Take Your Pills… Or Your Friend’s, Or Your Neighbor’s

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!

Put Your Brain to Bed: 5 Tips for Better Sleep

After a long day at work, juggling what seems like one too many responsibilities, and chasing after children, you’ve finally made it to the end of your day. Now, you’re snuggled in your bed, cocooned in blankets, and closing your eyes waiting for the miracle of sleep to wash over you. Even though you’re about to get a much needed break, your brain is going to be hard at work playing catch-up.

During the night our brain cycles through different stages of sleep. These different stages of sleep help our brains process and store information that we encountered during the day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children get about 10 hours of sleep and adults get about 8 hours of sleep per night. This amount of sleep allows our brains an adequate amount of time to store memories and repair itself. If we don’t reach our recommended amount of sleep, then we put ourselves at risk for sleep deprivation.

While as a culture we might joke about not getting enough resting time, sleep deprivation can cause an array of health problems. A common symptom of mild sleep deprivation is the inability to focus. Harvard Medical School explains that a lack of sleep results in our brain cells, neurons, becoming overworked. Overworked neurons cannot function correctly and this results in lower levels of focus, attention, and an inability to access information stored in our brains.

To ensure that our brains are functioning at peak performance, it is important to get enough sleep as well as make sure that we are getting the best quality of sleep possible. Sleep hygiene describes the habits and practices a person performs before going to bed. Practicing good sleep hygiene will help you and your brain wake up in the morning feeling refreshed.   

5 Tips for a Better Night’s Rest

  1. Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine helps you feel awake by altering your brain chemistry and blocking receptors in the brain that make you feel tired. Drinking caffeine can help you get going in the morning, but it’s a good idea to avoid drinking caffeine in the afternoon and evening because it will inhibit your brain’s natural ability to fall asleep. 
  2. Only Use Your Bed to Sleep. Our brains are really good at making associations. If you only use your bed to sleep then whenever you are in your bed, your brain will know it needs to release chemicals that make you tired. However, if you do work in your bed, then your brain will associate your bed with increased brain activity and this can decrease quality of sleep. 
  3. Don’t Use Electronics Right Before Bed. Electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and televisions emit blue light from their screens. Blue light interferes with the production of the brain chemical melatonin, which is the chemical responsible for helping us fall and stay asleep.  If you want to play our training games or check your email, finish half an hour before bedtime. 
  4. Bedtime Routine. Doing the same calming routine before bed every night helps signal to your brain that it’s time to settle down and get ready to go to sleep. Listening to calming music can help slow down brain activity and taking a warm bath can increase body temperature with naturally makes you feel more tired. 
  5. Have a Bedtime. Having a bedtime helps program our circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is responsible for making us feel awake in the day time and sleepy during the night. Having a set bedtime allows our brain know what time of day we should start to feel tired and allows us to get a better night’s rest.

What tips do you use to give your brain a rest? Let us know in the comments!

Why It’s Important to Believe in Yourself

If you’re like the majority of people, then you probably weren’t born a child prodigy. Most of us had to learn skills through practice, repetition, and determination. We had to learn how to ride a bike by falling down, scraping our knees, and getting back up. We had to learn to cook by burning food and messing up recipes as simple as grilled cheese. Learning a new skill is hard work, but the good news is that eventually we get better at it.

Practicing helps us improve skills, but have you ever wondered what makes certain people better at a skill than others? Psychologists studied successful people and they found the answer, so we’ll let you in on the secret: grit.

Grit
Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is the psychologist who coined the term grit. She’s held an array of jobs from consulting to teaching and eventually she began to wonder what made certain people more successful than others. She noticed during her time teaching in New York City public schools that it wasn’t her most intelligent students that were the most successful and she decided she was going to find the answer. She went back to school to become a research psychologist and began to investigate what made people successful.

Dr. Duckworth was fascinated by Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, and her idea of growth mindset. Growth mindset is the idea that the brain can grow and adapt to learn and solve problems. Dr. Dweck’s research has found that children who understand growth mindset are more likely to persevere because they understand that their brain is adapting and although they may not start of being good at something, failure is simply part of the journey of improvement.

As a psychologist, Dr. Duckworth expanded on Dr. Dweck’s idea of growth mindset. Dr. Duckworth studied people ranging from West Point cadets to National Spelling Bee finalists, but unlike most research done in her field, Dr. Duckworth didn’t focus on intelligence. Instead, she kept an open mind and studied IQ in addition to other variables such as level of attractiveness, social intelligence, and grit. Dr. Duckworth found that in all the different groups of people that she studied, grit was overwhelmingly the best predictor of success. Grit can be defined as perseverance and the unwillingness to give up on a long-term goal. A gritty person is someone who won’t accept “no” as an answer.

How to be Successful
Change your mindset. Just because someone tells you that something is not possible, you can tell him or her that they are wrong. Listening to the stories of some of the most successful people, we often hear that at some point in their lives they’ve been told that what they wanted to do was impossible. Instead of accepting what others said, they replied with the attitude of “watch me.”

Michael Phelps, a gold medalist swimmer and the most decorated athlete in the history of the Olympics, was a child who struggled with ADHD. Like most people, and especially people diagnosed with a mental illness, he was put in a box and told by others what he could and couldn’t do. Phelps didn’t allow the people around him to define who he would become. Instead, he used other people’s doubts as motivation and ultimately became incredibly successful.

As research progresses, it is becoming increasingly clear that we should take advantage of the brain’s natural ability to adapt. Having grit and believing in growth mindset allows all people to be successful. Want to be successful? Then go forth, and be gritty.

Need more inspiration? Check out Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED talk:

 

Do you think changing your mindset can help you improve a skill? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.