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***See below for a complete topic breakdown.***

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Adderall increases attention…. Or does it?

What is Attention?

It’s common for us to consider attention as something akin to “focused concentration,” wherein increased focused concentration equates to increased attention. In that case, Adderall might warrant the description of increasing attention–aka, correcting for an Attention Deficit Disorder by increasing what is missing.

adderall addiction
Scene from the movie Limitless (2011), where the protagonist first experiences the pill that unlocks super-human focus and intelligence.

And, in a so-called age of distraction, where our attentional reserves and capacities are perpetually siphoned into technologies designed to highjack our attention, it might be fair to logically conclude that we are all suffering from a deficit of attention–focused concentration–and perhaps Adderall is the medicine we all need to regain power over our attentional landscape. Perhaps our world is such now that we are all in need of stimulants just to cope with the breakneck expectations of keeping up with the onslaught of notifications, without falling into the rabbit holes each one opens us into. Is Adderall the medicine for the modern mind? (In all honesty, I’m on a stimulant right now)

Yet, what if attention is not “focused concentration”? What if the swell of euphoria and capacity that arises with the pharmacological onset of Adderall is not the consequence of connecting with “the right stuff” inside of us that we were deficient in prior to its consumption? What if, perhaps, are we losing our attention when we’re only in focused concentration?

What if that swell of euphoria and capacity, and the inclination–even urge–to keep returning to it, is a compensational adaptation to an inadequacy cultivated by a sickly overstimulated society and not the return of a state we “should” be able to be in on command, and at all times?

What about when Adderall use becomes Adderall addiction, as it often does? What do we lose in ourselves and our lives? What might we have already lost as a society where Adderall addiction is so widespread and, in many circumstances, not only normalized, by almost necessary to keep up with the daily grind of the technological and cultural landscape of our modern days?

What, in all of this, is attention now? And why does it matter?

These are some of the questions we will be exploring with our guest for this episode, Casey Schwartz.

Casey Schwartz lives in New York City, where she grew up. A graduate of Brown University, she holds a Master’s degree in developmental neuroscience and psychoanalysis from University College London. While she was in graduate school, she found the subject of her first book, In the Mind Fields (Pantheon, 2015), a work of non-fiction about the culture clash between the old and the new ways of thinking about the mind and the brain.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Departures, and New York, among other publications. Her essay for the New York Times Magazine, Generation Adderall, is the jumping-off point for the book she is currently writing, tackling the question of attention in an age of technological onslaught.

Schwartz is the author of Attention: A Love Story, [buy the book here] which is the book she has joined us here on Adventures Through The Mind to talk about.

We talk about her journey with Adderall addiction; how social media technology influences our attention and behavior; internet reactivity and mob “justice”; psychedelics and their impact on attention; the deeper philosophy of what attention is; and why attention matters.

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Episode Clips



Episode Breakdown

  • What if that final rug comes up from under us
  • The beginnings of Adderall addiction
  • The Adderall promise and of the attentional expectations of the modern world
  • Adderall does not increase attention, not really
  • If attention isn’t focused concentration then what is it?
  • Is there such a thing as natural attention?
  • Social media turning us into reactive children
  • Bonding by bullying through canceling,
  • Casey’s journey of watching her father get swept up in the metoo movement
  • The difference between justice and vengeance, redemption, and a lack of much-needed nuance
  • Adderall addiction in the age of technological onslaught
  • How what we attend to changing the meaning landscape of our lives
  • The deeper philosophy of what attention is, and why attention matters
  • Where you put your attention is how you live your life
  • Psychedelics and attention; how psychedelics alter how we attend to life
  • Attention, prayer, and the discovery of divine
  • A personal trip report of Vyvanse vs Adderall
  • Attention: A Love Story and social links



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