Disability Law, Drugs, Education / Schools, Health Care / Medicine, Law Schools, Reader Polls

Is Using Adderall to Get Through Exams the Worst Thing in the World?

A little while back, we asked how many of you had tried Adderall, the ADHD drug that some students use to get a boost around study time. A whopping 30% of you said you had tried the drug and 70% of you are lying.

It’s a figure that should make law school deans sit up and take notice. You know, if they weren’t busy figuring out how to charge the students more money for an education that isn’t getting more valuable in any way.

But now let’s ask the fun question. Is using Adderall that big of a deal?

Some people feel like even talking about using Adderall to boost exam performance is irresponsible. Victoria Pynchon writes the She Negotiates blog on Forbes. She (or somebody using her name) left this comment in response to the last Adderall post:

This may be amusing but it’s socially irresponsible; disappointed in ATL for suggesting the use of an addictive drug to law students no matter how humorously it’s presented – at least give a few stats in addiction and recovery resources

Alright. Let me say that drug addiction is bad, because you are not supposed to talk about drug use in this country without saying that drug addiction is bad. Don’t get addicted to drugs, kids. They’re bad.

With the public service announcement out of the way, let’s take a look at what we’re talking about. Separating out the people with addictive personalities who will find a way to get hooked on something, and the people who legitimately have ADHD and need Adderall, there will be some subset of people who will take a couple of Adderall, risking the deleterious and addictive effects, for help during study time in law school.

Is taking a pill every now and again, even a bad pill, really that much worse than what law students regularly put themselves through? All month here at Above the Law, we’ve been fielding stories from people who have been living in the library. People who are not eating or sleeping regularly because they are trying to cram. People who are stressed out and emotionally distraught because of final exams.

And this is something that’s generally lauded. This represents law students “buckling down” and “working hard.” If I tell you a kid spent 18 hours a day for two and half weeks pouring over outlines and briefs, most people would applaud that kid’s work ethic.

But if I told you the kid popped a pill, worked for 8 hours, and then went played a couple of hours of Call of Duty the night before a test, many people would say that kid wasn’t committed to law school. Absolutely killing yourself for weeks is good, taking an Adderall is REALLY SERIOUS and we need a freaking rehab hotline if anybody does it.

Not that I’m advocating Adderall use. Or the use of any drugs for studying purposes. It’s not even clear that Adderall works for finals period purposes. Here’s how one tipster puts it:

Quite frankly, the side effects (wanting to do everything twice, three times, four times and not being able to sleep AT ALL – no more than an hour and a half a night for weeks) are really bad – not worth the positives. While Adderall was great for studying it was really bad to take for an exam. I got my worse exam scores when I was on it (legally) because I would rewrite everything and redo every multiple choice. I ended up throwing away my remaining prescription because it really damaged my performance on exams.

So it’s not like Adderall is a panacea for exam time. Like most drugs, some people will try it and like it. Some people will be helped, others will be hurt, and some will get addicted, but your experience will vary.

If I may be so bold, I’ll say something else that people don’t often talk about when it comes to exam time: maybe not everybody can do really well in law school. I mean, if you need to lock yourself in a library with briefs that are as long as the cases themselves in order to do well on a law school exam, maybe doing well in law school is not your destiny. If you need to fake a learning disability to get extra time, or if you need to pop addictive focus pills, maybe you’re not an “A” law student.

And that’s okay. Being the best law student doesn’t perfectly track with being the best lawyer. Law schools are such hyper-competitive environments, but you don’t have to buy into that pressure. Do the best that you can, and let the chips fall where they may. If your reasons to go to law school were not stupid to begin with — if you didn’t go to law school on the farce that it’ll “all work out so long as you make the top 10%” — you should be able to make the best out of where you fall in the class rank. I mean, there are people out there who are willing to do all kinds of things to themselves to try to get into the top ten percent at a less than prestigious law school, instead of doing whatever they have to do in order to get the extra points on the LSAT that would have avoided their predicament in the first place.

To say nothing of the fact that people who sweat bullets and take drugs to get through 2L finals are going to have their heads explode when it comes time to pass the bar.

Whatever, law schools make millions of dollars telling people to go to any law school they get into, and just “work hard” once they get there. It’s no wonder that many administrators look the other way when it comes to Adderall.

There’s less money in telling people to not go to law school in the first place. We need a 1-800 number to help people who wake up one day and realize they’re going to be six figures in debt with no job prospects. Compared to all of the ways law schools can ruin people’s lives, Adderall is going to have to wait in line.

Earlier: ATL Wellness Survey: Haven’t We All Had a Little Adderall?

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