Bad news for thousands of sweaty overachievers: Adderall doesn't make you fitter, happier, or more productive. For years, popular "smart drugs" have been abused on college campuses by students desperate to write an A+ paper in the wee hours before deadline, and use of the pills have spread to professionals, too. But all that money and jittery anxiety might be for nothing, The Daily Beast's Casey Schwartz reports. Researchers can't quite prove that "academic steroids" actually work.
In study after study examining the effect of the drugs on so-called healthy subjects, the findings have been underwhelming. At best, the drugs show a small effect; more often, researchers come up with negative findings—unable to show a clear-cut, across the board improvement on any of a wide variety of tasks, from those measuring memory, to mental flexibility, to concentration, to impulse control.
One recent study shows Adderall only think they're performing better. Actual performance was no better for these pill poppers than it was for folks taking a placebo.
Of course, the finding that Adderall gives a person an inflated sense of productivity and accomplishment is not surprising—the drug unleashes the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, triggers the brain's reward system, and can produce a mild sense of euphoria. It feels great, so are we surprised that those who use it believe they've done a fabulous job?