People who use ADHD drugs worse at basic tasks: Study
Individuals who use drugs like Ritalin without disorders such as ADHD lower their mental function.
According to research, persons who use Ritalin without having disorders such as ADHD really lower their mental capabilities. A study indicated that those who take so-called "smart drugs" to increase their mental ability do worse on complicated tasks while approaching them with greater zeal.
In April, new research discovered that 1 in 4 teens in US high schools report that they have abused attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) prescriptions for non-medical reasons.
The findings of the study were published on Thursday in Science Advances.
Methylphenidate (sold under the brand names Ritalin and Concerta), Modafinil, and dextroamphetamine, which are commonly prescribed to people with ADHD and narcolepsy, are sometimes used by people without ADHD because they believe the drugs improve their cognition.
Australian drug regulator Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the medications are especially popular among students, shift workers, and those working in high-stress positions who buy them illegally online.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne recruited 40 healthy subjects aged 18 to 35 and either one of the three medicines or a placebo pill containing no medication. To avoid bias, neither the researcher nor the volunteer knew which chemical was being administered. None of the individuals had any of the disorders for which the medicines are often prescribed, such as ADHD.
Dr. Elizabeth Bowman of the university's Centre for Brain, Mind, and Markets detailed that afterward, they were asked to complete a problem known as "the knapsack task."
“Imagine if you have a bag and the bag has a weight limit, so it will only hold five kilograms. We present you with a number of items. Each item has a weight assigned to it, and a value, for example, one dollar, or three dollars,” she explained. “All you have to do is select items to go in the bag to maximize the value of what’s in the bag, without going over the weight limit.”
Those who took the drugs took a much longer time to solve the task, even though they tried more combinations, according to Bowman.
She noted that "all that extra effort didn’t result in better performance. And as motivation, time, and effort spent went way up, in general, performance went down."
More opportunities for failure
“It just gave them more opportunities to be worse at what they were doing. It was like watching people put more petrol in a car in the hopes that it will go faster," Bowman recalled.
Furthermore, people who did better after taking the placebo saw their performance and output collapse even more severely after getting the medication. Participants who performed poorly on the placebo only sometimes and marginally improved after taking a medication.
In the past, Bowman explained, similar studies asked people to engage in more basic tasks like memorization and reaction time, noting that seldom is that ever required in most workplaces.
According to her, this could explain why people who take drugs report more focus. Focus on the wrong things. “You know, they take a pill to try and stay up to write an essay all night and end up cleaning the bathroom.”
ADHD medicine works by raising the concentration of particular neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, according to Dr. Hannah Kirk, a senior lecturer in developmental psychology at the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health.
Kirk emphasized that if an individual does not have ADHD then "there is no clear mechanism of how improvements in behaviors can be made," stressing the importance of individuals only taking medication that has been prescribed for their conditions.
Prof. Ian Hickie, co-director of health and policy at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre expressed that although it was "incredibly popular" it was also "incredibly dumb."
According to Hickie, enough sleep is more effective in boosting performance, but recognized that high-stress jobs often treat individuals "like machines," adding that "the longer people work without resting or exercising, the more mistakes they make.”