Creatives using Adderall and other performance enhancers – what’s the deal?

Hey writers and other creatives – are any of you aware of this new trend of taking Adderall to be better at your disciplines? Take a look at this article, In search of perfection, young adults turn to Adderall at work” published December 3, 2013 on Al Jazeera America.

Besides the insane idea of using a drug dependency to maintain a leading edge on the competition, what got me was that the interviewed writer claims her work is better as a result of taking Adderall to stay awake all night writing her article. It seems to help her connect to her work. What is her writing baseline otherwise – mediocre work? How does she truly know the work is even better with the drug than without it? Fooling herself with this mythology is more than likely. What gets me, why does she even have a high pressure job writing for the NY Times?

This story, or this epidemic rather, makes me crazy. When I need to perform at a high level, whether in writing, designing, website creation, or whatever else I do, I just put myself in that mindset and do it. Sure, extra caffeine helps stave off the eventual weariness, but I don’t look to performance enhancers to do better at what I already do best.

For the sake of my argument, maybe a bit self-centered on my part, not to intentionally show off, yet it would seem I am, I have been knocking out some end of semester grueling grad school writing while heavily medicated. I had cervical spinal surgery almost two weeks ago, complete with a  disc replacement and decompression of my alarmingly compressed spinal cord. The condition was maybe a month or two shy of becoming an emergency situation. I was very lucky to have this situation discovered while checking for another unrelated neurological condition condition just a month ago. Ah, the fun of growing older and degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis setting in to my vertebrae. My point is, I am still performing at my top level, albeit at a slower than normal pace as I fight through the overwhelming need to sleep while I heal, the fuzziness of my thought process throughout most of the day, and the horrendous effects it all has on my typing abilities. But I work through it. And I own it, every bit of it. No excuses.

I know, I’m on a soap box here, and stepping off it now. But I wonder, I am in some way different than others not finding a need to depend on Adderall or other performance enhancers to do my job well, even under conditions of my current ailment?

I’d love get all of your takes on this. I know a lot of you who visit this blog are creatives in varying fashions – several of you are my friends, so I’m on to you 😉  – and have probably encountered in some shape or form people using Adderall or whatever else to get through heavy loads of college work or big job related projects. I’m interested in learning more about this apparent epidemic from first-hand accounts. Don’t leave me hanging, that would be cruel.

On that note, happy holidays as I nod off now. 

Article referenced: “In search of perfection, young adults turn to Adderall at work,” Al Jazeera America, December 3, 2013.

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4 thoughts on “Creatives using Adderall and other performance enhancers – what’s the deal?

  1. Hi David. I think you raise an interesting point. I wonder if it’s more the “rush” that goes with certain substances (my new vice is coffee), or the loosening of alcohol for others (such the stereotype!) that pairs creativity with addiction. 😛 I step far here, to suggest that, but I’m curious about the notion of addiction (or habit?) and creativity.

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    • Yes Larissa, it is an interesting area of study. How often have we all heard about the famous artist (insert any name here] who suffered from alcoholism or some other substance abuse while producing their greatest works. I get the loosening of inhibitions part when it comes to alcohol, but overall, I really wonder if it’s just that “rush” you mention, not the art itself.

      It would be good to hear from others with deeper experience on the subject, either through behavioral studies or as practitioners.

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  2. To me Adderall just speeds me up and does not increase creativity but instead can accelerate our ability to actually create with it. Once you are out of ideas I think it could possibly become a strain on our overall productivity. I think drugs like alcohol and marijuana while often times hurting people’s productivity seem like better options for actual ideas to me.

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    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. Any mind altering substance, alcohol and marijuana included, can certainly have an effect on one’s creative thought process. Like anything else, each comes with a responsibility that must be considered – addiction, physical harm to organs, or the external harm caused by reckless behavior on loved ones. I’m not here to preach though, as I am a true believer in personal freedoms. But I was taken by surprise when reading this article on Adderall usage by my younger colleagues and competition, who may be indulging in it to keep up with or surpass someone like myself who creates under more natural means. Maybe I’m becoming old-school as I grow older, having just turned 40, I don’t know. But I do wish to learn more about how this subculture is developing and affecting the world of creativity which I hold close to my heart. Thanks again for joining the conversation and you honesty. I really do appreciate it.

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