Against the Odds: Why I Don’t Use Adderall

Until recently, my reasons for abstaining were somewhat murky, even to myself. I’m not a total puritan, I care about my grades, and by the laws of peer pressure, I should have been popping a 30-mg extended release capsule for Beowulf years ago. As regular readers of this column will know (hi, mom!), it’s true that I’m a hypochondriac. But even I’m not fearful that, if I gave Adderall a try, I’d keel over with a heart attack while giving my kitchen the most vigorous damn scrubbing it’s ever seen.

In some quantifiable way, most of my friends who take Adderall are better off than I am. They often have better grades, more job prospects and, if it weren’t obvious enough, they’re more productive. They’re likely not doing much damage to themselves, either: most psychiatrists agree that, given you aren’t pregnant or using other medications, occasional Adderall use won’t have any lasting effect on your body. 

But knowing myself, and the ungodly amount of caffeine I need to function for one day, it’s not hard to imagine needing it to work in the way that I now need coffee. I may know close to nothing about chemistry, but I know that this is how addiction can start: do something often enough with apparently positive results, and you will begin doing it more frequently.

Another possibility is that more pervasive factors are to credit for my restraint here. No researcher has yet examined the long-term effects of watching “7th Heaven” on naive, fearful prepubescent boys, but when one does, we may know more on that front. 

Mostly, though, I don’t like the thought that I could come to need a pill for what I’ve been managing all along. Yes, like virtually everyone who uses Adderall, I’m often stressed; and yes, like virtually everyone who doesn’t, I didn’t make it through Beowulf. 

But for the most part, I get by — maybe not with an engineering degree, but nonetheless, I get by. I get decent grades. I sleep. With the reliable aid of just coffee and Beyoncé, I’ve survived more all-nighters than I could have dreamed. 

I’m still baffled that expectations of us are so impossibly high that the only way to come close is with amphetamines. If they weren’t, and if we weren’t in such relentless, unending competition with each other, this might be a different column. But those expectations aren’t changing, and there’s no reason to think our habits should, either.

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