Adderall and the American Dream

Adderall, a drug intended to treat ADD/ADHD, has been around for a long time. People have used it, legally and illegally, for a wide variety of things. Adderall, being an amphetamine, is sometimes prescribed to people with narcolepsy. Similarly, it is commonly referred to as a ‘study drug’ because it helps students stay up all night to cram for an exam. More recently, Adderall has become popular with Millennials. In Lawrence Diller’s article: America’s Love Affair With Legal Amphetamine, he provides a unique opinion of this generation of young adults. Diller blames the spike in misuse of Adderall on our country’s economy, irresponsible pharmaceutical companies, and mainstream culture. Besides these obvious contributors, he offers a new reason as to why Millennials turn to drugs like Adderall. He goes as far as creating his own hypothetical psychiatric disorder. “My disorder is called Achievement Anxiety Disorder (AAD), and it explains the increasing reports of prescription amphetamine misuse most often in the form of Adderall abuse.” Millennials are the first generation to live worse-off than the previous generation. Diller says that this, along with a “broken cultural norm that makes happiness impossible to achieve,” is the root of AAD.

Diller’s Fake Diagnoses

Lawrence Diller has a medical degree and has written various books about Adderall and other amphetamines. His credibility is undeniable. The statistics included in his article make it clear that the millennial generation does, indeed, have a problem with Adderall. However, his argument contains fallacies and is somewhat problematic at times. The subtitle of the article sets the tone for his argument, “When will we be able to just say no?” That line in itself is condescending, and it delegitimizes the struggle of addiction. Diller’s article recognizes the tragedy of America’s prescription drug problem while making it seem as if he believes solving the problem is as simple as saying no. He goes on to take jabs at drug companies for creating new psychiatric disorders out of thin air by doing just that. Creating Achievement Anxiety Disorder for the sake of his argument is inappropriate but could possibly be overlooked if it added anything new or constructive to the conversation. This phony disorder seems like a thinly veiled attempt at mocking Millennials and those with mental health issues. He compares AAD to legitimate conditions. “Just what is Achievement Anxiety Disorder? Like all psychiatric conditions, there are no blood tests or brain scans to make the diagnosis” (Diller). Not only is this a clear attempt to delegitimize disorders people have, but it is incorrect. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, brain scans show, “In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder.” Diller’s inaccuracies work to further discredit him.

Diller goes on to explain AAD, “You can see it all around us- frantic people working ever harder to achieve a certain level of material satisfaction and security.” He takes in to account the difficult economy handed down to Millennials, but he seems to point to the generation’s collective attitude of entitlement as the real culprit. Diller is playing into the ever-popular narrative that Millennials are whiny and weak-minded and in need of a participation trophy. While it is true that today’s young adults must work harder and go above and beyond to attain the lifestyle their parents did, this does not directly relate to Adderall use. According to an article in The Atlantic, young adults that graduated during the recession of the 1980’s were also worse-off than their parents. The struggles they faced did not push them to Adderall use even though the drug was in the market by then.

Millennials as ‘Casualties’ of Adderall

A recurring trend in this article seems to be the criticism of today’s young adults. Diller continues to connect the country’s rampant Adderall use and misuse to Millennials’ shortcomings. He compares previous generation’s perceptions of the American Dream to Millennials when he says, “A once-personal struggle for self-acceptance and success has turned into contagious angst about a collective failure to live up to our dreams.” This line suggests that this new generation has turned the American dream into something toxic by obsessing over failure and relying on substance to avoid it. It suggests that past generations were intrinsically motivated, and the current generation is more focused on material gain. Diller’s stance throughout his article seems to be that Millennials are caving to the pressure of everyday life and turning to Adderall to deal with the stress. His general perception of Millennials is that it is a weaker generation.

Towards the end of the article, one line sticks out as outright offensive, “Our young adults who are turning to Adderall are the stark casualties of this broken cultural norm that makes happiness impossible to achieve.” Here, Diller basically labels anyone who takes Adderall as a ‘casualty’. This is significantly more problematic than simply taking a jab at drug companies for creating disorders. Saying this, even if it is an opinion piece, is extremely inappropriate and it discredits the rest of the piece. ADD/ADHD is a legitimate disorder that can be tested and detected in brain scans.

The Reality of Being Prescribed Adderall

Rhetoric like Diller’s is insulting to people with ADD/ADHD who truly suffer. Untreated, ADD/ADHD makes concentrating in school and even performing day-to-day tasks incredibly difficult for people. This results in bad grades, disciplinary issues, and in turn a general anxiety about anything school related. When people are given the necessary medication, such as Adderall, the side effects are miserable. Those who have to take Adderall for their ADD/ADHD will tell you how much they hate it. It stifles their personality, diminishes their appetite, and inhibits them socially. In this piece, Diller calls the DSM-5, “America’s official psychiatric bible of common life dilemmas translated into mental disorder.”  Here, he is brushing over not just ADD/ADHD, but all mental health conditions. The real common life dilemma that plagues those with ADD/ADHD is if they want to take Adderall and succeed in school while feeling like a zombie or take no medication at all and suffer through school and work.

By the end of the article, there is no real take-away of what or who the true culprit is. Diller takes jabs at Millennials, the economy, new social norms, and drug companies, but ultimately, he offers no real solution besides the subtitle that reads, “When will we be able to just say no?” Lawrence Diller attempts to give a unique answer to America’s rampant Adderall use by creating his own psychiatric disorder and taking jabs at anything from Millennials to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.