Are Smart Pills Really Smart?

The pressure to remain on top at your job, to be able to juggle multiple responsibilities at once, or to stay young and alert often results in drastic measures. Amphetamines, whether or prescription or recreational, may seem like a plausible solution to give you energy and focus, but although some articles and medical studies tout that users can take over the counter or prescription meds without side effects or addiction doesn’t mean everybody who takes the pills will. Any drug, recommended by a doctor or bought off the street, has the potential to become habit-forming.

Methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin, is a stimulant often used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD) in children. In some cases, adults have also been given Ritalin as a means of controlling focus. While the side effects of taking Ritalin are generally mild and rarely life-threatening, the drug may cause a number of discomforts, including sleeplessness, nausea, loss of appetite, and changes in blood pressure and cardiac functions. Since 1990, there have been at least 180 deaths attributed to Ritalin abuse (source: RitalinDeath.com).

Adderall, another stimulant used to treat ADHD, is also prescribed for patients suffering narcolepsy and, in some cases, epilepsy. Because this powerful drug is known to increase the heart rate and metabolism, there have been instances where users have taken the drug to stimulate weight loss. Side effects of using Adderall may include headaches and decreased appetite, irritability and mood swings, and in severe cases problems with kidney function, hallucinations, and drastic weight loss. While reports of deaths attributed to Adderall are not as widely reported as other drugs, abuse of the drug may lead to fatal conditions. In 2005, Canada suspended distribution of the drug after twelve children died from its use. (source: WebMD)

If you feel the pressure to do well in school or at work and believe a prescription drug is the key to boosting your energy and alertness, consider the possible consequences of taking medication. Consult with a doctor before taking anything, and explore non-drug alternatives to improving your focus and metabolism – a change in diet, exercise, meditation, more water. You may find a few lifestyle adjustments can make a difference. If you suspect somebody you know and love is abusing a “smart pill” like Adderall or Ritalin, consult with a professional rehabilitation doctor and know what options are available to help break the cycle of dependency.

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