Stimulant prescription abuse increases in adult population

An increase in productivity in the workplace may be positively correlated with the abuse of the stimulant Adderall. While high school and college students have long abused this drug to help them focus on their schoolwork, a recent New York Times article detailed an increase in adults abusing the drug in the workplace to increase productivity.

This article revealed that in interviews, dozens of people from a wide spectrum of professions said they and co-workers misused stimulants like Adderall, Vyvanse and Concerta to improve work performance. More and more adults have been faking Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder ADHD symptoms to obtain prescriptions to stimulants. Most spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs or access to the medication.

Addiction to unprescribed stimulants has become common in students, but has previously been rare in adults. Dr. Kimberly Dennis, the medical director of Timberline Knolls, a substance-abuse treatment facility for women outside Chicago, said, “We are definitely seeing more than one year ago, more than two years ago, especially in the age range of 25 to 45.”

This trend is not just found in the public workplace. Some stay-at-home mothers admit to taking Adderall. Lisa Dawes, a stay-at-home mother from Indiana, calls the pill “like mommy crack.” She admits to have taken the pill regularly over the course of three years. This expands the type of adults abusing these stimulants and adds another layer of complexity to this abuse: it not only encompasses working adults motivated to perform efficiently, but also individuals struggling to maintain a stable home life.

It is not enough that we live in an overworked and sleep-deprived nation, but now it has gotten to the point where people are so desperate to succeed that working hard is simply not enough. In a way, taking Adderall makes sense. If you don’t use it, someone else will take it and they will be more productive than you and stand out more. They will be up for promotion and will eventually climb the corporate ladder until one day, they are your boss. Your superiors either won’t care or they won’t notice that one of you was only more productive due to the use of stimulant that provided an unfair advantage. All they care about is the end result and the final product.

The ideas of working and having a career have become twisted. We have developed into a powerful nation with a fantastic workforce behind it. But it is not worth it if the workplace becomes a place where doing one’s best is simply not enough. The problem does not lie directly with the misuse of the drug. If people are feeling as if the only way for them to succeed is by taking drugs to complete more work than their colleagues, then something is wrong with the message, not the person.

Elizabeth, a Long Island native in her late 20s, said that not to take Adderall while competitors did would be like playing tennis with a wood racket. In a way, the use of Adderall in the workplace is much like an athlete’s use of amphetamines, which enhance athletes’ abilities and make them stronger. Steroids make athletes perform better, though with negative side effects and consequences if caught by their sport’s regulations committee. Members of a workplace should not have to feel so desperate to be so productive that the only way they can accomplish such a goal is by taking Adderall or other stimulants.

In some industries, the use of stimulants has been banned due to “reasons of safety and fairness.” According to the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there is an increase in emergency room visits due to the misuse of prescription stimulants.

The message that society is sending out to the younger generation is this: you will never be good enough. You must become a better version of yourself preferably with stimulants in order to succeed. It won’t matter that you will have some nasty side effects or that you will be breaking the company’s rules as long as it gets you ahead.

Is this really the message we want to send?

Devon Brichetto ’18 briche1@stolaf.edu is from Grand Rapids, Mich. She majors in biology.

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