Take your pills (Documentary review)

Take your pills (Documentary review)

Take your pills, released on March 16th 2018 on Netflix, is an entertaining take on the growing usage of prescription drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin for performance improvements on the taker's daily lives. The documentary raises thought-provoking questions about the way we (as society) view our daily lives and the concept of success.

The effects of Adderall and similar stimulants

Adderall's main ingredient is amphetamine, a stimulant which, in short-term, induces the taker into a state of excitement, euphoria, power, increased concentration and quicker reaction times. Amphetamines have been around for a long time, and they are usually prescribed as a medicine for attention-deficit disorder (ADD), mostly in infants. However, recently, its usage has increased in many environments (mainly in the United States) such as univeristies, high-pressure jobs or professional sports leagues, due to the competitive advantage they bring.

Under the effects of Adderall, students have improved concentration rates when studying, employees are able to work for longer periods without need to rest and athletes experience significant improvements on their performance and reflexes. In highly competitive environments, having such capabilities can certainly be a stategic advantage over the competition.

The cons

The advantages of the usage of amphetamines are pretty straight-forward. Who wouldn't want to be able to pull all-nighters without feeling exhausted? Who wouldn't want to be able to focus on boring tasks that need to be done for hours and hours? Take your pills is pretty clear about this, but it does not give a clear view of what are the disadvantages, mainly the long-term ones.

Aside from the obvious addiction risk (for all purposes, amphetamines are drugs), respiratory problems, paranoia and psychosis are amongst the list of possible long-term effects. And though these are referred along the documentary, their ramifications and examples are not explored, leaving a significant gap in the whole analysis.

The bigger picture

Setting aside pros and cons of amphetamine usage, there are still a lot of questions that are left unanswered. The most important one is certainly what the hell is going on with our society, where the successful student is the one that is physically able to spend more time studying, or the successful employee is the one that actually thrives under pressure, whatever the cost? Why are we so heavily focused on "being successful", to the point of needing daily doses of "cognitive enhancement" to deal with the stress of our lives?

Take your pills does not have an answer to these questions, but it does the important job of raising them, and that is probably the most brilliant aspect of this documentary.

Henrique Pacheco