What is Your Adderall IQ:

Amphetamine Advantage or Dangerous Delusion?

Udo Weber

Like athletes who use steroids, students who use Adderall to enhance academic performance are in many ways victims.

Like steroids for the brain, college students everywhere have discovered a miracle drug that seems to solve all their study problems. No longer must they waste time sleeping, they can study twice as fast and remember twice as well. Users feel euphoric and invincible, until the effects wear off.

Adderall is a cocktail of amphetamines that increases focus and mental-processing speed, and decreases fatigue. Apparently, the stimulant drug can make you better at whatever you do. Way back in 1959, government-sponsored researchers found that Stanford varsity swimmers swam faster and shot-putters threw farther on amphetamines. Even today, the U.S. Air Force supplies amphetamine "go pills" to its combat pilots. At colleges throughout the country, academic success now includes a steady flow of psychopharmaceuticals. "I don't think I could keep a 3.9 average without this stuff," a college student told the New York Times in an article entitled, "The Adderall Advantage."

“Amphetamine, as with cocaine, can induce symptoms similar to those seen in obsessive disorder, panic disorder, and phobic disorders.”

ABOVE: Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry (2007) citing American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

“High doses and long-term use of amphetamines are associated with erectile disorder and other sexual dysfunctions.”

ABOVE: Kaplan and Sadock's Synopsis of Psychiatry (2007) citing American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Adderall Revolution

Adderall sales in the U.S. soared by more than 3,100 percent between 2002 and 2005, according to the Washington Post. Bootlegged at about $3 to $5 per pill, Adderall is both inexpensive and accessible.

As many as one-in-four college students misused ADHD medications according to a nationwide survey reported in the journal, Addiction. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America found that one-in-ten kids of middle and high school age are using psychiatric drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription, reported the Washington Post in an article entitled, "A Dose of Genius; Smart Pills Are on the Rise; But Is Taking Them Wise?" MSNBC reports that parents now visit doctors to demand this drug for their children, in the hope of improving their children's report cards. Although no concrete statistics are available, the frequency of parents blaming ADD for a child's poor performance in school is becoming alarmingly common, according to MSNBC.

The New York Times reports that the prevailing mindset among college students is that "Adderall, the drug of choice these days, is a legitimate and even hip way to get through the rigors of a hectic academic and social life." A computer science and economics major at Columbia University told the Times: "The culture here actually encourages people to use stimulants."

A Columbia University writing-major, who received a diagnosis of ADHD in first grade, is a typical drug dealer who often sells her 10-milligram tablets for $5 to strangers or barters them with friends for meals, reports the Times. The attitude toward these drugs has changed drastically since her days in elementary school. "As a kid," she told the Times, "I was made to feel different for taking these drugs. Now it's almost cool to take them."

Young users simply do not think Adderall will actually harm them. "I don't think it counts as a drug anymore," a New York University freshman told her student newspaper with a laugh. "It's like Tylenol."

The catch is that (like athletes who use steroids) students who use Adderall to enhance academic performance are in many ways victims.

Loss of Creativity

"These medications allow you to be more structured and more rigid. That's the opposite of the impulsivity of creativity," said Eric Heilingenstein, clinical director of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, to Washington Post/Newsweek's Slate Magazine in an article entitled "The Adderall Me."

After experimenting with Adderall for a week, "The Adderall Me" author reported that "I felt less like myself. Though I could put more words to the page per hour on Adderall, I had a nagging suspicion that I was thinking with blinders on." He found the same was true of others. "One writer friend who takes Adderall to read for long uninterrupted stretches told me that he uses it only rarely because he thinks it stifles his creativity." A musician-friend told him that he "finds it harder to make mental leaps on the drug."

Dependence, Tolerance and Withdrawal

Users feel euphoric and invincible while taking Adderall, but the next day without the drug, they often complain that they feel tired, "stupid," or depressed.

"Over time, the body may come to depend on amphetamines just to function normally. The person craves the drug and their psychological dependence makes them panic if access is denied, even temporarily," states the Australian Drug Foundation's Better Health Channel Fact Sheet entitled, "Amphetamines."

Withdrawal symptoms can include tiredness, panic attacks, crankiness, extreme hunger, depression and nightmares. Some people experience a pattern of "binge crash" characterized by using continuously for several days without sleep, followed by a period of heavy sleeping, according to the Australian government report.

Chronic abuse of amphetamines produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one's own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in its publication entitled, "Drugs of Abuse."

Psychotic symptoms can persist for months and even years after use of these drugs has ceased, states the government report.

Is Anyone Listening? Is Anyone Watching?
Does Anyone Care?

From all indications, it appears the trend of greater reliance upon amphetamines will continue to soar.

As of late December 2007, the government is loosening restrictions on Adderall, and all Schedule II drugs, whereby doctors may now prescribe as much as a 90-day supply. Patients may get three 30-day prescriptions dated a month apart so they can't be filled at once. Adderall is a "Schedule II" controlled substance, which means the U.S. government has determined it has a "high potential for abuse" that "may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence," and for that reason, the Drug Enforcement Administration regulates the drug.

A final note: expect to hear a lot about a new Schedule II amphetamine called Vyvanse, which is set to replace Adderall XR this year, because Adderall's patent is about to expire. The maker of Adderall has invested $1.3 billion for rights to Vyvanse and plans to make a healthy profit.

The effects of amphetamines are similar to cocaine, but the onset is slower and the duration is longer. Chronic abuse produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia: paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one's own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations.

ABOVE: Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice. “Amphetamines,” Drugs of Abuse Publication. National Drug Intelligence Center, 2005 ed.
Are you, your child, or a friend suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder? Click here for a Safe, Effective, Non-Drug Alternative

How much do the “neuro-enhancing” drugs really help? And there's the question of what we mean by “smarter.”

The psycho-stimulants help students bear down on their work, but with odd effects. One college student says he spends “too much time researching a paper rather than actually writing it.” Another student looked back at papers he'd written while on Adderall and found them verbose: “I'd produce two pages on something that could be said in a couple of sentences.”

ABOVE: Diller, L.H. Running on Ritalin: A Physician Reflects on Children, Society, and Performance in a Pill; Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. Group, Inc. (1998); citing Feidler, N.L., et al., "The effects of stimulant drugs on curiosity behaviors of hyperactive boys," Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 11:193-206 (1983). Talbot, M. "Brain Gain: The underground world of 'neuroenhancing' drugs," The New Yorker, 4/2009.

What do Amphetamines Include?

Adderall amphetamine plus dextroamphetamine
[instant release]
Adderall XR amphetamine plus dextroamphetamine
[extended release]
Benzedrine amphetamine
[instant release]
Biphetamine amphetamine plus dextroamphetamine
Desoxyn methamphetamine
[instant release]
Dexedrine dextroamphetamine
[instant release]
Dexedrine SR dextroamphetamine
[extended release]
Dexedrine Spansule dextroamphetamine
[extended release]
Dextrostat dextroamphetamine
[instant release]
ProCentra dextroamphetamine
[immediate release, bubblegum flavor]
Vyvanse dextroamphetamine
with lysine (lisdexamfetamine)
[extended release]
  • amphetamine = amfetamine = dl-amphetamine
  • dextroamphetamine = dexamfetamine
    = d-amphetamine
  • methamphetamine = d-methamphetamine

All amphetamines have essentially the same chemical properties and actions, states a 2005 published report by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Amphetamine, dextroamphetamine and methamphetamine are so alike, according to the DEA report, that even experienced users may not feel a difference between them.

ABOVE: Drug Enforcement Administration, US Department of Justice. “Amphetamines,” Drugs of Abuse Publication. National Drug Intelligence Center, 2005 ed.

Methylphenidate Drug Names

Concerta methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release]
Daytrana methylphenidate
film, transdermal
[extended release]
Focalin dextro-methylphenidate
(or, dexmethylphenidate) hydrochloride (HCI)
[instant release]
Focalin XR dextro-methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
or dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release]
Metadate CD methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release:
Metadate ER methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release:
TWO- or THREE-a-day]
Methylin methylphenidate hydrochloride
[instant release]
Methylin ER methylphenidate hydrochloride
[extended release]
Ritalin methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[instant release]
Ritalin LA methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release:
one-a-day, rapid onset with two peak levels]
Ritalin SR methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release:
one-a-day, slower onset with more continuous delivery]
Attenta† methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[instant release]; AU
Biphentin† methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release]; CA
Equasym† methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[instant release]; EU
Equasym XL† methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[extended release]; EU
Motiron† methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[instant release]; EU
Rubifen† methylphenidate hydrochloride (HCI)
[instant release]; NZ
†Not sold in U.S.

Adderall XR Side Effects

In small doses amphetamines can banish tiredness and make the user feel alert and refreshed. However, the burst of energy comes at a price. A "speed crash" always follows the high and may leave the person feeling nauseous, irritable, depressed and extremely exhausted. [More]

Ritalin: Safe?

Many think methylphenidate (Ritalin) is safe, or mild, because so many children use it. However, the government classifies the psychoactive drug with cocaine and morphine because it is highly addictive. [More]

Focalin Side Effects and Warnings

Focalin is a chemical variant of methylphenidate, dextro- or dexmethylphenidate, and also comes in an XR version. Naturally, the manufacturer claims it is better than other versions of methylphenidate, but that claim is met with skepticism by many psychopharmacologists. [More]

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