In Defense of Adderall

Photo by Life Mental Health

Google the word "Adderall" and there are literally thousands of negative news stories about the horrors of the popular ADHD drug.

With headlines glaring about the dangers of the drug -- everything from "The Truth About My Adderall Addiction" to "Adderall Abuse Increases Among High School Students" -- it seems that on top of the supposed Adderall abuse epidemic, there's also an epidemic of slamming the drug.

Well, perhaps that's not so responsible.

Here's the thing. Chances are, the majority of the people -- whether they are children or adults -- who take Adderall, or some form of ADHD medicine, probably need it. I am one of those people.

I never really understood that my brain worked in a different way from most people's until Adderall swooped in to save the day. I just thought that I was incredibly stupid. That's what happens to kids with undiagnosed ADHD, though. They feel like they're broken when they see their peers grasp concepts that just don't click. ADHD medicine, if it's the right type and the right dosage, tends to fix that broken feeling. It's a good thing.

Photo by hipsxxhearts
That feeling of utter stupidity wasn't always looming in my brain, as I suspect it isn't for most kids with attention deficits. I spent my elementary school years excelling in school. I was creative, I could draw and words came easily, as long as they were written rather than spoken. I knew I was smart.

But as the concepts grew harder and formal math became a step-by-step process that required the understanding and recollection of a specific formula -- take algebra, for example -- I could no longer keep up. Those vast expanses of time where I would daydream could no longer be covered up by my ability to fill in the gaps. My test scores dropped. I was terrified at the idea of exams, and I was a failure.

I still excelled at being creative; hand me a paintbrush or a pencil, and I could make amazing things, as a lot of kids with ADHD can. But hand me a pencil and a line of numbers, and I was utterly fucked.

Fail at something enough, and it's easy to give up trying. It becomes embarrassing to keep failing after honest attempts at grasping concepts, especially in front of a group of your peers in school, and eventually it becomes easier to give up. I found that if I gave up, I didn't let myself down when I failed. I had set out to just not do the work from the beginning, and I had succeeded at failing. That's the unfortunate reality for a lot of kids -- and adults -- with unmedicated ADHD.

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MadMac topcommenter

"Those stories recalling the horrors of stimulant addiction are real, and those people who suffered with the addiction are both brave and admirable for coming forward."

As are you. I have the utmost respect for the courage it took to share your experience. Well written, as always, Ms. Leicht.


I was prescribed A HD medication, first Ritalin and then Adderall when I was in the second grade, and I took it till high school. I cannot tell you how miserable this drug made me throughout my childhood. I would encourage parents who are considering giving this drug to their children to take it themselves for a couple of days before they make their decision. It made me anxious and fearful, grinding my teeth and sweating profusely. People need to be VERY careful with this stuff.

MadMac topcommenter

You have my sympathies for the challenges you faced. You identify something very important: chemical imbalances are very individual and as such, are not mass-market treatable. Which, of course, is why a parent taking the medication first--even if the parent suffers the same imbalance--will not predict the effect on the child.


I find myself often defending Adderall as well.  It literally saved me from hell (or my version) and made gave me back my life.  I do understand that as with any drug, the consequences of taking it and/or the side affects, may not always be positive ones.  I get that it can be misused or abused,  Still, I would not be able to function in a "normal" way, if it wasn't for this medication.  As a kid, I remember wondering why I couldn't "get" the math problems on the blackboard, like rest of my classmates.  Or why my physics class looked like it was all in a foreign language.  But like you, my creativity flourished.  Thankfully, I was finally diagnosed with ADHD and introduced to Adderall.

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