Ritalin is the Salieri to Adderall’s Mozart. —Molly Young

During my sophomore year at Notre Dame I joined the boxing team and began taking upper-level courses in history and political science. I also began taking Adderall.

As a freshman, my academic transition from a standard, public school courseware to the rigors of an elite, private university was extremely difficult. After years of straight A report cards in high school, I was struggling to make Bs in college. My study habits were rubbish. I read too slowly, wrote too slowly, and enjoyed too much of the undergraduate social scene. I felt overwhelmed and wondered if I had arrived out of my league.

That all changed on the night a teammate came to my dorm room for our nightly run around the lakes. Not tonight, I told him, as I was struggling to begin a research essay that was due the next day. He understood and offered me an Adderall.

A what?

Adderall is prescription amphetamine salts given to kids and adults who have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The drug comes in two pill forms:  immediately release (IR) and extended release (XR). My first Adderall pill was a 30 milligram XR.

Read Related: Advocate for Your ADHD Child in School and Beyond

The next day my roommates awoke to find me cleaning. My essay was done, fully researched and finely crafted. My laundry was done, too, and neatly folded; my reading assignments for the week, read and carefully annotated. I was proud of my work and thrilled to be studying as hard as my brightest classmates. On Adderall I finally felt competitive, even outstanding. I went to class early, turned in my paper, and filled page after page of lecture notes in my notebook. I had not slept a wink.

I went to my doctor for a prescription. He was skeptical. The problem with taking Adderall, he said, is that there is no turning back. I would have take the drug for the rest of my life. In short, he said, Adderall is forever, which was why he refused to prescribe it to any of his patients. Adderall is unethical, he said, so  I went to another doctor who prescribed me two 10 milligram IR pills per day—one in the morning; one with lunch—to be taken with food and plenty of fluids.

I returned to school fully prescribed. In the ring I was a smarter, lighter fighter; in lectures, a fast and furious stenographer; in seminars, a bold and confident conversationalist; and in the library, a night owl, a heavy duty research machine.

Destruction is a variant of done. —Bre Pettis

In college, Adderall made me a better student. After graduating into a bleak, declining job market, Adderall helped me find opportunities—first, as Second Mate on a sailboat in the Caribbean; later, as a Latino outreach specialist on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in Indiana. Finally, I landed in Washington, D.C. where I was eventually hired at a powerhouse communications firm. It seemed I was riding high on the Adderall advantage.

But there were side-effects.

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