ADHD Myths & Facts

Take Your Pills: A One-Dimensional Exploration of ADHD Stimulants

A new Netflix documentary presents a biased portrait of stimulant use in America.

Shadow person taking a lot of pills
Taking a lot of pills in to mouth.

If the film Take Your Pills had to be described in a word, it would be “heavy-handed.”

The documentary, which premiered on Netflix in March, claims to examine the use of stimulant medications and their proliferation in American life. But from the opening animation — which shows a skeleton drowning in Adderall-shaped pills — it’s clear that director Alison Klayman has little interest in showing both sides of the story.

The film interviews about a dozen subjects who have taken stimulant medications (mostly Adderall) at some point in their lives. Several of them — like a Goldman Sachs banker or a cartoonish Silicon Valley techie who repeatedly calls Adderall “jet fuel” — openly admit to taking the drugs to get ahead in a culture that constantly demands more. But even when interviewing subjects who had been formally diagnosed with ADHD — mostly college students — Klayman works hard to make the medications seem like nothing more than brain steroids. In the eyes of Take Your Pills, there is no motivation for taking stimulants other than performance enhancement.

[Free Resource: 7 ADHD Myths… Debunked!]

Many of the questions addressed in the documentary — some fleetingly — are worth exploring. Does American culture focus too much on results — often at the expense of our physical and mental health? Should pharmaceutical companies be allowed to market directly to consumers — and how much responsibility do they bear for the current rate of stimulant (or opioid) use? Why does the U.S. diagnose ADHD at rates that dwarf the rest of the world — and is there anything that can be done to stem the tide?

Unfortunately, the film fails to address any of these questions in an open, nuanced way. Instead, it relies on jarring animations and repetitive interviews, many with characters who are purposely made to seem unsympathetic. It’s easy for viewers to vilify a rich banker who scammed his way into an Adderall prescription; it’s harder to understand the real, lifelong struggles of many who live with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD.

Anyone who believes that ADHD medications are overprescribed will get what they’re looking for in Take Your Pills. Anyone who thinks there might be more to the story — or anyone with ADHD who benefits from using these medications — will find little more than fear mongering and stigma.

3 Comments & Reviews

  1. On Jessica McCabe’s YouTube channel she posted a video with a similar message. Knowing Netflix as a commercial company that produces a lot of good documentaries itself, I invited them to take the comments at heart and to get in touch with us to tell theother side of the story and how much these meds helped us get our life back together. Again, Netflix guys, strange that you ‘aired’ this bad piece of biased and single-sided journalism. Somebody must have been sleeping on the job not to see that. So, give me, ADDitute or Jessica a call, and provide us with a platform to add some nuance!

  2. I usually enjoy Netflix programs but I haven’t watched this one yet. My 2 sons (ages 13 & 19) and I all have been diagnosed with AdD and are medicated and see doctors regularly. We still struggle with school, work, stress, etc. All the usual things we read about on ADDitude. It’s not a blessing at all. BUT without medication it would be so much worse. I KNOW because I lived without meds and without the knowledge of what was “wrong with me” from age 5 to 39. School was hell. Jobs were near impossible. I never even tried college. See this article: 19 Things Only People With Adult ADHD Will Understand by Chris Illuminati 2014 Look at NUMBER 12 about meds. SO TRUE. It’s all so true. AdD and AdHD are real and give your loved ones a break. Learn about it and accept them and know that medications DO help – for kids and adults. It doesn’t go away. Diabetes doesn’t go away and you wouldn’t tell your child to “try harder” to make insulin. Same idea. If your doctor says “no” get a 2nd or 3rd opinion. Help your kid…help yourself. Have a better life. You can.

  3. Funnily enough, while I agree that the documentary is terrible, this documentary is actually what convinced me to go out and get diagnosed.

    When I watched the show, and the Football Guy’s wife said that he was coming home and doing the dishes and taking out the trash instead of bombing out on the couch for three hours, I said “These pills sound AWESOME.” What would need to be wrong with me to get them? I also looked at several of the genuine sufferers and was just like “Omg, I do that. And that. And that. That too!”

    So I started looking into adhd, and suddenly my entire life made sense. I just got diagnosed (half a year after I started the process), and I’m starting Ritalin next Thursday 🙂

    It is a terrible documentary, I agree. But it did a lot of good for me, at least 🙂

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