About two years ago, I was sitting in my school’s library, the sun had set a long time before and the library was basically empty because everyone had already called it a night. I was staring at my computer screen close to tears. It was one of those awful weeks where the stars had aligned just right, and I had two exams and three ten page papers due. I felt the impending doom and paralyzed by stress, I wasn’t getting very much done. One of my really good friends sensed my anxiety, turned to me and said, “I have an Adderall that you can have, if you want it.”
Netflix recently released the new documentary called Take Your Pills and it sheds light on the secret world of illegal consumption of ADHD and ADD medication. Adderall and other ADD/ADHD medication are intended for people with diagnosed mental differences looking for a way to improve their quality of life. The decision to include medication in daily regiment is often not taken lightly for most families, and is a helpful method for people looking for an attention aid. However, Take Your Pills exposes groups of people without these mental disorders who have found that they like the effects of the medication.The documentary exposes how the drugs are being used as performance enhancers in hypercompetitive environments.
At the beginning of the documentary, college students describe their experiences with Adderall. Ariana, a college sophomore diagnosed with ADHD, recalls her experience of going to college and her parents telling her that she needed to get a lockbox for her medication. She didn’t understand why other people would want to take her pills but soon discovered she had entered a world where everyone was taking Adderall, and not as a treatment for ADHD.
Dr. Wendy Brown, Political Theorist at UC Berkeley, describes the driving force behind the use of Adderall as a performance-enhancing drug. She says that in hypercompetitive environments, people are being tasked with concentrating and performing at their highest capacity for as long as they possibly can. In these competitive environments the question becomes how can you come out on top. As a student, how can you beat everyone else?
I’m a college senior, and it’s hard to describe how easy it is to understand why people turn to performance enhancing pills to make ends meet. In college, there is no such thing as a work-life balance. You’re told that your GPA determines where you can go after college and you compete with your peers to make ensure that your future is bright. This is the same mentality used in every competitive environment where people turn to Adderall. Whether it be as extreme as a career in investment banking, or simply trying to get a promotion over other incredibly intelligent and very worthy co-workers, Adderall is used by students and adults alike to gain a competitive edge over their competition.
In Take Your Pills, Delaney, a college junior, calls Adderall “Rx gold” and very openly admits that people will steal the drugs because everyone wants to be the perfect student. She says that everyone wants to be beautiful and skinny, have amazing grades, and go out with friends. She says Adderall ties it all together; it’s a pill that lets you do it all. But is that really the case? And as we know choices come with consequences, and in watching Take Your Pills, we must ask ourselves, what are we giving up by having it all?
That night in the library, as well as every other time I have been offered Adderall, I have turned down the offer. I have never taken Adderall or any other ADHD or ADD medication, but I definitely understand the appeal. Take Your Pills shows many examples of students, athletes and coders who take Adderall and excel. While watching the documentary, I began to wonder if I had been doing college completely wrong, imagining a life if I had been begging my doctor for a prescription, but then I remembered what I decided that night in the library, a long time ago.
Not only is it disrespectful to those people actually needing the medication who are working hard, but I thought that even if it meant sobbing in the library in the wee hours of the morning, I wanted to feel that everything that I accomplished was a direct result of my hard work. We live in a society where it seems like there’s a pill to make you better at everything, and I decided that I wanted to take a step back and just be proud of myself for who I am.
Have you watched the Netflix Documentary Take Your Pills? Do you think people without an ADHD or ADD diagnosis are taking Adderall and Ritalin as performance enhancers? Let us know in the comment section below!