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Don't Take Adderall to Help You Study for Law School Finals

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

It's the start of final exams panic season, when law students realize that there are only a few short weeks before they'll sit down for their make-or-break exams -- and they still have so much law to learn.

Some desperate students are spending 14 hours a day doing nothing but studying. Some have more or less moved into the law library, bringing their pillows and pizzas with them. Plenty of those students will be popping Adderall and other prescription stimulants in order to fuel their study-binges. You shouldn't be one of them. Here's why.

Law School's Favorite Study Drug

You could say that Adderall abuse was law school's dirty little secret, but it's hardly a secret at all. Plenty of students use Adderall, more or less openly, in order to obtain a prescription-fueled edge over their classmates. These gunners either pop pills that they've obtained through a dubious prescription or which they buy on the study drug black market.

If you're not familiar with the drug, Adderall is a prescription amphetamine that's most commonly used to treat ADHD. If you suffer from ADHD, Adderall use can improve your concentration and reduce distractibility.

If you don't have ADHD and use Adderall, the effects are more like doing a line of cocaine. Really studious cocaine. As a stimulant, it can help you stay up for hours without getting tired and allow you to focus in issues that would otherwise have you pulling your hair out from boredom.

It's also a terrible way to study. That's because Adderall's side effects are often worse than its benefits. While the drug can keep you up, it can also make you obsessive. Plenty of students will take Adderall with the intent of pounding out a masterful outline through a dozen hours of non-stop studying. Instead, they'll spend an entire night worrying about an obscure detail of the UCC. Or worse, they'll become incredibly insecure in their knowledge, redoing the same tasks over and over and over again.

Your study drug has helped you study, but it's deprived you of the ability to study well, to focus in on the tasks that matter.

What Comes After Studying?

There are also longer term issues with using Adderall and other study drugs. When, for example, do you stop? The pressure to perform only gets more intense after law school. Will you be popping Adderall at your BigLaw desk? Using prescription stimulants to make partner? Snacking on study drugs when you're 10 years into your career?

Not to get all "Refer Madness," but these questions aren't just hypotheticals. A few years back, Kate Miller recounted her history with Adderall in the New York Times. Her habit started in undergrad, with pills bought from a fellow student. It evolved into full-on dependence when she took a high-pressure job as a paralegal.

It did not take long for my daily late nights at the office to segue into a voracious need for letting loose off the clock. I quickly became unable to socialize without popping the medication that now provided just enough extra energy required to maintain my outgoing side. Even on nights when I planned to take it easy, the meds had no off switch, so I'd find myself leaving the office full of energy that I didn't know how to quell. The mix of whiskey rocks and a pocket of pills was a potent one. I was now getting high seven nights a week, every night a delicate balancing act.

Eventually, Miller quit abusing her prescription, but the transition back to a prescription-free life involved personality changes, depression, and the "immense effort to gather and express coherent thoughts."

Of course, plenty of law students use Adderall without falling into a downward spiral of prescription drugs and whiskey rocks. But Adderall is a risky habit to pick up nonetheless, one that can easily backfire. The risk isn't worth a few extra hours of studying contracts.

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