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Does Adderall Improve Academic Performance?

Adderall is a long-acting amphetamine most often prescribed for ADHD. When used as prescribed, it can improve the focus of attention deficient, hyperactive people. Unfortunately, many people who take Adderall don’t need it but they take it for a boost in performance at school or work. Does Adderall improve academic performance?

The short answer is, “not really.” Adderall does one thing well: improve focus. It seems obvious that, in a pinch, being able to focus intensely for five or six hours is a good thing. Maybe you have a test to study for or you need to finish a paper. The problem is that intense focus does not automatically lead to good outcomes. You could theoretically spend five hours rereading the first sentence of the chapter or read the whole chapter intently but remember hardly any of it the next day. Or, you might write 20 pages of pure gibberish that feels, while you’re writing, like pure genius.

If your work requires any thinking more complex than staring at a spot, there is a certain level of focus you don’t want to exceed. Concentration is cognitively complex. It’s a process of making associations, evaluating the validity of those associations, then returning to the original task. For example, you might read about a theory that contradicts some experience you’ve had, then after a few moments of reflection realize that your experience wasn’t relevant to the theory after all. In a situation like that, you will either refine your understanding of the concept, connect it to your preexisting knowledge, or both. If you are too focused on what you’re reading, you don’t experience these moments of assimilation. You have tunnel vision.

Similarly, if you are writing a paper, you are focusing not only on what you’re typing, but drawing on different areas of knowledge and connecting new facts and ideas to what you’ve already written. If you are hyperfocused and just type whatever pops into your head, it won’t make much sense to anyone else. Perversely, it will, as you write, seem brilliant. Normally, when you have a good idea, make a new connection, or finally grasp a difficult concept, you get a little dopamine boost. When you are on Adderall, however, you are swimming in dopamine so pretty much all your ideas seem like good ideas.

In the long run, Adderall is even worse for your academic performance. It can help you pull an all-nighter, but it also keeps you awake when you want to sleep. The kicker is that sleep is when memories become knowledge. Sleep is when your brain consolidates all that studying to information you can actually recall and use. If you can’t sleep, you can’t learn. Also, if you’re pulling all-nighters, you need to reevaluate your process. Studying is best done in small chunks at frequent intervals.

If you or someone you love started taking Adderall to excel in school and got hooked, we can help. Quitting Adderall or other stimulants can result in difficult withdrawal symptoms, including lethargy, weight gain, irritability, and depression. For help with these symptoms and finding a better way forward, call Gardens Wellness Center today at 844-325-9168 or email us at