Many college students rely on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications to increase focus, stay up later in the evening, and be more productive. However, a recent study has found that these medications actually fail to improve cognition in healthy students and can actually impair functioning.1
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications
The original study anticipated an improvement in cognition in healthy students after administration of Adderall – a common ADHD medication. However, the opposite was seen. The medication did not improve reading comprehension or fluency and actually impaired working memory.
First ever multi-site study on “study drug” use among college students
This is the first ever multi-site study on “study drug” use among college students not diagnosed with ADHD. It is incredibly common for these stimulant drugs – Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse – to be used off label with the thought that they are increasing academic performance. It is estimated that between 5 and 35 percent of college students in the U.S. and Europe use these types of medications illegally for this purpose.
Study looked at the effect of 30mg of Adderall on attention and focus
The study looked at the effect of 30mg of Adderall on attention and focus, as well as working memory. Batteries of neurocognitive tests were used as assessment measures. The medication failed to improve any of these neurocognitive functions.
During the study
During the study, participants also noted their experiences in relation to the drugs’ effect on emotions and physiological state as measured. Students generally reported significant improvement in mood when on the drug, as well as increases in heart rate and blood pressure were noted. These are all common effects of psychostimulants. The fact that individuals can experience mood changes and physiological changes while not having any cognitive benefit is important because it helps paint a picture of why students may still be using these drugs even though they are not producing the cognitive effects desired.
Psychostimulants, thought to be beneficial to academic study, may be initially attempted for this purpose, but use may continue due to the positive mood effects experienced.
- Weyandt LL, White TL, Gudmundsdottir BG, et al. Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students. Pharmacy (Basel). 2018;6(3)
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Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia though naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.