Molly Young has a really interesting article on the rampant abuse of Adderall in elite universities in n+1. Essentially, Adderall is a composite of several different amphetamines, which are digested by the brain at different rates. So many kids are prescribed Adderall nowadays that virtually every university has an excess supply, which is then sold or bartered to kids sick of using Diet Coke to pull all-nighters:
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.
I’ve never tried Adderall, as my one experience with uppers turned me into a miserable, jittery insomniac for a week. That said, I knew plenty of kids who experimented with ADHD leftovers and I’d always get annoyed before taking an exam that was going to be graded on a steep curve. I’d look around at my competition and see all these sunken eyes and twitchy hands and I’d feel like a pitcher that didn’t dabble in HGH.