Last season on Riverdale, it was revealed that Betty, the whip-smart, do-gooder in the group, had been taking Adderall to help her with her school work. This isn't the first time that this stereotype has been used in a TV show targeting teenagers; even Spencer from Pretty Little Liars had a storyline involving her amphetamine addiction. But while Adderall is often depicted as a secret weapon that smart kids use when they're under a lot of pressure, there's a lot more to it than that, which people using it IRL may not know.
In a study published last week, researchers at New York University examined survey results from 24,000 high school seniors, to see whether teens reported "nonmedical" Adderall or amphetamine use (aka without a prescription). Weirdly, more than a quarter of the students who reported using Adderall without a prescription said that they don't use amphetamines. But Adderall is an amphetamine formulation, so clearly many students who use it are confused about what exactly they're taking. Researchers say that these survey discrepancies also mean that the amount of high schoolers misusing Adderall may be as high as 9.8%, or 1 of 10 high school seniors, which is higher than was previously believed.
Given the scope of its use and persistent confusion around Adderall, we asked Frances Levin, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist who specializes in addiction at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, to answer some common questions you might have about the drug — including exactly what it d0es.
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