Not-So 'Limitless': 4 Ways Adderall Is Not The Magic Elixir You Think


It’s final exam season.

Mix three weeks of exams that determine your university fate with the distractions of Netflix new releases, patio weather and just general procrastination and you’re left with hundreds of thousands of students who are walking stress bombs.

Stress is one of those emotions everyone deals with differently. You’ve got the eaters, the criers, the deniers, the shutdowns, the hulks and the thrivers.

My first and second years in university, I was an eater. I mean, if eating a bag of Mini Eggs meant I could push back studying approximately five more minutes, then bring that sh*t on.

It is definitely no coincidence finals fall directly after Easter — the universe is pretty much begging us to stress eat that chocolate.

Now that I’m in my third year, I take a much more logical approach to dealing with exam stress: I ignore it.

I do so by ordering pitchers on a patio when it’s nice out and starting a new series on Netflix the night before finals begin.

Procrastination and a lack of ability to focus on studying for such long periods of time are easily the main reason why students suffer from so much stress.

They have too much to do and not enough time. The increase of suicide rates alone shows how the pressures of exam season are detrimental to both physical and mental health.

This pressure and stress naturally leads students to seek some sort of trade secret or external solution to deal with it.

Cue: Adderall.

We live in a world where people of all ages take over-the-counter (or underground) “cures” for everything.

We take drugs to sleep, to wake up, to relax, to have sex, to get rid of pain, to lose weight, to gain muscle, to cure sicknesses, to prevent sicknesses, to get pregnant, to prevent getting pregnant, to be happy, to get high — the list goes on.

It was only a matter of time before we discovered a drug to make us focus. Why?

Because we can. Our society has found ways to turn almost everything into some sort of automatic or autopilot experience and yet, we are doing the complete opposite with our bodies.

Being the impatient motherf*ckers that we are, rather than give our bodies time to react and make adjustments naturally, we are manually taking control and swallowing pills to get each desired result throughout the day.

I became aware of Adderall's popularity from an article that exposed the alarming usage increase among university students.

I didn’t think much of it; I got good grades studying the conventional way and didn’t personally know of anyone who used Adderall.

But when I transferred to university a year later, it was everywhere. In 2013, CTV News cited 11 percent of Canadian university students abuse Adderall, but I’m willing to bet that number is now severely underestimated.

People would rave about the effects, and many students I knew could no longer study without it.

I always imagined the effects of Adderall being something similar to the movie "Limitless."

But unfortunately, Adderall won't allow you to suddenly use 100 percent of your brainpower or turn you into the most productive genius in the world.

But hey, if Bradley Cooper could go from hopeless deadbeat to millionaire anomaly on NZT, maybe Adderall can transform a subpar student into an above average student.

After listening to meticulous accounts of users, these are the top four misconceptions about Adderall:

1. Adderall does not make you smarter.

With the incredible amount of hype surrounding this drug, this is the most commonly-misconstrued fact.

Adderall and other drugs, like Ritalin, are meant for those who have ADD and ADHD and they therefore have effects that help those disorders.

Adderall is similar to a performance-enhancing drug — it's an academic steroid, if you will.

If you can’t swim, performance-enhancing drugs will not turn you in Michael Phelps, but Adderall will make you incomparably efficient and productive, and it will even increase information retention.

Most of you can relate to the struggle of receiving a text as you open your textbook because naturally, that means you have to check every social media platform you have before you set your phone back down. It’s a real inconvenience. Don’t even get me started on Netflix, either.

I think I actually receive telepathic messages when it releases a new series, and I can’t just not watch them.

If you’re anything like me, you tell yourself you will just let it play in the background while you write out your notes.

Seven hours later, you realize you looked up when something funny happened in the first episode and never stopped watching.

With Adderall, distractions are a thing of the past. Seven hours later, you realize you have tunnel vision from staring at your computer screen, and you haven’t even left your chair to go to the bathroom.

2. It is not a healthy way to drop that Freshman 15 (or 30).

Adderall is an amphetamine, so by combining your extreme focus and alertness, you also have the effect of appetite suppression. "So I can study more efficiently and lose weight at the same time?"

This is hard for me to believe, as I’ll read an economic example about Italy and won’t be able to stop thinking about pizza until I get some.

But, just because you don’t feel hungry does not mean your body doesn’t need food.

Whether you are aware of your lack of appetite or not, you are starving your body, and that is not a sustainable or healthy method for weight loss.

3. It is incredibly addictive.

As I said above, Adderall is an amphetamine. Amphetamines are among the most addictive types of drugs, regardless of whether you have a particularly addictive personality or not. On top of its chemical makeup, the desirable effects of Adderall are enough to make an individual want to keep his or her efficiency going on indefinitely.

Many students get to the point where they can’t fathom studying without Adderall, and when they have to, the effects of withdrawal are harsh.

The addictive nature of Adderall is a major reason behind the increasing abuse in students.

The majority of students out there list crystal meth as a hard pass, specifically for its addictive tendencies and yet, they are more than willing to abuse Adderall (granted, the only sores from Adderall are on your ass from not leaving your chair for 12 hours).

4. It is absolutely ILLEGAL.

Taking a drug you are not prescribed for is illegal in Canada and subject to hefty fines and/or imprisonment.

Students everywhere assume that just because it’s a legal prescription drug, it's legal for them to take it. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Because of the ubiquity of Adderall across North American campuses, we, as students, are exceptionally casual about the subject.

This nonchalant attitude results in posts across social media platforms about taking or selling Adderall, and I can’t figure out if people are completely ignorant or just don’t give a f*ck.

Most universities have some sort of section in their code of conduct against the illegal use of drugs, and this includes illegally using Adderall.

Getting expelled for attempting to use drugs you’re using for university is completely redundant. If you’re going to do something risky, you might as well go all out and sleep with your TA.

Like every other drug on the market, it is unrealistic to think illegal use will cease to exist, especially one with productive effects.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that in a few years’ time, universities will have to start drug screening for performance-enhancing drugs.

Older generations will argue they had to get through life on merit and hard work no matter how difficult it got, and it was “more rewarding” that way. I disagree.

Did you have Netflix? Did you have leaked episodes of "Game of Thrones"? You don't understand.

These things aside, the world is an entirely different place than it used be. It has different pressures and different expectations.

The physical, mental and time demands we face daily are incomparable to what they used to be and our society has reacted by simply creating ways for us to cope and succeed under new circumstances.

“Just getting by” is no longer good enough — even at the university level — and the need for a competitive edge can be consuming.

We are part of a generation that is constantly justifying our means with our ends and performance-enhancing drugs to succeed are no different.

However, like picking up a tab off the floor at a rave, taking prescription drugs that aren’t your own is incredibly unsafe.

While a trip to the hospital may get you out of your exams, it will be the least of your worries.

Exams suck, but adverse reactions to drugs suck more.