Can Adderall Save the Boomers?

The baby boomers are slowing down while the millennials are speeding up. Maybe what the boomers need is ADHD medication.


It’s been 25 years since I last ingested an illegal substance. In all that time, I haven’t gotten so much as a parking ticket. I raised two kids—one an Eagle Scout, the other Phi Beta Kappa. I was a Girl Scout leader and a Touchdown Club mom. I stayed married to the same man.

The capsule is orange on the bottom, clear on the top. The pellets inside are dead ringers for the sprinkles I put on Christmas cookies. I set the capsule on my tongue, take a sip from a water bottle. “That’s that,” I say, and sit down at my kitchen table to wait.

The capsule is Adderall XR, the extended-release version of a drug currently prescribed to some four million American kids between the ages of four and 17 for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It contains amphetamine salts that stop transporters within cells from clearing dopamine away, thus preventing its reuptake and leaving it puddled in the synaptic gap. Dopamine is a hormone that affects the brain’s experiences of reward and pleasure; heightened levels are thought to increase one’s ability to focus and concentrate. Cocaine also inhibits the reuptake of dopamine.

Twenty-five years ago, coke was my favorite drug.

I’m not expecting Adderall to be anything like coke, though. After all, millions of parents give this to their children every day. And lately, millions more young adults take it—in 2011, 14 million monthly Adderall prescriptions were written for Americans ages 20 to 39, two and a half times more than just four years ago. Beyond that, as many as 35 percent of all college students use Adderall or its cousins, like Ritalin and Vyvanse, illegally. They’re not taking these drugs for kicks, the way we used to do coke. They’re using them as study aids—to help them plow through textbooks, cram for exams, stay up all night writing term papers.

As the drug begins to take effect, though—and it doesn’t take long—I experience the onset of … well, the word that comes to mind is “euphoria.” The sunlight through my kitchen windows seems brighter. The lilies-of-the-valley in the jar in front of me smell sweeter. I laugh at the sensation, and my laughter makes me laugh again.

Then I laugh even louder as the realization hits me: Study aids, my ass. The little shits are getting high.

1 2 3 4Next >View as One Page

Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • 2Real2BFake

    I appreciate you writing this and sharing your experience with us… My nephew has been diagnosed with ADD and they are trying to make him pop adderall… he is 10 and I am strongly against turning My 10 year old nephew into a pill popper… If he were My son… I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea and told the doctor to suck out My A@# with a Slurppee Straw… But, My sister in all her Green to life Glory is considering it… Thank you for writing this so that I may show her your words in the hopes that she well get the point… again with her Green to life A$%… I enjoyed this throughly and it was indeed informative…

    • Mike

      My son is 9 years old and suffering with ADHD. On a daily basis, I see it affecting his relationships with peers, his relationships with my wife and I, his brother, and also his school work. All of these things contribute to low self-esteem, and can ultimately lead to clinical depression. Despite our concentrated efforts to strengthen his focus, we are left feeling like he needs help beyond our reach as loving parents.
      I do not know anything about your nephew, or how familiar you are with him. I do know that my wife and I are dedicated parents, dediicated til my last breath. I’ve spent years telling myself he just needs to “try harder”, or that “he’ll grow out of it”. Well after all of these years we are now taking steps toward seeking help for our son. I read your comment and it set me off. How can you be so judgemental toward this situation? No one that does not live in our household day in and day out can relate to the struggles that my son faces.
      Are you incinuating that there are is no scenario in which a child should be given this pill?
      What is your suggestion for your nephew? “buckle down”?
      It is a drug, and like some drugs, it can be abused. Plain and simple. Maybe you are fortunate enough to have lived your life without the need for help in the form of a pill. You’ve worked hard and hard work and dedication = positive results, right?
      This article, whiile informative toward the issue of the drugs misuse, is a poor example to show to your sister. How does this article convey what it’s like to be a child with ADHD, or the parent of a child with ADHD? That was not the intent of the article.

      • Kshamrock628

        I agree whole h

  • Max

    This was a well-written article because it mixes personal experience with scientific research. I wish she had spent more time on the negative side-effects and come-down. In 2012 I used Adderall recreationally on about a dozen occasions. For the most-part, my experience was the same as the authors; increased focus, increased energy, seemingly hyper-cognitive ability, pronounced extroversion, feelings of euphoria. It was absolutely amazing however the back-end was rough.

    First, it was extremely dehydrating. I drank entire glasses of water only to find my mouth dry as a desert within 30 minutes. While on Adderall, I easily drank 20-30 glasses of water in an 8 hour period. Secondly, the Insomnia was brutal. I learned to never take Adderall past 8pm after watching several sunrises, eyes wide open and mind racing like a runaway train at 6am. Thirdly, the muscles in my jaw tightened, causing me to constantly stretch and chew at the air like a coke fiend. At night, I grinded my teeth like I wanted them out of my head. Fourth, the author celebrates the loss of appetite as a good thing, but it was really devastating to wake up the next day with a stomach absolutely screaming for food after being starved for 12 hours. Lastly, the come-down was the worst. After taking just one 30mg Adderall, I found myself depressed and moody for the entire following day. I would end up tearing up and unable to control my emotions for 24-48 hours afterwards. Oh, and let’s not forget it causes erectile dysfunction in men! I had a very awkward experience in Las Vegas while jacked up on Adderall, Alcohol, and THC in which my manly bits refused to respond to stimuli. I was 26 years old, way too young to have trouble down there.

    Adderall is no joke and is rightfully categorized with Cocaine and Oxycontin. I don’t think I would have minded the side effects if the drug had actually made me perform better but I used to write down thoughts and ideas I had while Adderall only to wake up the next day and realize how stupid and under-developed they were. I agree that the drug is “confidence inducing” and that’s probably where the benefits end. Not worth the negative side effects at all. Would not recommend anyone take Adderall if they don’t actually need it.