Watch a Brief Explainer on How Adderall Works

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In case you need a little help focusing this morning, the American Chemical Society has just released short video explaining how Adderall works. As the video notes, on the surface, the mechanism seems contradictory. Adderall, like most other drugs intended to treat ADHD, works by stimulating the central nervous system. But why would someone taking the drug for its promises of increasing focus benefit from more stimulation? 

Ryan Davison, a neuroscientist on staff at ACS, explains. “People with ADHD tend to have lower levels of dopamine, a key chemical in the brain’s reward center. This lack of dopamine means people with ADHD are constantly seeking stimulation,” he says in the video. The low dose of amphetamine in Adderall helps to nudge neurotransmitters like dopamine toward receptor cells, a fact illustrated here with a dorky-cute middle school dance analogy. “Amphetamines stimulate the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain,” Davison continues, “so those minor distractions don’t cause you to lose focus.” It’s a (very) brief overview of the way the drug works, seemingly and perhaps appropriately intended for short attention spans.