Michael Watkins/Courier Photo Illustration
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The issue of doping in sports has with regular intervals received attention in the international press during the past decade. The Olympic Committee and some of the biggest international sports federations partnered two decades ago to established the World Anti-Doping Agency in an attempt to catch athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs to gain leverage. While many of us may have left the world of competitive sports as we graduated from high school and therefore feel that the world of sports doping is a world away, we do all compete against each other for a handful of spots at highly ranked universities and in the workforce upon graduation. What if I told you that the reason the girl next to you on last week’s exam received an A was because she took a microdose of Meth? How would that change the way you look at academics and cheating?

“Take Your Pills” makes an effort to peek behind the curtain into the world of everyday middle-class Americans who use Adderall and other performance-enhancing drugs with the intention of improving their cognitive performance in academics, at work and in sports.

‘Take Your Pills‘ is the creation of Producers Maria Shriver and Christina Schwarzenegger and was directed by Alison Klayman. Klayman rose to fame with her Sundance Award-winning documentary, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” in 2008. If you enjoy watching documentaries this is certainly one to watch, and one that is made with a style that is more energetic, fast-paced and suited for the 21st century, attention deprived audience than most documentaries.

This documentary is filled with an astonishing collection of visuals that accompanies each part of the documentary. From the retro style game inspired title cards, to animations that seem like dancing clockwork, to transitions that make this documentary feel as one of the kind, the visual department of this documentary does certainly not let the audience down.

One of the most important points in this documentary is when it explains what Adderall really is and how the actual differences between Adderall (amphetamine) and Meth (methamphetamine) come down to a single methyl group.  

“When we think about methamphetamine [or meth] from a chemical perspective, and we think about amphetamine, the active ingredient in Adderall, the only difference between these drugs is an additional methyl group on the methamphetamine compound,” narrates Dr. Carl Hart, chair of Columbia University’s Department of Psychology.

Another expert, Psychotherapist Liz Jorgensen explains, “Wealthier kids have access to purified pharmaceutical speed, and other communities have access to meth… at the neuroreceptor sites [in the brain], it has the exact same effect.”

Later on in the documentary, Dr. Hart explains that the only reason Adderall is the drug of choice, rather than for example methamphetamine, is simply the negative stigma of meth as an illegal drug used by drug addicts.

The visuals in this documentary are also accommodated with narration by experts being interviewed instead of a traditional third-party narrator. This gives every statement in this documentary the expert assessment needed for this documentary to stand out as a journalistic documentary, in contrast to many recent documentaries that unfortunately is structured around the opinion of the filmmaker. In addition, the 90s futuristic games score of the documentary complements both the narration and the visuals in a very effective way.

By the time the documentary is over, you are sitting there thinking about how work and performance expectation is interconnected with our want for a fast-acting miracle pill option that will turn us into cognitively superheroes like the main character in the movie and TV show “Limitless.”

What if you could have received an A in that hard class, become a millionaire by 30, or get your dream job? Would you have been willing to take a few pills a day to achieve those dreams in spite of health risks that include cardiovascular issues, psychosis and other health risks that may come along?

Now watch this audio visually stunning documentary that brings to light one of the most important topics for a student for yourself and make up your own mind whether cognitive enhancing drugs have a place in academia and the workplace or not.

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