None Dare Call It Speed


Last year, according to data collected by Medco Health Systems, 1 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 44 took prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall to treat "attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder." That was double the percentage in 2000 (but still less than one-quarter the rate among children, which rose from 2.8 percent to 4.4 percent during the same period). It's not clear how many of these stimulant users were diagnosed as children and how many first obtained prescriptions as adults. "I think this shows a clear recognition and new thinking that treatment for A.D.H.D. does not go away for many children after adolescence," Medco's chief medical officer told The New York Times.

Or maybe it shows that Americans are rediscovering the usefulness of prescription stimulants. "Studies have shown that the pills can increase the concentration of almost anyone," the Times notes, "and they are widely used by college students hoping to do well on exams. " The paper also cites "Dr. Lawrence Diller, a behavioral developmental pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif.," who "pointed out that stimulants often promote weight loss, which could be one explanation for their increasing use."

Does taking amphetamine-like stimulants to lose weight or do better on exams constitute use or abuse? Does the answer hinge on how fat you are or how much trouble you have concentrating? Is pretending to have a psychiatric disorder so you can obtain stimulants for these purposes itself a psychiatric disorder? If so, what's the treatment? With any luck, Ritalin.