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Adderall in the Workplace: A Dangerous Trend for Millennials

Adderall is an amphetamine designed for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder, and exogenous obesity. Its essential purpose is to speed up the central nervous system, resulting in effects like increased focus, organization, memory, and rate of thought. It works by increasing the quantities of the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

When someone ingests Adderall, Dopamine floods the forebrain (the area of the brain just behind the eyes), bringing a rush of positive emotion. Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) then taps into the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight-or-flight response; this triggers wakefulness and focus. Lastly, norepinephrine facilitates neural communication, which helps to regulate the overstimulated central nervous system.


The Adderall brand we know today evolved from a now obsolete weight-loss drug called Obetrol, which was manufactured in the 1950s by Obetrol Pharmaceuticals and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on January 19, 1960.

Obetrol Pharmaceuticals was purchased by Rexar Pharmacal later in the 1960s, and under their leadership, Obetrol remained popular in the United States until the 1980s, when the use of amphetamines as a weight-loss supplement was called into question by the medical community.

In early 1994, Rexar Pharmacal was purchased by Richwood Pharmaceutical. The new leadership changed certain aspects of Obetrol’s formula and released the updated drug under its new name, Adderall, after FDA approval in 1995.

Reasons for Prevalence and Widespread Abuse

Of all the commonly abused prescription drugs, Adderall is by far the most widespread, which is largely because ADHD is very commonly prescribed. In 2016 the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology reported that 9.4 percent (6.1 million) children from ages 2-17 had received an ADD diagnosis, and in 2006 the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that 4.4 percent of US adults had been diagnosed as well.

Adderall is also highly addictive. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies it as a schedule II controlled substance, meaning that there is high potential for psychological and physical addiction. Other examples of schedule II substances are Oxycodone and Methamphetamine, which have seen a rise in addiction comparable to that produced by Adderall.

In the Workplace

Adderall often increases productivity. As such, its usage is widespread in academia and white-collar professions. According to the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than their non-collegiate peers. And it is not unusual for workers who abuse Adderall to begin displaying counterproductive tendencies. Since their dosage is not regulated by a doctor, addiction and pernicious side-effects can quickly develop. Abusers often require increasingly large doses to cope with workplace stress and thus need more rest to recover from the CNS-stimulating effects of the drug. Further, their moods can become unpredictable, often oscillating between paranoia, anger, euphoria, and even panic. Such a chaotic mental state often results in declining cognitive and professional organization, fully reversing the intended result of consuming Adderall.


Adderall does have legitimate uses, but these involve accurate diagnoses and the supervision of qualified medical professionals. Otherwise, Adderall intake is drug abuse, and that can lead to consequences that are both detrimental to a given employee and their place of employment. As such, businesses should be vigilant in their attempts to spot and discourage errant Adderall use, and employees should avoid using the drug unless they have a legitimate medical reason. Though it may seem that Adderall increases productivity, its widespread misuse is toxic. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, illicit prescription drug use costs the US economy $78.5 billion annually. And with this trend not currently showing signs of slowing down, every aspect of the professional world could benefit from more temperance in the workplace.