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  • Writer's pictureDr. Amy Mednick

A Response to the Travesty that is “Generation Adderall”

Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Almost three years ago, the New York Times magazine featured this “article” — though it was not in fact an article, but rather a personal account by a non-medical professional about her struggle with addiction and drug misuse. Many have already forgotten it but I feel the need to debunk it yet again, because as a psychiatrist its damage to my patients is ongoing. If this piece scared you, then it is not about you. If the idea of being on adderall (or any other stimulant) scares you, then you are not an addict. The idea of being on adderall did not scare this woman. She abused it from the very start — her first use was to stay up all night, which is unnatural, and which she referred to as intoxication. Her next uses were to over-perform and caused severe mood alterations. She lied and stole to obtain the drug. She needed to take continuously escalating doses to obtain the same effect. She was a drug addict. Just because you take a medication that drug addicts sometimes abuse, does not make you a drug addict. When you are treated properly with adderall for an existing diagnosis, you do not do things that are unnatural to you, nor do you feel euphoria. Nor is it difficult to stop taking it. You feel natural. You feel like you are finally yourself. The noise is cleared up in your prefrontal cortex so you can finally think your own thoughts, feel your own feelings, and have control over your brain. This woman was out of control. She walked down the streets with her friends “in a state of perpetual, hyped-up intensity, exchanging confidences that later we would not recall.” She was high on drugs, not treated with medications. Stimulant treatment has been described to me by patients as “putting on glasses for the first time after not realizing I couldn’t see my whole life.” You have clarity. If it’s NOT what your brain needs, then it would be like putting on someone else’s prescription glasses — things would be bent, blurry, unnatural, and you would have a headache. Then you would know adderall is not for you and you would discontinue use. This woman knew adderall wasn’t for her but she liked the euphoria so she pursued the drug. If nothing else, this piece was evidence of the terrible state of the mental health field, such that the New York Times would present a story of addiction and misuse as some type of informative medical account. This woman tries to poetically posit that “we are living out what it might mean, both psychologically and neurologically, to take a powerful drug we do not need over long stretches of time. Sometimes I think of us as Generation Adderall.” If you do need it, as determined by a medical professional, then you are not in generation adderall. You are in a generation that is increasingly railing against the stigma of mental illness to seek treatment and make educated decisions to improve your quality of life. I applaud you for it.

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