America’s workforce runs on amphetamines.
More specifically, it runs on Adderall (dextroamphetamine), Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine), Focalin (dexmethylphenidate), and Concerta (methylphenidate), all commonly used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Over the past five years, reports of a growing amphetamine epidemic in the United States have surfaced in unlikely places: From gym rats to Hollywood actresses to fearful college kids and stressed writers, there’s been no lack of exposés and personal interviews on the country’s prescription amphetamine and methamphetamine users.
The U.S. saw a 53% increase in ADHD prescriptions between 2008 to 2012.
Yet of all the reports, some of the most disturbing have been those chronicling the use of ADHD drugs to keep up in the workplace. Abuse by young professionals is distressingly common—Wall Street traders, software engineers, dentists, nurses, and lawyers, all cracked out of their minds trying to keep up with the competition. Some have even died from mixing these drugs with alcohol. While the exact number of abusers is hard to trace, as of 2015, the ADHD drug industry was a $13 billion business, and a report by IBISWorld expects to see the industry grow to $17.5 billion by 2020. To put that number in perspective, coffee, America’s best-known stimulant, brings in $30 billion annually.