I wouldn’t call my friends who have a glass of wine at the end of the day alcoholics, but I do tend to worry about those that eagerly self-diagnose their "ADD" symptoms, so they can justify a daily Adderall fix.
A vast and growing number of Americans are being fuelled by Adderall prescriptions — with children, teenagers, and adults all regularly feeding from the Big-Pharma trough. The scenes are all too familiar at this point: children who distract their classmates are clumped into the ever-growing cloud of "Attention Deficit" disorders. High school and college students alike transcend their hangovers and general boredom by eagerly sharing prescriptions in a peer-to-peer distribution network — frequently dosing up for last minute cram sessions. Working professionals who can’t tolerate abusing their stomachs with five cups of coffee, turn to an efficient pill form alternative. And by the end of the day, why not add a little blue friend to your happy hour drinks — it is an Amphetamine after all, and a hell of a lot cheaper than cocaine.
Most troubling of all, some doctors skip over the effective non-drug interventions, like behavioral modification or education programs – jumping straight to the quick tablet solution.
But what is the cost of this dependency? And at what point can we admit we’re cultivating a national addiction?
The human vehicle has a lot of inputs and fuels, with a delicate balance of chemicals, bacteria and nutrients churning throughout our biology. We regularly debate our foods, habits and stimulations in search of ideal personal and collective calibrations. Our environments, TV habits, coffee intake, junk food consumption, genetic modifications, pollutants, antibiotics and carbohydrates all stir controversy. The perfect balance is very subjective, and based on your particular lifestyle - which is why it’s always alarming to see so many people uniformly adopt a habit. But Americans have gone through these cycles of use, abuse and eventual balance before. Just look at cigarettes!
There was a time when Doctors would recommend a few smokes to calm the nerves, and deal with that awful "problem" of having to work late nights. It took decades of campaigns, legal battles, research and millions of deaths before we faced the honest, cancerous truth.
Adderall seems to have popped up as another solution to a problem we didn’t know we had. Are we actually suffering from a lack of focus? Or is our general laziness overshadowing those few patients who actually need this drug? If the whole nation was actually suffering from a massive decline in collective mental faculties, wouldn’t the more urgent issue be to figure out why, rather than simply prescribe medication for it?
Considering all the foods and habits we put our bodies through, there’s still an organ we arguably know very little about: our brains. Which is why this pharmaceutical craze is most alarming. This isn’t just a matter of filling your lungs with smoke, or intestines with crappy food —we’re normalizing the habit of self-regulating our minds. There are pills to calm our nerves, help us sleep, keep us focused, make us happy, and keep us sane. We’ve become hordes of gerbils eating whatever pellets are put in front of us, and it might be years before we fully understand the long-term effects.
A moderate prescription to help with genuine learning or organizational issues, can dramatically improve someone’s social and cognitive hurdles — but the current societal trend seems to involve far too many perfectly healthy people abusing these readily available substances. How will we be able to accurately and objectively research effectiveness, if so many ineligible people are casually abusing the substance? We already know about — though barely report on — cases of cardiac arrest, severe lasting psychosis and even death.
Do we wait for the pharmaceutical companies to turn off the faucet of their profit stream? Do we mandate that doctors enforce stricter standards for vetting patients? Increase the felony offense for abuse and illegal sale of prescriptions?
No, unfortunately the only realistic thing to expect in light of our history, is for a generation of experimental adventurers to start popping up with medical conditions and psychosis as a result of their overindulgence. Only then will the visceral horror stories start to overshadow the tempting allure of easy focus.
Until then, good luck on that history final!