November 16, 2004
ADHD Drugs In Vogue For Boosting College Test Scores

Adderall and Ritalin are becoming very popular to boost SAT and ACT test scores and improve performance in college.

"It used to be on the fringes completely, but now it's seeping into the mainstream," says Steven Roy Goodman, a college and graduate-school admissions consultant in Washington. "If you're one of hundreds of kids fighting for one of 10 spots, you'll do everything you can to get the extra edge."

William Pollack, a psychologist and director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at Harvard University's McLean Hospital, says he has spoken with more than 50 students who say they've used stimulants to raise their test scores. "I've seen it become a trend," Dr. Pollack says.

Adderall is used for long study jaunts.

More than 6.4 million prescriptions for Adderall were filled last year. Some of these prescriptions are being used by students seeking a quick fix for studying.

A Yale University junior said Adderall helped him read the 576-page novel "Crime and Punishment" and write a 15-page paper all in 30 hours.

"In earlier generations, people would take NoDoz and get themselves high on caffeine and that sort of thing," said the student, who asked not to be identified. "This is more efficient than that."

Ritalin is used to avoid being distracted by anything aside from the problem at hand.

Twenty-four-year-old Chul Yim is among those considering Ritalin as a stimulant to help him focus before his important law school admission test.

"What was described to me is it gives you tunnel vision. You focus on the question. Once you're done with that question, you move on to the next question and you still have that energy," said Yim.

I'm not arguing for using these drugs. But if you are considering a drug like Ritalin note that the benefits are likely to be greater for someone who is easily distracted. If you think your mind stays focused while taking a test Ritalin is less likely to provide a benefit.

Also, lots of brain enhancers really present you with a trade-off. See, for example, my post Caffeine Alertness Comes At Cost Of Word Recall. A stimulant amphetamine-based drug like Adderall can make a mind race too quickly or make a person jittery. There is no guarantee it will provide a net benefit. Though I can easily imagine someone taking the SAT twice, once normal and once on Adderall. Even there, it might make more sense to try practice tests with and without your preferred drug to find out if it really will help you.

I personally would be reluctant to start using an amphetamine. There is the real danger of permanent neuronal damage. If you are not scared by the idea of using stimulant drugs you really ought to be. See my previous posts Methamphetamine Addict Brain Scans Show Extensive Losses and Partial Recovery From Methamphetamine-Induced Brain Damage. You only get one brain. Do not abuse it.

For some alternatives also see my previous posts Scientists Demonstrate Best Way To Use Caffeine and Modafinil Boosts Human Mental Abilities. Modafinal may be safer than amphetamines when the need is simply to avoid sleepiness and time sleeping. But I'm not convinced that modafinil doesn't exact some cost in the form of some permanent damage. Use any of these compounds sparingly.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 November 16 03:16 PM  Brain Enhancement


Comments
Patri Friedman said at November 19, 2004 7:13 AM:

I agree with you, amphetamines like Adderall and Ritalin are not good drugs. If you want to use a stimulant, use modafinil or adrafinil! Adrafanil you can't get an Rx for in the US, but you can get it cheaply from overseas pharmacies. For occasional use, it is fine. (For daily use, modafinil is better, due to some liver enzyme issues, but its much more expensive)

Caffeine has its problems, but at least its not neurotoxic.

Christopher said at January 15, 2005 8:45 PM:

I have a neibor that has ADHD and he plays with kokain.

Someone said at February 23, 2005 9:54 PM:

When saying that a drug like amphetamine causes brain damage, one needs to qualify whether the person with the resultant brain damage was a user or an abuser.

Andrew Johnston said at June 29, 2005 12:25 PM:

I was diagnosed with ADD as a child. Straterra, and a few years ago, Aderall, helped me focus. Do these drugs still damage my brain?

Andrew Johnston said at June 29, 2005 12:25 PM:

I was diagnosed with ADD as a child. Straterra, and a few years ago, Aderall, helped me focus. Do these drugs still damage my brain?

Andrew Johnston said at June 29, 2005 12:26 PM:

I was diagnosed with ADD as a child. Straterra, and a few years ago, Aderall, helped me focus. Do these drugs still damage my brain?

Andrew Johnston said at June 29, 2005 12:26 PM:

I was diagnosed with ADD as a child. Straterra, and a few years ago, Aderall, helped me focus. Do these drugs still damage my brain?

Sophia16yrs said at December 13, 2007 4:43 AM:

Definition of ADHD:

ADHD is a myth perpetuated by drug companies who want to peddle their poisons, and educators who don't want to deal with active children.

Human personalities range from hyper-active to very sedate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being hyper-active. It's all "normal".

redman234 said at September 27, 2009 12:26 AM:

there are brain scans which show evidence of ADHD- ADHD brains appear different from normal brains- and hyperactivity is just one symptom- some people may just have inattentiveness or distractability more than average people but no hyperactivity- but this can cause problems at school

charles wintner said at January 23, 2010 4:11 PM:

does anyone know of studies that show effects of ritalin in test scores...not rating sclaes, but actual academic test scores.

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