Learning, ADD and Medicine

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Students with ADD have special challenges in the classroom, but Luke Maier struggles with whether taking medication to address it is the right thing for him.

Imagine there’s a pill that can instantly and dramatically improve your life. It can make you smarter, happier, and more successful. Sounds pretty good right? Well, for some, this is possible.

Teenagers and adults all over the world are taking medicines like Adderall to help them focus. As a person with ADD, I should be jumping at the chance to help myself, shouldn’t I? School is a constant struggle, with long, monotone lectures that I find impossible to focus on. I often come home remembering little of the class work, with devastating results.

For example, I took an introductory computer programming class that had no textbook or reading materials, which are what I use to figure out what I missed. I was lost and miserable. Who knows, maybe if I had taken medication as my doctor suggested I would have done well. Maybe I would even have loved it.

So why don’t I take the medication? I have a prescription just sitting in the medicine cabinet. I know lots of kids who take it illegally who don’t even have ADD. Why don’t I?


Researching the short and long term effects of these drugs has made me very worried about future dependence or changes to my brain. Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin flood the brain with neurotransmitters, increasing receptors to process them. Stopping the medication deprives those receptors of neurotransmitters, and can cause withdrawal symptoms . People with ADD who take these medications exhibit higher rates of depression and drug abuse later in life. There is little concrete evidence about how medicines like these affect people over long periods, making it hard for me to assess the risk of harm to my brain.

I have a tough choice. My junior year is fast approaching. With college acceptance getting more competitive every year, millions of kids like me need medicines like Adderall and Ritalin just to keep up. High school has become a place of constant competition, and teachers are trying to cram more information into each class period. Kids today are taking hours of extra tutoring or classes outside of their normal high school to get an extra edge. With the speed and volume of information being presented to high schoolers and the expectation that we be 100% focused and efficient for 16 hours a day, kids like me have to make a choice between success now, or a healthy brain later.

With a Perspective, I’m Luke Meier.

Luke Maier will be a high school senior in the fall.