Saturday, February 23, 2008

Brain Buzz - The college brain drug

Like so many things at my school, Adderall consumption has a lot to do with money. One senses that the students who blow $100 a month on extended release capsules are the same ones buying prosciutto sandwiches for lunch instead of eating in the cafeteria. But unlike other drugs, Adderall doesn’t lend itself to group consumption, so it is hard to tell who does it and how often. Adderall has no Kurt Cobain, no Snoop Dogg or Bret Easton Ellis. It not as glamorous as heroin nor as benign as weed, and it is not a status symbol like cocaine. Adderall, after all, is a drug prescribed to kids who drop their pants in the schoolyard instead of playing hopscotch.

It is probably surprising that the drug backfired only once, when I stayed up on Adderall for 72 hours before a philosophy final. My appearance in the testing hall the next day was so tangled and shaky that the professor removed me from the room. I was sent away with permission to return later and finish the exam in his office. Instead, I slept. In the end it didn’t matter that I failed the exam, because a semester of A+ Adderall papers had left me with a decent grade in the class. If the proof is in the transcript, then Adderall is hardly a self-punishing habit. Sometimes I think about how Marion Jones has to return all the prize money she earned while taking steroids, and I wonder whether I should be stripped of all the A’s I received for papers written on Adderall. This is a haunting or a comical thought, depending on my mood.

Of course, I could have studied in college without Adderall, just like I did in high school – I just couldn’t have studied with such ecstasy. Theoretical texts, in particular, were transformed into exercises as conquerable as a Tuesday crossword. I could work out in the gym with a Xeroxed packet of Gayatri Spivak perched on the elliptical machine in front of me, reading and burning calories at the same time. The efficacy of the multitasking was exhilarating. On Adderall, the densest writing became penetrable. I had an illusion of mastery, at least, that lasted long enough to write the necessary papers and presentations. I could never remember what I had written the next day, but I justified this forgetfulness as an accelerated version of what would happen anyway after I graduated.

More than anything, Adderall simulated the enthusiasm that a good teacher naturally stokes. For three years my brain, normally so recalcitrant, became my will’s devoted vehicle. But there’s a downside to a drug that makes everything interesting. By the end of junior year, I still had no idea what I liked or was good at. This past fall, when my senior year started, I took a break from the drug – at first because I couldn't find any, and then because I refused it. It took these four abstinent months to realize that I was not supposed to be electrified by everything I learned in school; that some of it had a vaccinating purpose, so that by trying a little now and reacting badly, I could fend it off later.
Study drug creating a buzz in schools.

Drug pulled from market in Canada after being linked to 20 deaths and 14 strokes. The US FDA looked at the data and declined to act. Later that year Canada allowed the drug back on the market.

Forget sports doping. The next frontier is brain doping.
"They made me a much better player," said Paul Phillips, 35, who credited the attention deficit drug Adderall and the narcolepsy pill Provigil with helping him earn more than $2.3 million as a poker player.

The medicine cabinet of so-called cognitive enhancers also includes Ritalin, commonly given to school children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and beta blockers such as the heart drug Inderal. Researchers also have been investigating Aricept, which is normally used to slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.
Provigil - The New Adderall.

Adderall's label warns that in very rare circumstances, it can cause "psychotic episodes at recommended doses." "Misuse of amphetamine may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events." Possible Adderall Class Action Lawsuit

The Adderall Me - trying out the new bennies.
As an experiment, I decided to take Adderall for a week. The results were miraculous. On a recent Tuesday, after whipping my brother in two out of three games of pingpong—a triumph that has occurred exactly once before in the history of our rivalry—I proceeded to best my previous high score by almost 10 percent in the online anagrams game that has been my recent procrastination tool of choice. Then I sat down and read 175 pages of Stephen Jay Gould's impenetrably dense book The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It was like I'd been bitten by a radioactive spider.

The first hour or so of being on Adderall is mildly euphoric. The feeling wears off quickly, giving way to a calming sensation, like a nicotine buzz, that lasts for several hours. When I tried writing on the drug, it was like I had a choir of angels sitting on my shoulders. I became almost mechanical in my ability to pump out sentences. The part of my brain that makes me curious about whether I have new e-mails in my inbox apparently shut down. Normally, I can only stare at my computer screen for about 20 minutes at a time. On Adderall, I was able to work in hourlong chunks. I didn't feel like I was becoming smarter or even like I was thinking more clearly. I just felt more directed, less distracted by rogue thoughts, less day-dreamy. I felt like I was clearing away underbrush that had been obscuring my true capabilities.
The Ivy-League Crack not what it cracked up to be.

FDA requires new guides for ADHD drugs regarding cardiovascular and psychiatric problems.

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