Most ADHD drugs are stimulants. They stimulate and activate your central nervous system within 15 or 20 minutes of popping a pill. Caffeine is a stimulant, but ADHD drugs are a LOT more powerful. Like Adderall, which is one of the most commonly prescribed stimulant medications in the U.S. The active ingredient is a version of amphetamine, which has been around for decades.
How do ADHD drugs help people with ADHD?
A lot of it has to do with a specific neurotransmitter in the brain that you’ve probably heard of before – dopamine. It’s key when it comes to your brain’s reward pathways. When you have a normal level of dopamine hanging out in the synapses of your brain, you’re able to maintain motivation when you’re doing something you’re not interested in. But for someone with ADHD, there’s less dopamine hanging out in the synapses. So, there’s less motivation to get things done. To get that dopamine level up, there’s more of a desire for short-term rewards. ADHD meds work by helping dopamine to stick around longer in the synapses. For people with ADHD, they can stay focused and avoid distractions, and that can be a total game-changer when it comes to getting stuff done at school or at work.
So what happens when someone WITHOUT ADHD takes an ADHD drug like Adderall?
Many studies in the lab don’t show that people without ADHD get any boost to their cognition when they take ADHD drugs, but real-life situations like exams and writing papers haven’t fully been tested. But many studies do show that these kinds of meds make you think you did better than you actually did. And there are worrisome side effects that can hurt you long term.
Use of smart drugs on the rise
Attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and reward deficiency syndrome
Morning stimulant administration reduces sleep and overnight working memory improvement
The impact of psychostimulants on sustained attention over a 24-h period
America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic
Neurocognitive Effects of Adderall
Objective and Subjective Cognitive Enhancing Effects of Mixed Amphetamine Salts in Healthy People
Just How Cognitive Is “Cognitive Enhancement”?