Doc Hunter is a segment of No Life, that focuses on feature documentaries worth looking at. Our first one, “Take Your Pills” directed by Alison Klayman shown at SXSW, is a new documentary being released by Netflix that focuses on the rising use and “epidemic’ of Adderall. This article will highlight the documentary as well as some of the new research and studies around Amphetamines, to put things more into perspective. NOTE, No Life does NOT encourage nor endorse the use of any illicit substances not prescribed by your physician. These articles are strictly opinion, meant for entertainment, and are NOT meant to be seen as educational.

The Review

Let’s first start by touching on the presentation, which is a huge strong point for the film. I love the editing, which is done in a schizophrenic manner, mimicking the effects of an Aderrall overdose, and is done quite well. The audio also follows suit, where shrill, shrieking sounds dominate the soundscape, further highlighting that teeth-grinding atmosphere adderall can induce. Many documentaries are put together on shoestring budgets and often lack the icing on the cake. This is the exception, and it seems like many more Netflix documentaries seem to have a bit more capital to use towards its presentation. A welcomed addition to an otherwise bland genre.

I will admit, I was a bit worried though about the direction of the documentary. At first the documentary seems to romanticize the drug that closely resembles Meth, and it was a bit concerning. Talking with successful financial leaders, Hollywood agents, professional athletes, and high performing rich students, without much of an awareness of side effects. It focuses in on how these successful characters rely on the drug to make quick & clever judgement calls, never distracted from the task at hand. Story after story we were introduced to people who were able to gain a notable edge from their competition, just from this little pill. Later on the doc seems to focus on ADHD, its origins, and its patients. Finally we start to get an understanding of the detrimental effects stimulants can have. More particularly on those who take it as prescribed. What it seems to harp most on is the overprescribing of the drug by doctors, and the social pressures modern society can give, persuading those to use anything to get a leg up on their peers.

The documentary touches on the topic of drug addiction, in a modern contemporary way. What I enjoyed the most, is the comparisons the doc makes between opiates and opiate epidemic. Many don’t quite seem to see Adderall in the same vein of Oxycontin, but the parallels are there. Think how Oxycodone is synthesized heroin, Adderall is synthesized Meth. This connection is often missed, but not here. They do so by showcasing the addiction side of the drug and how the “crash” is causing many to keep using the substance, in the same addictive manner opiates have. Where the doc starts to pull together is when they couple that, with the fact a large percentage of the population is prescribing these drugs to our children. Thus producing a shocking realization that sticks with you.

The documentary touches on the topic of drug addiction, in a modern contemporary way

The film starts to lose its way a bit, when it goes into the cognitive performance “enhancements” of Adderall, where it starts to veer off more into Nootropics and Smart Drugs. Micro-dosing psilocybin and LSD also make an appearance. This is about where it starts to preach more on “alternative” medicines, rather than cessation methods. Then towards the end, we only learn that some seem to need Adderall for their ADHD diagnoses, and some don’t. Yeah, it doesn’t quite pull together. That said, I highly recommend checking the documentary out if you, or anyone you know, may have an issue with Adderall but doesn’t quite correlate drug addiction with it. Hopefully the documentary is able to give caution to many of those who think Amphetamines is a quick fix for success. Or at the very least, explain that NOT everyone has “a little ADD.”

Credit – Netflix

The Science

The last point I want to touch on is the science portrayed in the documentary. One in particular is the study done by Martha J Farah, who makes an appearance in the film, to talk about the cognitive enhancements of Adderall. The study famously explains that there is NO correlation between cognitive improvements and taking Adderall. The study was done at UPENN and had 40 participants. You can find the full study here. They found that Adderall did not improve cognitive performance, in all areas except one, motivational. Adderall would lead those to BELIEVE its improving enhancements, which comes with many added benefits of confidence. Which is mainly like saying “Cocaine makes you feel like you could rob a bank and get away with it, so you’re more likely to succeed at robbing a bank and getting away, just from that extra boost of confidence, than otherwise.” Not the best way to go about things, but must be noted.

There was also a big feature on the “godfather” of ADD/ADHD, Dr. Carmen Keith Conners. Conners was one of the first doctors to effectively identify attention deficit disorder, and since creating the “Conners Scale” which is a questionnaire designed to identify ADD/ADHD in people. He was also one of the first doctors to prescribe Ritalin for this diagnosis. I bring this up because there’s been a ton of scrutiny on his “scale” – which can be seen here – by being too lax, creating the over-prescribing of these stimulants. This article here also shows how Conners regrets some of the science he directed explaining his position on the epidemic. “Everyone has a little ADD” was a sentiment made in the film that leads the charge in stimulant use, though minimizing the diagnosis of true ADD/ADHD patients.

“I was always suspicious that the high rates of “diagnosis” and prescription for ADHD came about because researchers based their figures on reports from parents, who in turn based their beliefs on teachers or doctors with no credible evidence.” – Dr. Keith Conners “Godfather” of ADD/ADHD


So looking at the film, the stories within it, and the science behind the film, I think it does a great job of being truthful about America’s favorite hardcore stimulant. Cognitive enhancements, either through stimulants or nootropics, seems to be something worth looking at. We take supplements for our physical health, why not the same for our mental health? I just wish the film treaded a bit more carefully around the topic of use, showed a bit more of the darker side of abuse, such as intravenous and insufflation which is much more prominent than the film shows; and included more about the detrimental physical ailments long term amphetamine use can have. Instead it harped more on the patients of ADD, how Adderall effects them, and the social stigmas around the drug. It’s a bit reckless, something a drug documentary should never be. But its still an intriguing and truthful look at drug use in America, and worth a watch.

Editors Note

I’ve recently come across this article/review by Thrillist. I just wanted to point out that the writer seemed particularly invested in the film, due to the writers child being diagnosed with ADHD. While I understand the sentiments expressed, I do want point out that the film DOES portray how these drugs can help those in need of these pills. As shown in stories of the Hollywood agent, and the street artist. It’s the fault of the film, on how this writer may have missed these topics, because the film convolutes prescribed use and abuse. Just one last example of how the film’s message gets a bit muddy.