The Effectiveness of ADHD and ADD Medications as Cognitive-Enhancers? ADHD and ADD Medications; Cognitive-Enhancers, Study Aids, and the Effects on the Brain? What I Knew I have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) so, I came to this project with knowledge that I had already gained from my personal experience with ADD and the medications to treat it. Naturally I learned a lot about these medications from taking them. I know that the common medication prescribed is called methylphenidate. It’s an amphetamine, and part of a class of drugs call stimulants.
Other stimulants are caffeine and methlanphetamine. Before I started taking medication, I had trouble focusing. My mind wandered, organizing my thoughts was difficult, and I couldn’t hold onto ideas, or remember things people said. In seventh grade, a teacher noticed behaviors often synonymous with ADD, and suggested that my parents look into it. I was diagnosed with this disorder shortly after. Since then, I’ve been taking medication to treat ADD. School had been a major source of stress, projects and homework Assignments were overwhelming making procrastination a big issue.
After I started taking my medication, I noticed side affects. I’m quieter, more nervous, I have trouble sleeping and eating, and sometimes I get too focused and I get irritated when people interrupt me. Though it may seem bad, it’s much better then the confusion and stress that come with ADD. When I was first prescribed my doctor told my mother and I that that medications for ADD and ADHD are regulated more heavily than some medications because they can be addictive, and are often abused.
As a result of that, I need to go to the doctor every six months instead of the customary twelve, and I need to pick up a signed prescription from the doctor every month to get a refill. I was curious why this many regulations were needed. I thought of my medication like a vitamin, I was taking it so I could learn just as well as everyone else. When I got home I looked up why people were taking this medication illegally. Thats when I found out about the use of ADHD medication as a study aid. What I Wanted to Know I only knew how my medication affected me.
I was wondering why someone without ADD/ADHD would want to take this medication unprescribed. I know people take it to help them study, but I would think that if you already have the ability to concentrate, What would you gain from taking this medication? Why would you want to have to deal with the side affects? Wouldn’t the side effects outweigh the benefits? That led me to wonder if they affect me differently then someone without ADD/ADHD. Witch led me to my main question: How do medications meant for ADD/ADHD affect those with and without ADD/ADHD differently?
This question was too broad, because there are so many different ways a medication could be used differently. To remedy this, I broke up this question into four parts. How do ADD/ADHD medications affect people with ADHD? How do they affect someone without ADD/ADHD? Do they work as a study aid? If so, why not have everyone take them? The Search Soon after we were assigned the i-search we went to Ms. Payne’s class to have a chalk talk, everyone came up to the board and wrote down something that someone could write about. Durning the chalk talk someone wrote down “Adderall”.
I had know before that I wanted to do something about metal health so this sparked my interest. Once I had my topic research came in bits and spurts. I would have a day where I found five articles and took notes on three, then for the next week and a half I wouldn’t do anything. I did the majority of my research durning February vacation. When I first started using the data bases, I found that most of them referenced articles written for parents wondering if these drugs were safe and articles just with statistics on how many people are taking them.
Another issue I had with the data bases was that a lot of them had articles about social issues and had very little useful information so luckily Marvel had some more sources relevant to my topic. I turned to Google Advanced Search for a wider veritiy. Through Google Advanced Search I found the article “Ritalin and Other Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs Probably Won’t Make You Smarter” by Gary Stix. This article introduced me to cognitive-enhancers, or medicines that cause the “pharmaceutical enhancement of our cognitive skill set, whether of memory, our ability to focus, or the speed with which we process information” (1).
This article also told me about the debate between scientists on whether cognitive enhancers; are ethical, useful, or even possible. This really changed the way that I looked at my topic because I thought that the use of these drugs was just a thing students did to get better grades. This article was exactly the kind of information that I was looking for. I used this knew knowledge of cognitive-enhancers to split my topic into parts; How do Medicines meant for ADHD/ADD affect those with ADHD/ADD? How do they affect those without ADHD/ADD? Do they Work as a study aid? If so why not have everyone take them?
I also added cognitive-enhancers to my keywords which helped me weed out the articles that weren’t relevant to my search. I wanted to find more articles similar to this one so I began to search Scientific American. I found a few that seemed promising but a paid subscription is needed to view the articles. So, I typed the articles into Marvel to get full access. My next step was to research how ADHD/ADD medications affected a prescribed user. I wasn’t finding much information that was both easy to understand and directly related to my question. So, I turned to my prior knowledge to narrow the results.
I knew before I begin researching that most ADHD medications were stimulants, just like caffeine and methamphetamine. I wanted to know how a stimulus could increase focus. So I looked for a source describing this affect. I found a video published by The Huffington Post called “This Is What Adderall Does To Your Brain” In this video a neuroscientist, Dr. Ryan Davidson explains why stimulants help focus individuals with ADD/ADHD, “People with ADHD tend to have lower levels of dopamine, the key chemical in the brain’s reward center. This lack of dopamine means that people with ADHD are constantly seeking stimulation.
Amphetamines stimulate the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain so those minor distractions don’t cause you to lose focus” (qtd. in Gregoire) Next I began to look for how these medications affect a neurotypical person. The article I found was another one published in Scientific American by Gary Stix explaining the how taking ADHD/ADD medications unprescribed affects test scores. “British and Americans during the 1940s found that users self-rated their performance highly on tests that measured reading speed, multiplication and other factors.
But their test scores, in most tasks, were no better than those earned by subjects who ingested caffeine. Performance, in fact, could decline on more complex tasks. ” (Stix, 5) Stix also quoted Nicolas Rasmussen, the author of the book On Speed, “Because of their mood-elevating effects, amphetamines tend to make us feel we are performing especially well, when in fact we are not,” (Stix, 5) My next question is: Do medications meant for ADHD/ADD work as a study aid? This was probably the easiest question for me to answer in my search.
It was relatively easy for me to find sources on drug abuse explaining the risk vs reward of ADHD medications. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that, “Prescription stimulants do promote wakefulness, but studies have found that they do not enhance learning or thinking ability when taken by people who do not actually have ADHD. ” (“Stimulant ADHD Medications”). Several sources mentioned that students taking ADHD/ADD medications have lower GPAs than those who don’t, including Dr. Amelia Arria for the Medicine Abuse Project and The National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Dr. Amelia Arria for the Medicine Abuse Project also made a point about how unprescribed users skipping classes, “In one study, nonmedical users of prescription stimulants skipped 16. 1% of their classes while non-users skipped 9. 4% of their classes. ” (Arria, 2) I think that this could be from the false sense of confidence the medications give, abusers are assuming that taking these medications make up for skipping classes. The increased percentage of skipped classes could be part of the statistically lower GPAs. My final question was: If taking ADHD/ADD medications makes people smarter, why doesn’t everyone take them?
As it was explained in “Ritalin and Other Cognitive-Enhancing Drugs Probably Won’t Make You Smarter” by Gary Stix. In his paper he describes the Flynn effect as “the observation that IQ has improved steadily in recent decades in the general population. ” This shows how we are steadily getting smarter, but the increase is in the lower half. Therefore, for most people taking cognitive enhancers isn’t going to have much benefit. (Stix, 2) What I learned The main thing that I learned durning this research process is how to organize.
In the beginning I had printed out all my sources and kept losing them. I ended up having to take notes multiple times. To solve this I would take notes on my computer which worked out well. Another issue I had, was that I went searching blindly so I would have a lot of information on one part of my question and very little on another. So I made a list of what I needed to learn and once I found it I would put the source name under it. This really helped when I was working on the search because I was able to find specific information quickly.
Throughout my research process I had issues with the data bases majority of them only had sources about social issues. I mainly used Marvel but a lot of the sources I found there only talked about how many people were using them. Of course statistics are useful but I only really needed one article on it. Though Google Advanced Search I found “Scientific American” which had four of my sources. I probably wouldn’t have found “Scientific American” without Google Advanced Search so, next time I’m going to spend less time using the data bases if they don’t seem to have the types of sources I’m looking for.
The main conclusion drew from my research is that taking ADHD/ADD medications is a risk vs. reward situation, some people would benefit highly from taking it wile others wouldn’t see any changes. I think of ADHD as the line on a tin can phone. Without ADHD the line is taut and the connection clear, but with ADHD its slack and hard to hear. If the person with the slack string took medication to straighten it out they would see a much greater benefit than the person with a taut line. However because of the side affects it wouldn’t be beneficial to take medication for a slightly loose line.