Its status as a Schedule I substance asserts the claim that it has “no recognized medicinal use,” which is patently false, as it has many, many medical uses (None of which are recognized by the federal government as valid. The position of the federal government is that synthetic THC alternatives, such as Marinol, preclude the acceptance of raw cannabis as medicine. This position, however, ignores the numerous non-THC cannabinoids present in various strains of cannabis, many of which alter the medicinal effect of the strain. It also ignores the experiences of many Marinol users who complain of intensely negative side effects- indication that it is markedly less effective as medication than cannabis).

    The case of cannabis, and the history of its prohibition (along with those histories of other drugs) highlights the political nature of our drug scheduling system.

    In closing, it is ridiculous to assume that legality and morality are equal. None of the author’s arguments validly support the assertion that nonprescription use of amphetamines is inherently immoral, as this assertion conflicts with contemporary views of other drugs, despite having similarly harmful effects.

    The morality of substance use is something which is to be individually determined, not established by indiscriminate, politically biased laws masquerading as morality. Everyone should have the right to inform themselves of the inherent risks- and benefits- of the use of a substance, and the right to decide for themselves if they wish to partake.

    What is more immoral, to me, than the use of any substance, for any reason, is the imposition of one’s own moral views upon another, and the subsequent stripping of that individual’s ability to make decisions for themselves.

    This article was neither educational, nor informative, but rather a derisive lecture with a clear agenda.

    • Dylan

      June 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Anon, thank you. That was truly an amazing response to this article. I’m going to quote you on “Blind belief in the morality of law is an incredible danger, especially to modern society. It is the civic duty of every citizen, and society as a whole, to CONTINUOUSLY QUESTION the morality of the law. To neglect this would be to invite stagnation and injustice.”

    • SMF

      October 18, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      Did you take some before writing that?

      • MAR

        October 29, 2012 at 9:31 am

        Lol SMF

        And seriously, Anon, you are a god. You took my outraged thoughts and feelings about this article and put them into a beautifully coherent and eloquent tapestry of words. Thank you.

        My favorite part was when the author tried to use caffeine as an example to back up his argument. Just because big soft drink and coffee companies rely on the use of addictive substances to move their product and thus the government says it’s okay, doesn’t mean that caffeine is intrinsically a “better” or less “immoral” drug than adderall or anything else. Poor sheep. In fact, I am prescribed adderall for my ADD, and it gives me far fewer bad side effects (racing heart, mood swings, worsened menstrual cramps to name a few of caffeine’s more pleasant side effects to name a few) than caffeine, and I get much less addicted to adderall than caffeine (caffeine withdrawal headache’s are the worst!) Caffeine’s drug addition potential is 72%! For comparison: Heroin’s drug addition potential is 81.8%. They let kids drink caffeine. They let companies make money off of people’s addiction to the caffeine in their products. Which do you think is the ‘better’ more ‘moral’ drug now?

      • Hank

        February 22, 2013 at 4:41 am


    • Mike

      May 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

      Damn….this guy is gonna need a prescription…..for some badass burn cream lol no but for real could not have said it better my self in short whom ever wrote this article is a douche….

  10. dena

    May 11, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I am a.d.h.d and was on adderall for about 5 and a half years. now i am on ritalin instead. these medicines are nothing to play around with.there is a reason they are prescribed by a doctor. adderall is very addicting!im not sure about ritalin yet as I just began taking it.

    • Sebass

      January 29, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Judging by the your comment, it isn’t helping sweetheart, maybe it’s time for the doctors to try some new medication….

  11. Walter

    February 20, 2011 at 11:06 am

    “There are no responsible answers to these questions because the drug was not prescribed to you.”

    Actually it is.

    This isnt an article this is a lecture.

  12. Craig Rooke

    February 10, 2011 at 1:47 am

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  13. anonymous

    December 7, 2010 at 6:57 am

    David Urzua is right.

    This article lacks any reasoning or real facts to back it up- it’s complete bs. I didn’t even finish it.

    The best reason not to take Adderall is because it’s a drug and when taken regularly a dependence (not addiction) can be developed. Withdrawal isn’t something anyone wants to go through.

  14. doctor who series 5

    December 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

    The 1st show of the new series, broadcast on Saturday, featured a kissogram, a naked Doctor along with a “sexed up” Tardis.Throughout the unique 65-minute episode, The Eleventh Hour, in which Physician Who had 20 minutes to save Earth from aliens identified as the Atraxi, his new companion, Amy Pond, was revealed as a kissogram dressed in a skimpy policeman’s outfit, complete with mini-skirt and handcuffs. In 1 scene, Amy, played by the actress Karen Gillan, told the Dr that her kissogram repertoire also included nuns and nurses’ outfits. Discover out a lot more at Sci Fi Fan.

  15. Ritalin

    November 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    You all are correct in stating that the author of the article had more of a patriarchal tone rather than an educational tone. Instead of presenting the research and allowing readers to make their own opinion, they stated their own opinion….which I agree with. I will present the more “educated” research. I apologize for the lack of citations but I really don’t feel like going through my 5 inch binder but if you would like to check my sources it is easiest to tell you to google/pubmed McCabe’s research and others (I apologize for not listing your names but you all know that his group has so damn much out on the topic!). I will preface by saying that Adderall and other ADHD prescription stimulants have shown to be effective for individuals that are properly diagnosed with ADHD by a physician.

    1. ADHD Stimulants have been shown to be efficacious and relatively safe for individuals with ADHD. However, there are no studies indicating potential health risks over the long term. There are studies indicating that children taking ADHD stimulants ended-up being shorter (statistically significant) than children their same age. There might be more but I haven’t looked at that literature since 2007. ADHD stimulants affect your brain similarly to cocaine by increasing dopamine in your midbrain. Increased midbrain dopamine has been shown to be associated with substance dependence and abuse. In contrast, caffeine (aka coffee) binds to the adenosine receptor which is involved with ATP. Google if you are interested, I don’t give a crap about caffeine. Thus, we can see that Adderall increases dopamine which is linked to substance dependence and coffee is not.

    2. Clearly an individual shouldn’t try to self-medicate unless they are an MD (even though I have incredibly low faith in MDs these days as I see how current med students learn…with ADHD stimulants! I kid). But following your comment asking for other “justifications” for use, I will include some debunking of justifications. At least one study, has examined students’ perceptions of non-medical ADHD medication use and they found that students guessed that ~30% of students at their school used prescription stimulants non-medically within the past year when the real number was 6%. The students that were likely to overestimate the normality of this behavior were more likely to be users. Multiple studies indicate that students’ believe that non-medical prescription stimulant use is safe and not a problem (also users). Also, now that drug companies are allowed to advertise medications to the general public, we as a nation are more likely to feel that prescriptions are the norm and are safe despite the fact that they often have nasty side effects.

    3. I’m skipping this one because I don’t care.

    4 and 5 should be lumped together. Dear students, You are not using them in moderation and you are not using them just to study, do not lie!! OK, so here is a load of research quickly and hopefully the selling point of the argument. The majority of published studies, report that about 50% students report using ADHD medications as a study aid and 50% report recreational use….these two categories are NOT mutually exclusive. The majority of the students who claim to use ADHD medications to study also use them recreationally. (pubmed for references). Non-medical prescription stimulant use (regardless of motivation) is associated (statistically significant) with use of alcohol, binge drinking, use of other illicit drugs, high scores on the drug abuse screening test, lower gpas (ironic for people who claim to use as a study aid), and depression. Also, students report using them orally and intranasally. Intranasal administration is not the recommended administration. It allows the drug to reach your brain much faster, release dopamine quickly and all at once, and is associated with substance dependence. Think snorting a line of cocaine. In addition, ~50% of students who use non-medical prescription stimunants report using them at the same time that they drink alcohol. Motivations for doing so include being able to drink more for longer and getting more buzzed. Seems like a good way to stay awake so you can party but this simultaneous use has been shown to be associated with increased negative alcohol-related consequences such as drinking and driving and having unwanted sex (there are more). Also, the combination of alcohol and Ritalin produces the metabolite ethylphenidate that has been seen in several overdose cases in which individuals had both drugs in their system. Ethylphenidate has been compared to the metabolite, cocaethylene, that is created when someone drinks and uses cocaine at the same time and is also toxic. Remind you of the recent cases of Four Loco poisoning…stimulants with alcohol?

    I hope this provided you all with more detail on this topic. These postings emphasize the need for researchers to learn how to disseminate their findings to the general public in a way that will effectively increase the desire to decrease substance use.

    Enough procrastination, off to work on my thesis after popping some Adderall… not prescribed to me. I joke.

    • Ritalin's Daddy

      April 9, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      I’m skipping this one because I don’t care.

  16. Jooman

    October 2, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Nip jap

  17. Desmond Kravetsky

    August 4, 2010 at 12:24 am

    This is a bit off discussion, which I apologize for, but would you and your readers mind giving your opinion about the recent oil spill, you’re opinion seriously helps and I can’t thank you enough for taking a few moments to give it. I left the URL in the appropriate field, thank you!

  18. Danila Tibukantuka

    May 19, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    @ David Urzua: Popped some Adderall just before commenting, huh?!?!?!

  19. Akira

    May 14, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    The last person’s comment is spot on. There is very little logical argument here. This is not going to inform anyone’s decision about whether to take Adderall illegally. What would convince someone not to abuse Adderall is a logical argument about its negative consequences, backed by scientific research.

    Why doesn’t the author give more convincing evidence? Probably because there isn’t much of it. Although illegal, SMALL doses of Adderall probably does little damage to a young, healthy individual. A night of heavy drinking, or a few fast food meals, is almost certainly worse for you.

    If I am wrong, please correct me. But please do so with evidence from scientific studies, not anecdotes or moral claims.

  20. David Urzua

    May 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    While I would like to think of myself as neutral regarding this issue, I felt compelled to comment on the author’s shoddy logic and lax attitude when it came to backing up his claims. Rather than engaging the 5 ‘myths’ with well researched facts, sound advice from experts in the field or a balanced account of the risks and benefits of ADHD stimulants on regular people, he seems more preoccupied rebutting these ‘myths’ with mere assertion, loose facts and a judgmental attitude trying to impose his own beliefs on others.
    Not only does this article fail to debunk these ‘myths’ it fails to dissuade its audience from engaging in recreational use of ADHD stimulants as it is so transparently biased against its use, that it is easily dismissed as BS.
    These are my top five examples of the way in which this article is inherently NOT real journalism but a moral rant:
    1) While it is obvious that coffee is not the same as Adderall, it is true that they are both psychoactive stimulants that affect the nervous system in different ways. The points students make when referring to coffee, its not that coffee and Adderrall are the same, rather they refer to the overall experience of the stimulant as being comparable to caffeine. What the author fails to address, is concerns of whether there is any significant difference between the risks of taking coffee viz a viz taking Adderall.
    2)Stating obvious facts like “you are not a doctor” misses the point of that quote from students, the more interesting and troubling question is “why do students feel like they are justified in taking prescription drugs that where not prescribed to them?” These justifications range from a series of short term benefits of drug use, low risk of getting caught, punishment for using drugs is small, culture, peer pressure, academic pressures to perform, etc. All of these justifications would have made for more interesting debunking, investigating if any of these beliefs are based on truth or fiction could have helped students reach a much better decision the next time the opportunity arises. There is no need to educate students, rather it is best that they listen to you and just say no.
    3)I dont know of any real student that believes that if a drug is regulated by the government, then it is safe to use for anyone at any time in any quantity.
    Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, right next to heroin and ecstasy, while cocaine remains at schedule 2. Rather than explaining why the stimulants have been assigned as schedule 2 drugs by the FDA, you’d rather skip ahead to the part where you denounce it as a very dangerous drug, why? well look! its right next to cocaine.
    4)Again with the argument from authority, while it is true that experts in the field are a very reliable source for medical information regarding the use of pharmaceuticals, the author assumes that students are not intelligent enough to do some research online, at the library or by appealing to friends who use the drugs as a way to find a reasonable dose of the drug. The author himself could have investigated what a “safe” dose of Adderall for a regular student might be. I would suspect that there is no “safe” dose but rather a recommendation for those who choose to abuse the drug.
    5)As far as I can see, this is nothing but a series of patriarchal questions that are meant to instill fear, guilt and shame on students. Nothing short of counter-productive. One would think that a journalist would be interested in reporting rather than judging the news. One would also think that a health educator would be more interested in educating students rather than dictating what they should do.
    Congratulations, this article was definitely Fox News material, welcome to the no spin zone. I look forward to the day when the front page of the daily nexus can actually be distinguished from the editorial section on the back of the paper.