In 2021, some 41 million prescriptions were dispensed in the United States for Adderall (and its generic varieties), an amphetamine used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, symptoms of which include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. During the Covid era, pharma-startups began using social-media platforms to advertise their wares, while online pharmacies made it much easier to access the drugs. But lately, the legal party seems to be crashing.
Countless young white women on TikTok have recently reported that their Adderall is “working differently.” Their videos exude an air of conspiracy and anxiety. Adderall is already in short supply, with many struggling to fill their prescriptions. And then, once they do get their medication, it seems, well, different.
“Has anyone figured out what they’re doing to our Adderall yet?” a 20-something under the handle @adderalladventures asks, staring into her camera, perturbed. She is fatigued and doesn’t understand why. She offers a laundry list of energy aids she has consumed that day: 20 milligrams of Adderall, a Diet Coke, 5 milligrams of Adderall, another 5 milligrams of Adderall. “I’m fighting sleep right now,” she says, refocusing the camera to show that she is in bed.
The complaints multiplied feverishly: that Adderall “wasn’t working,” with young people urging their viewers to “think critically” about whether the government was allowing or even forcing pharmaceutical companies to water down the drug and its derivatives. Eventually, The New York Times weighed in. The paper found what you would expect. Despite TikTokers telling their viewers to “submit complaints to the Food and Drug Administration about what they believe is ‘new’ Adderall being distributed,” the Times couldn’t find evidence that the formula had changed—at least, taking the agency’s word for it.