Film Review: “Take Your Pills”

“Adderall and Instagram are hand in hand with being the perfect student.” 

Alison Klayman’s look at Adderall is sometimes compelling, but often repetitive. The Netflix documentary, which premiered on March 16th, explores amphetamine use by students, professional athletes and working professionals. Adderall, the film’s focus, is alternatively depicted as a blessing for stressed out students and as an overprescribed crutch in demanding work environments.

Throughout the film, which intersperses subject interviews with the history of amphetamines and methylphenidate (Ritalin), you’re introduced to a variety of subjects. One Silicon Valley coder describes Adderall as “rocket fuel” and credits it with allowing to get a job at Google. A college student uses it to cope around exam time and sincerely hopes she’ll be able to manage her adult life without chemical enhancement. A former NFL offensive tackle described his Adderall use during his playing days to deal with pain and focus on otherwise boring tasks. Other than the coder, the sense was that Adderall was less of an enhancer and more of a way to block outside input, allowing users to complete boring or tedious tasks.

Klayman’s work only briefly touched on the issue authenticity. One student asks if she did her work, or if she and Adderall did her work? Should she value her accomplishments as much, knowing that amphetamines were giving her a lift? The question remains unresolved.

The topics of ethics and fairness never come up in “Take Your Pills.” The apparent view is that Adderall use is so widespread, especially on college campuses, that its use should be expected. If you’re not taking it when it is so readily available, you’re the one missing out. Stimulant use has become completely acceptable, at least on college campuses. And as Klayman accurately points out, adults are now the fastest growing segment of Adderall users. It is only a matter of time before it, and its cousins Ritalin and Provigil (modafinil), make their way into the office.

The documentary’s message is clear: Take your pills, or be left behind in an increasingly dehumanizing work environment.

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