Balancing the imbalance: adderall’s effects on students. ADHD, a complicated problem with a simple solution?

Constantly being on screens and being subjected to distractions left and right during the COVID-19 pandemic, brains are becoming overstimulated. These distractions have pushed people into novel and overwhelming circumstances, which in turn have made symptoms associated with ADHD more common. In a July study conducted by the magazine ADDitude, surveying 2,365 adults diagnosed with ADHD, 26.5 percent said they had received their formal ADHD diagnosis within the last year. Another ten percent said they were diagnosed with another comorbid condition. 11 percent said they suspected and/or were currently pursuing an evaluation.

According to the academic medical center Mayo Clinic, almost everyone experiences symptoms similar to those of ADHD at some point in their lives. Difficulty focusing, forgetfulness and fidgeting. While this does not mean everyone has ADHD, it implies that many more people have mild ADHD that is often left undiagnosed.

Adderall is the most common medication used to combat ADHD/ADD. Adderall is composed of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, both of which affect chemicals and nerves in the brain that contribute to impulse control and hyperactivity.

Students have experienced the effects of Adderall in a range of ways. “[Not taking Adderall] really takes a toll on my learning,” said Emmi Peña ‘24. “I can’t really focus or fully process what’s going on in classes. I have a really hard time paying attention. I’ll zone out all the time.” 

While Peña is grateful for having access to Adderall, she also notes that the medication comes with drawbacks. “[Adderall] wrecks me, it’s something that [is] a whole day consequence… I think, personality wise, I definitely feel more bland when I’m on it.” Being off of Adderall, Peña mentions she is much more naturally expressive. “When on Adderall, I just feel kind of negative, and it also just raises my anxiety.”

Sami Lee ‘25 shares a similar experience. “[Adderall] was kind of hard for me because I felt like when I was on it… I couldn’t make jokes the same,” she said. “I want to have my own personality, but also be able to do my schoolwork. It was just hard to balance that.”

These experiences, however, are not universal. Many people do benefit from taking ADHD medications like Adderall. 

While ADHD medication can benefit a user’s concentration levels, it isn’t the only form of ADHD management. Often, patients being prescribed medication are not taught the many methods that will help them manage their ADHD outside of medication.

“Whether a student is on or not on medication, we always come back to strategies,” said Rachel Herbert, head of learning services. She believes these strategies can take on many forms, from using a planner to taking breaks; the important thing is that students find what works for them. “My hope [for this article] is that [it] leads to everybody considering [and] understanding how complex attention and focus is.”