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Drugs & Health Blog

5 Myths About ADHD Drugs

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Prescription stimulants—like Adderall and Ritalin—have been in the news a lot recently because some high school and college students say they take these drugs to help them study better or party longer. Prescription stimulants are usually prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and misusing them can lead to serious health problems.

Let’s look at 5 myths about prescription stimulants.

Myth #1: Drugs like Ritalin and Adderall can make you smarter.

Fact: While these drugs may help you focus, they don’t help you learn better, and they won’t improve your grades.

Being “smart” is about improving your ability to master new skills, concepts, and ideas. Like a muscle, the brain gets stronger through exercise. Learning strengthens brain connections through repetition and practice to enhance cognition—“smartness”—over a lifetime. Shortcuts, like abusing prescription stimulants, do not “exercise” the brain.

Research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who don’t.

Myth #2: Prescription stimulants are just “brain vitamins.”

Fact: Unlike vitamins, these drugs contain ingredients that can change brain chemistry and may have serious side effects.

Also, unlike vitamins, they require a doctor’s prescription. If you take these drugs more often than directed, in too high a dose, or in some way other than by mouth, you are abusing the drug, which can lead to addiction.

Myth #3: These drugs can’t hurt you.

Fact: Prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin are safe and effective when prescribed for people with ADHD and used properly. But the same drugs, when used by someone without ADHD, can be dangerous.

Stimulants taken without a medical reason can disrupt brain communication.  When used improperly or in excess, they can cause mood swings and loss of sleep, and can increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.

Myth #4: Taking someone else’s prescription—just once in a while—is okay.

Fact: Doctors prescribe medicine based on your weight, symptoms, and body chemistry. Doctors may adjust how much you take or change to a different medication to better treat symptoms or respond to side effects.

When you take a stimulant prescribed for a friend or family member, you haven’t been looked at by a doctor. The possible side effects can make you sick. Side effects include elevated heart rate, dizziness, and fainting—or, even worse, heart attacks and stroke. Side effects may also include depression and exhaustion.

Myth #5: If your doctor prescribed the drug, it doesn’t matter how you take it.

Fact: If you are diagnosed with ADHD, stimulants the doctor prescribes for you can help. But always be sure to take the medication exactly as directed—no more, no less.

Also, be sure to tell your doctor everything that’s going on at home and at school. Combining prescription stimulants with other drugs or alcohol can be dangerous.

And don’t help your friends or family members abuse prescription drugs by sharing your pills with them.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


Don't say that its safe and effective when prescribed. Sure give the small tykes stimulants while telling the older teens that pot is going to harm them.
Pot does harm people, there have been studies that show a clear link between marijuana use in adolescence and increased risk for an aggressive form of testicular cancer. Marijuana, unlike what most people think, is addictive and can cause mild withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
Pot does harm people, there have been studies that show a clear link between marijuana use in adolescence and increased risk for an aggressive form of testicular cancer. Marijuana, unlike what most people think, is addictive and can cause mild withdrawal symptoms when stopping use.
..people shouldn't be useing drugs at all....why cant they just kill the plants..!!! >.< gezz the police should burn all the freaking drugs...!!!! >.<
cops use drugs to....wether you like it or not you use drugs to and some of them we need to keep use alive
People need to know that d-amphetamine (active ingredient in Adderall) and d-methamphetamine are almost clinically indistinguishable. Abuse of either drug poses the same harm and concerns. Many believe these two drugs are very different, when in fact they are almost twin sisters.
I take these for ADHD, I absolutely hate them they make me feel terrible I just simply cannot understand why you would use these if you did not absolutely need them.
I have to take Adderall and I agree with you they really make me feel terrible
I was diagnosed in the 2nd grade but not much was known about attention disorders at the time and my parents didn't have alot of money. I later was introduced to adderall in 2010 and it was like a light had been turned on in a dark room. I complete the tasks I have set forth for the day instead of putting them off because I frustrate myself into doing nothing because my mind is trying to complete them all at once, leading me to saying"heck with it". Because people who abuse it, I have to call my doctor at the end of each month for a refill and do a yearly blood/urinalysis test to make sure I'm on my adderall and not using other drugs. I can nap an hour after taking the drug if I want. I'm a 195lb male and take 15mg a day... May the mg's are to high for kid that are much smaller in body weight...
Thanks Sara Bellum! I have been looking for a massive list like this for a long time. This is one of the best lists I have found. It will surely help those who are looking for myths about ADHD drugs. Adderall is a stimulant medication prescribed to treat ADHD. It is one of the most effective smart drugs out there. It is an effective drug to increase attention span, reduce frustration and to control behavior problem.
What do I do if I have a friend who was prescribed with Adderall for his ADHD but is abusing it by taking way more then he should and whenever he wants?

Drug misuse (like taking more Adderall than what was prescribed) can have consequences. It sounds like you care about your friend. Figuring out what to do when someone you know is having trouble with drugs can be tricky. You want to help, but you might not know how to bring it up. Here are some tips.

Listen without making judgments.

Share scientific information about what drugs can do to a person. Get the latest on how drugs affect the brain and body here: Once your friend understands how drugs affect the brain, body, and life, it might open his eyes.

You should also talk with your parents, a trusted adult, or the school guidance counselor for advice.

Is it ok to take adderal that your prescribed one day then take your friends adderal that they are prescribed the next day? My adderal is only 15mg and his is 20mg

Prescription drugs should be taken as prescribed by your doctor. If you have questions about your medication, please talk with your doctor, parent, or other trusted adult.