Prohibitionists Regret Inconvenient (but True) Beliefs About Stimulants


The Partnership at (formerly the Partnership for a Drug-Free America) joins The New York Times in noting with alarm that kids today use stimulants to improve their academic performance—and not always with permission from an M.D. Citing results from the latest Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey, the organization reports that "one in eight teens (13 percent) now reports that they have taken the stimulants Ritalin or Adderall when it was not prescribed for them, at least once in their lifetime." And no wonder:

Contributing to this sustained trend in teen medicine abuse are the lax attitudes and beliefs of parents and caregivers. In fact, nearly one-third of parents say they believe Rx stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, normally prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can improve a teen's academic performance even if the teen does not have ADHD.

This is another example of a belief about drugs that is supposed to worry us even though it is true, much like the annually decried belief that occasionally smoking marijuana does not pose a "great risk." The problem with these beliefs is not that they are false but that they are, from a drug warrior's perspective, unhelpful. If teenagers believe (correctly) that occasionally smoking pot is not very dangerous, perhaps they will be more inclined to occasionally smoke pot. (Then again, the conclusion about risk may be a result of such direct experience rather than a cause of it.) If parents believe (correctly) that Ritalin and Adderall can help a teenager do better in school even if his drug use is not blessed by an ADHD diagnosis, more teenagers might end up using prescription stimulants for that purpose—which would be troubling for unspecified reasons having less to do with physical risks than with the sort of moralism that permeates debates about doping in sports. Prohibitionists, who strive to suppress such inconvenient truths, celebrate when they manage to persuade more of us to believe their noble lies.


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    1. Have you ever tried shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.

      1. Shawarma is meat slowly cooked on a rotating spit and then carved off in slices. It’s pretty good.

        1. Josh, next time you’re in Manhattan go here. Fucking amazing.

          1. I’ve passed by that place, never gone in. I haven’t really found a good place here since eating in Israel.

      2. I’ve had shawarma, Hugh. And you’re not man enough to handle shawarma.

      3. Not Indian food. But, if from the right place, a chicken shawarma pita is in my top 5.

        1. from the right place

          Are any of these right places conveniently located?

          1. Zankou Chicken on the westside is #1, but Open Sesame in the Manhattan Village is acceptable.

            1. I really enjoy the fried potatoes at Open Sesame, possibly because of their garlic sauce. I’ll have to check out Zankou next time I’m in that area.

              1. I live walking distance from Open Sesame, so I have eaten it enough times to get really tired of it.

                Every time I go to Zankou, I get a combo plate and take a whole rotisserie chicken home for later in the week…

                1. Have you been to Al Hamra Halal Cafe over on Artesia? I wondered in accidentally once and the food was solid. I haven’t been back because I keep forgetting about it.

                  1. Same problem here. It was good, but tough competition in that parking lot with the fish grill and Chicken Dijon.

      4. Shawarama/Gyros are the fruit of the meat gods.

      5. I just can’t be the only one who saw that movie.

        1. I saw it, but like most of the movie that scene was not very memorable.

      6. Yes you do. I make shawarma all the time. The meat is marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, and spices overnight before it is cooked. One of the bestest foods evah!

        1. By “the meat” you mean the most succulent, luscious lamb-flesh ever, right?

          1. A place I used to live by had garlic marinated meat and an amazing garlic sauce. Damn I miss it.

      7. I went to school for 2 years in Ottawa (capital of Canada), it may also be the capital of schwarma places. Schwarma everywhere.

        The stuff is delicious, definitely try it.

  1. I remember when I was a little girl watching an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” with my mom (who wanted to do Michael Landon something fierce) that was some kind of Very Special Episode about the dangers of drug use. Some guy was taking medicine, presumably some kind of opiate, and acting all like a junky and stuff. And I was like, “But mom, I don’t get it, that’s medicine, how could it hurt him?” And she was like, “Well, sweetie, if you take medicine when you’re not sick, it’s bad for you.” Lying bitch.

    1. That show is the king of anachronistic Very Special Episodes.

      1. That show is the king of anachronistic Very Special Episodes.

        Family Ties would like a word with you.

    2. That’s what you get for watching Little House on the Prairie.

    3. Dope was all legal back in the Prairie days.If you got all sloppy or strung out it was a moral failing on your part and no business of the government.Society, pharmaceutical manufacturers and druggists bore no responsibility at all, it was all on you. We were much more civilized in those days.

      1. You think the prairie days were more civilized?

        Then explain this.

  2. Huh. And here I am, using my brain to get good grades like a sucker.

  3. I always preferred to drug myself post-study or post-paper. I’m a big fan of the downers.

  4. Pretty much the worst you can do is tell a kid that he’ll die or the sky will fall if he engages in ________ behavior. Once they survive the experience with little to no ramifications, then you’ve pretty shot all credible authority.

    1. Then why do people still trust government after Obama’s sequester fear mongering?

  5. I’ll admit it. I used nootropics as an undergrad, but nothing as dumb as Adderall. It was piracetam, ginko biloba, DHAE, DMAE and other choline precorsors, acetyl-L-carnitine, L-tyrosine, 5-HTP, and vassopressin.

    1. Piracetam appears to be effective in treating cognitive impairment in alcoholism.

      If I don’t need this already, the way things are going I should probably stock up.

        1. How do you take it? I have the powder and it tastes awful!

          1. Back in the day, I took the tablet form, with a lot of water.

  6. Psh, when I was taking Ritalin, it didn’t seem to do a damn thing for me. All I ever got out of that sort of medication was a facial tick. Took years to get rid of it.

  7. A guy in my fraternity in college used to snort cocaine. He said it helped him study. Who am I to argue? He was one of the top students at the school. I’ve read a lot of reports that ADHD drugs are effective as “smart drugs” and I think, as this article notes, that the evidence is pretty compelling that this is a benefit they provide.

    1. I have found that the stuff I study when on the drug does not get retained in long term memory. I feel like I know everything when I’m studying but the next day I can’t remember most of it.

  8. I heard the story once about a cop that got a pharmacist to give up a patient’s confidential medical information without a warrant because that kid had been selling adderall to some high school kids. He was really proud of himself because he engaged in a criminal conspiracy and probably ruined a kid’s life by being a drug warrior.

    He thought he deserved a medal. I thought he deserved a kick in the ballsack.

    1. That cop did DAMN GOOD POLICE WORK.

      He didn’t “get a pharmacist ” to do jackshit. He asked him a question and got an answer.

      The prosecutor gave him an attaboy. The evidence was admitted . No crime was alleged or proven. Even the defense attorney told the ofc. he made a good case. Damn good policework(tm).

      Now, the pharmacist may have violated hppa. Boo, pharmacist. But the cop did a good job

      1. Police pursuing people for illicitly taking Ritalin are the moral equivalent of bounty hunters prospering under the Fugitive Slave Act.

  9. No way, I saw what those pills did to Alex Keaton.

  10. No mention of Provigil. Stimulants are so 2010.

    1. My sister was prescribed Provigil for hypersomnia (sleeping all the time). But she had no insurance and it was like $30/day or sometime absurd, so her doctor moved her to methylphenidate (Ritalin). She found it to be as effective as the Provigil at keeping her awake, and far cheaper, even without insurance, since it is a generic.

      Then she got individual insurance through Kaiser Permanente, and the first thing they did was take her off the methylphenidate. She was still in college, and found herself wanting to say, “but I need it!” when the GP said she’d have to stop taking it. She didn’t because she didn’t want to seem like a college kid who was using Ritalin to get study, though that was exactly what it had turned into. So she switched to coffee, and still graduated Summa Cum Laude.

      As for me, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD and prescribed Adderall. After about a month I had to stop taking it because it was making me homicidal. I decided being distractable was better than going on rampage.

      1. My apologies for a typo-ridden entry. I must need more coffee!

      2. A quack child psychiatrist tried to give Adderall to my 10 year old son a few years ago. Against my better judgment, we tried it and I instantly regretted it. After about an hour (maybe two) he was in a full blown rage and he says it made him “see demons” (his words – we’re not even religious, but he swears that he was seeing “demons”). I’m ashamed to say that I allowed my wife to give it to him for 1 more day (to see if he would adjust) and it was a tense 2 days. He was aggressive and homicidal and the “demon” kept telling him to kill his family.

        So, I sold the rest to his friends. (no – just kidding about that part, but the rest is true.) I would never let a child take adderall (or a drug like it) unless it was a last resort sort of thing. I know it helps some kids, but I think it does more harm than good (overall).

  11. That dude seems to know what he is talking about.

  12. WWII commanders sure liked meth.

    1. Notice also the increase in injuries since the NHL banned amphetamines.

  13. I’m an addiction counselor, but I’m a rare breed in that I support legalization of cannabis and I roundly denounce the war on drugs as a huge money scam. In my career as an addiction/assessment counselor, I’ve spoken to over two-thousand addicts and I’ve noticed some interesting trends.

    One of the more intriguing trends I have noticed (and this is anecdotal, obviously) is that an oddly large percentage of people who have become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol have (at some point) used/abused adderall, prior to the actual addiction. For some it had been prescribed, but most adderall was used illicitly. I’ve never looked into any scientific correlation between adderall use and addiction, not sure a documented connection exists but I would not be at all surprised to learn that addreall use/abuse somehow causes the brain to become more susceptible to addictions later (among other things obviously). Of course, a counter argument could be made that people with a “predisposition” toward addictive tendencies would be tempted to use adderall because it’s relatively cheap, easy to get during formative years and has a reputation for being “harmless”. I’m not so sure it’s as safe as some people think it is.

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