Stimulants like, Adderall, have become a popular study aid amongst high school and college students, as witnessed in the documentary, “Take Your Pills” — a Netflix original. The documentary starts off interviewing college students across America about their relationship with Adderall. Surprisingly, most of the respondents claim to have a close relationship with this prescription drug. This isn’t a surprise considering the estimates that anywhere from 20% to 30% of college students regularly abuse Adderall.
Take Your Pills is a 90-minute documentary that explores the rise of Adderall and other stimulants. It’s an anti-Adderall film that explores America’s problematic relationship with stimulants.
Adderall: The Prescription Performance Enhancer
Adderall is a stimulant composed of two different drugs: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It’s the most popular brand name of the prescription drug. It comes in two forms: extended-release and immediate-release. The drug increases levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain.
Doctors prescribe this medication to treat an array of conditions. It’s most commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It’s goal is to help affected individuals hone in their focus and concentrate. It’s a performance enhancer that makes one believe that they can accomplish anything.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Adderall in 1960. Since then, it has become even more popular. According to ‘Take Your Pills’, there have been studies published on amphetamine abuse since 1937. Back then, they were known as ‘pep pills. The documentary goes on to further explore how the amphetamine were first discovered by Dr. Gordon Alles in 1929.
The Netflix original then continues to explore the history of amphetamines in America. It looks at how the prescription drug was enjoyed throughout the years.
The Popularity Behind Adderall
Take Your Pills further explores the reason why Adderall has become so popular in recent years. In 2011, 3.5 million children were prescribed stimulants, like Adderall. This doesn’t even take into account the working professionals and older students who have gained access to this drug.
Adderall doesn’t only produce euphoric effects that make you feel like you’re Superman, this prescription drug also enhances your concentration and overall performance. This is necessary not only for students who are looking to get a leg up on the competition, but for professionals as well. The drug can hone creative minds and keep them focused at the task on hand, which is why it is popular among artists. It can also give the user faster reactive times, which is why it is popular amongst athletes.
“The norms that I would say are driving use of performance enhancing drugs are those that simply tell us, ‘Your task is to concentrate, to perform at the highest capacity that you possibly can, and to do it for as long as it takes,'”
Dr. Wendy Brown, a political theorist at UC Berkeley.
With so many people competing to be the best, more and more people are relying on Adderall, regardless of whether they have ADHD or not. Doctors are also much more willing to write prescriptions for this drug to professionals. This is especially true since it is hard to diagnose ADHD and other disorders that require stimulants.
The popularity of Adderall was also further propagated by the lack of regulations at the time. It was easy for pharmacies to distribute the pill. Teachers and doctors were also pushing the pill after seeing its immediate effects. It was obvious that those who took the pills saw immediate effects. The performed at a higher level than others that didn’t take the medication. Take Your Pills shows testimonies from all types of demographics, from students, to professionals and to parents.
Adderall was marketed as a pill that could help improve grades and get children to do their chores. It was seen as a magic pill that could do wonders.
The Dangers Behind Stimulants
While stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, are extremely effective, they do come with some caveats. Take Your Pill looks at the side effects and dangers associated with stimulants. For one, it’s easy to misuse and abuse these pills. In fact, stimulants tend to be quite addictive. Many of those who were prescribed the pills often became addicted to the pills. They started to rely on the medications and would be unable to function without them.
Many people also abused these drugs to the point that they were damaging their own body. Some people were taking Adderall, so they could stay up all night to get work done. This could result in life-threatening side effects like seizures.
Other people also started to mix stimulants with other substances. They started to forget that Adderall and stimulants are a drug. However, regular use of these drugs made them feel as if they were the norm. Many people started to believe that they were similar to caffeine. If stimulants are taken with alcohol, there is a much higher risk for an overdose.
One of the primary dangers of stimulants were that they were prescribed with little known about them. People were reckless when taking stimulants, and many people still continue to do so despite knowing the risks.
Is It Worth It?
The main question that the directors want to leave you with is, “Is it worth it?” Although stimulants, like Adderall, can make a huge difference in one’s performance, they also come with many negative side effects. They have a high addictive potential when misused or when taken for long periods of time. In fact, prescription stimulants are some of the most abused drugs in America.
The documentary also focuses on the fact that most people taking stimulants aren’t prescribed it at all. They gain access to the drug through illegitimate means. Their only goal is to enhance their performance through this drug. They use the medications to get a leg up on others.
As a society, it’s important for us to draw a line on what’s fair and what’s safe. Is it safe for us to allow people to take stimulants in order to improve their performance, despite the fact that the medication comes with some negative side effects? Is it fair for some people to take stimulants and get a leg up on their competition? Is it healthy to push this mentality of having to regularly outperform others?
Ultimately, this documentary offers some very interesting perspectives. It follows the history of prescription stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, and shows the viewers different perspectives surrounding the medications.