Many people call Adderall the “study drug,” but does it actually make you smarter?
Contrary to popular belief, Adderall does not actually make you smarter. Several studies show that the medication can enhance certain areas like memory, but it does not enhance your brainpower or make you more intelligent.
Does Adderall Make You Smarter?
While Adderall is popular amongst college students because it is a “study drug,” the medication does not make you smarter.
One study wanted to look at the actual performance of people who took Adderall compared to their perceived cognitive performance. The study used healthy participants who did not have ADHD (Weyandt et al., 2018).
The study put the participants through two separate sessions. They gave the people 30 mg of Adderall in one session and a placebo in the other. The subjects did tests during the sessions. Some tests were for attention, reading, working memory, language, etc.
The researchers compared the results of each session. The researchers also asked the people about their emotional state and how well they believed they were doing during the study. The subjects felt the effects of the Adderall 90 minutes after they took it. Initially, they did not think that the medication would make them smarter.
However, the responses to that question varied after they took the medication. The results were underwhelming when they saw the real results of the tests. The placebo and drug results were the same for some tests, like reading recall and language.
Researchers saw some enhancements in areas like attention, which is not a surprise since Adderall is often for people with ADHD. However, what was a surprise was that people showed better results from working memory tasks when they took placebos.
Adderall does not actually make you smarter based on that study. However, it can make you feel better and enhance certain things like attention.
Therefore, focusing for longer periods and feeling better will not instantly make you perform well. However, it may be crucial to note that the focus group for that study was small. They only did tests on thirteen people.
Plus, a lot of people in the study did not finish the tests. It also did not test why this is a popular “study drug.” For instance, the people in the study did not write a paper or study for a test. Those examples are common reasons why people without ADHD usually take the drug. The real benefit, if any, is that it can keep you working for a long time.
Another study was done that was similar to the one mentioned above (Ilieva et al., 2014). What’s worth noting from this study is that they chose a bigger sample size of 47 people in their twenties. Again, there were two sessions where people took Adderall or placebos and they did not know which pill was real or a placebo. They then tested the students again.
This study showed that Adderall had small effects on certain parts of memory and inhibitory control. However, it was not a huge enhancement. The researchers did find that the participants who took Adderall were more likely to state that they believe they did well on the tasks.
There was no improvement in their results when comparing results, again. We can conclude that Adderall does not make you smarter despite popular belief based on those studies. However, it can help people focus on tasks for longer periods, which could be why people often use it to write papers and study for tests.
We can also note that the drug often made people believe that they were doing better than they actually were. People felt more productive and enthusiastic, but the drug often did not lead to better results.
There was a newer, unpublished study that focused on the same topic. It got presented in the Society of Neuroscience. The latest study showed that there were some enhancements, particularly in some kinds of memory and focus. It showed that normal people who took it could recall what they learned days later. Again, the results from the studies showed that it does not evenly improve performance.
Some people who were smart got lower results than expected. People who were below-average were able to catch up to the others, but not exceed the others.
What Does Adderall Do?
While Adderall does not make you more intelligent, it could help in other areas. It changes natural chemicals in your brain to enhance the effects of neurotransmitters like dopamine.
It stimulates the central nervous system. Around 80% of children and 70% of adults improved their ADHD symptoms when they took CNS stimulants like Adderall.
Makes You Feel Awake
While most people know that Adderall usually treats ADHD, it is also a common medication given to people with sleeping disorders. People who suffer from problems like narcolepsy can feel more awake throughout the day while also feeling calm.
People without ADHD may feel a sense of euphoria and high energy levels. While this may seem like a good thing, the emotional and physical side effects can easily become dangerous for the user.
People with ADHD are often hyperactive and impulsive. They can find it difficult to sit still and focus, particularly in quiet situations like being in a classroom or when they study.
Improved concentration could help some people when they learn, particularly if they have ADHD. Children with ADHD usually feel calm when they take it. The wave of calmness often allows them to focus for longer periods. People without ADHD who take Adderall may feel the same level of focus or even more. However, many other side effects can occur, especially if they take high doses.
Is It OK to Take Adderall to Focus?
It may not be ideal to take Adderall if you do not have ADHD, narcolepsy, etc., especially if you do not have a prescription. Taking the medication without medical supervision can lead to some serious side effects.
For one thing, it can be very easy to get addicted to Adderall if you take it without medical supervision. The drug is a mixture of amphetamines, so it is easy to misuse.
Additionally, it can cause other side effects like:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
Luckily, you can opt for alternatives to help you stay alert and focused. For instance, Modafinil can help you focus and stay awake. The bonus of Modafinil is that it causes fewer side effects. However, you may also need to get a prescription for Modafinil depending on where you live. You may also want to ask a doctor first because people with conditions like high blood pressure should not take it.
You may also opt for natural stimulants if you want a little boost throughout the day. Some options include:
- Caffeine (to avoid nervousness, pair this with L-Theanine)
- Green tea and matcha
- Rhodiola Rosea
Some of these natural choices, like ginseng, may not give you the same boost as Adderall and Modafinil. However, it’s ideal for people who want a small push throughout the day and don’t want to deal with side-effects like crashing energy levels and/or ruining your health.
It’s important to note too though that some natural stimulants like caffeine can have side effects if you take too much. Caffeine has very similar effects on the nervous system as these drugs.