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ADHD Drugs Aren’t Doing What You Think, Scientists Warn

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: The study authors Lisa Weyandt, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, and Tara White, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University, started out investigating the effects of ADHD medications in students that actually have a diagnosable attention deficit disorder. They showed that in these students, there is decreased activity in the areas of the brain controlling “executive functions,” which can make it hard for them to stay organized or focused. But because both authors work with college students, they soon became more interested in the misuse of Adderall. In students whose brains aren’t affected by ADHD, does Adderall act as a supercharger? Does it make those areas fly into overdrive and unlock otherwise untapped intellectual ability, as all pill-popping students hope?

Weyant and White’s double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 13 college students was a small sample, they admit, but their experiment had a rigorous study design. Neither the students nor the researchers knew who was getting Adderall and who was getting placebo sugar pill. The six tests evaluated different aspects of cognition, like working memory, reading ability and reaction time. While students on Adderall did make fewer errors on a reaction time test, it actually worsened working memory, as shown by a decline in performance on a task where they had to repeat sequences of numbers. In short, Adderall improved focus and attention — but it didn’t actually make anyone smarter. The research has been published in the journal Pharmacy.


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