If you don’t have ADHD, Adderall does NOT make you work better

Scores of college students take ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin with the belief that the drugs will improve their academic performance.

But a new study has found that not only do these prescriptions not work in students who don’t have the disorder, they can actually impair functioning.

The researchers, from the University of Rhode Island and Brown University, say they were surprised to find that the medications do not improve the cognition of healthy college students – and in fact worsen their memory.

The team says its study is the first to look at the impact of ‘study drugs’ and that the findings are the first to contest the long-believed theory that ADHD drugs help you do better on tests.

A new study has found that ADHD medications do not help college students perform better tests on tests or improve cognition and working memory (file image)

ADHD, short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is when a person has difficulty paying attention or controlling impulse behavior.

Symptoms generally first appear by age 12 and can continue into teenage years and adulthood.

Adderall and Ritalin both contain a mix of four different amphetamine salts, which are stimulants that help restore a chemical imbalance of the brain by improving focus and alertness.    

For the pilot study, the team selected a total of 13 students from both universities whom had never taken ADHD medications. 

Two sessions were held, with the students receiving a standard 30mg dose of Adderall in one session and a placebo sugar pill in the other sessions. 

After each session, the students were given six cognitive tests that examined their reading comprehension and their short-term memory.

The physical effects of the drug were also analyzed including if any of them experienced a raised heart rate or blood pressure. 

The researchers found that while Adderall did help improve the attention and the focus of the students, it did not help them perform better on the tests.

On a test where students had to repeat sequences of numbers, which looked at working memory, the students actually did worse when they took the drug than with the placebo pill.

The team admitted they were shocked by their findings.

‘We hypothesized that Adderall would enhance cognition in the healthy students, but instead the medication did not improve reading comprehension or fluency, and it impaired working memory,’ said Dr Lisa Weyandt, a professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island.

‘Not only are they not benefiting from it academically, but it could be negatively affecting their performance.’    

According to research conducted by Dr Weyandt, it is estimated anywhere between five and 35 percent of college students in the US and Europe have used ADHD illegally – buying or receiving them from those who have prescriptions.

Dr Weyandt says she has a theory about why the students taking Adderall had an impaired working memory.

Brain scans have shown that those diagnosed with ADHD have less activity in the regions of the brain that control attention and memory. 

Adderall and similar prescriptions boost the activity in these areas for those with ADHD so that the functioning is normalized, not receiving a ‘supercharge’.

‘If your brain is functioning normally in those regions, the medication is unlikely to have a positive effect on cognition and my actually impair cognition. In other words, you need to have a deficit to benefit from the medicine,’ Dr Weyandt said.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk