Why NOT to use Adderall and NoDoz to Study for the LSAT

Adderall NoDoz LSAT BlogStudents often take Adderall and NoDoz in a misguided attempt to study the LSAT 10 hours a day, which is just too much. You don't want to end up like Jessie Spano from Saved by the Bell, a classic burnout case.

I'm not a healthcare expert, so I certainly advise you to do your own research. If you actually have the condition for which Adderall and similar medications are prescribed, this post does not apply to you. This post is written for those who do not have ADD or ADHD but seek out these drugs for a "boost." Since it's a common misconception that study drugs are uniformly helpful on the LSAT, I'd like to offer some evidence to the contrary.

Negative in the long-term
Needless to say, caffeine or Adderall may give you a short-term boost, but both can lead to psychological dependence - in short, they're addictive. Using Adderall without a prescription is illegal. Besides, if you "need" pills for the LSAT, will you also "need" them throughout law school, studying for the bar, and throughout your career?

Stimulants can hurt more than they help
Adderall and other stimulants may actually hurt your LSAT performance more than they help. Additionally, they can cause sleep deprivation.

The intense concentration these stimulants allow may actually prevent the creative "thinking-outside-the-box" mindset that some Logical Reasoning questions require. The drugs can also bog you down in the details of Reading Comprehension passages, where reading for structure is more important.

Since I'm not a psychiatrist or neuroscientist, I'd like to refer you to a recent article in the New Yorker, "Brain Gain: The underground world of “neuroenhancing” drugs."

A few excerpts from the New Yorker article
This excerpt supports the idea that Adderall may harm your ability to do Logical Reasoning and Reading Comp:

That afternoon, he went to the library, where he spent “too much time researching a paper rather than actually writing it—a problem, I can assure you, that is common to all intellectually curious students on stimulants.”

So does this one:

“It only works as a cognitive enhancer insofar as you are dedicated to accomplishing the task at hand,” he said. “The number of times I’ve taken Adderall late at night and decided that, rather than starting my paper, hey, I’ll organize my entire music library! I’ve seen people obsessively cleaning their rooms on it.”

This one discusses addiction and side effects:

Drugs such as Adderall can cause nervousness, headaches, sleeplessness, and decreased appetite, among other side effects. An F.D.A. warning on Adderall’s label notes that “amphetamines have a high potential for abuse” and can lead to dependence. (The label also mentions that adults using Adderall have reported serious cardiac problems, though the role of the drug in those cases is unknown.)

Bottom line on study drugs: They may hurt more than they help. It's much healthier and safer to exercise. Regular exercise will help your sleep patterns. Eating a healthy diet (which includes breakfast!) with plenty of protein will keep your mind sharp.

Photo by alexdoddphotography / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


  1. Like you mentioned I know you're not a psychiatrist, but I'm prescribed to Adderall and Vyvanse (a newer and lighter version of Adderall) do you think it would still be detrimental to take it while preparing for and during the test? I was just wondering because I'm worried about it on the LR and RC sections.

  2. Adderall and Vyvanse affect ADHD/non-ADHD people differently (to my knowledge). For this reason, if you're already prescribed these medications (and you actually have the conditions for which they are prescribed), I believe that you should continue taking them as prescribed.

    However, I'm not a medical professional, so I recommend that you consult the prescribing doctor about this.

  3. these tips aren't exactly accurate. for someone without adhd, adderall is effectively an academic steroid. certainly, if you haven't taken it before, it can cause you to become nervous, jittery and overly-focused during the lsat. but, if you're able to get a prescription and thus use it consistantly during lsat prep, you'll find that the increased attention to detail, clarity of focus and overall brain functioning will allow you to utterly destroy the lr and games sections.

    i'm sure there are plenty of reasons to avoid these type of stimulants, but i'd argue that they would all rely on the ethical implications of using them as opposed to any adverse effects on one's test performance.

  4. As someone who is prescribed amphetamines and who has been using them during my lsat prep I strongly disagree with the previous comment.
    Adderall invariably makes me feel more stressed during testing and lenghtens time it takes to complete LR and RC so that I decided against taking it for the actual test.
    The original post accurately describes my experience with it.
    Good luck everyone!

  5. The problem with adderall is exactly as described in the article. These types of psychostimulants are great for writing a long essay or getting through rote work. But they inhibit creativity and "big picture" thinking. My best advice is to do a personal cost-benefit analysis. Take one test on it, wait a few days, then take one test off it, maybe substitute some caffeine which is more energy oriented and a less potent psychostimulant. Do this several times and switch the order each time for more accurate results. After doing this, you'll have a better idea of your costs-benefits of using addy. If being on increases your raw score on average and you're prescribed it, then by all means use it.

  6. Holy crap great post.

    I'm a mildly ADD guy (minus the "H") and used to take adderall in college mostly for fun.

    When studying for this test I thought it might come in handy and got a new script for it and tried it out on some practice tests.

    Like the commenter above said, it's not really all that helpful for the LSAT. I was doing a RC section and thought "Wow! This is totally interesting! I understand everything thoroughly and can tackle any question!"

    Then I checked my time and saw that I had spent 15 minutes on one section. Not good. The intense focus on detail certainly kept me from the frenetic Halo-multiplayer-type pace that is required for the LSAT.

    I still occasionally use it to study or just have fun, but it is ruled out for test day.

    Xanax, however, might come in handy.

    Caleb out.

  7. PS just read the article in the New Yorker. The Harvard guy, Alex, who was the first subject reported how, when on adderall, his papers were especially verbose and said in 2 pages what could have been said in 2 sentences.

    Then, ironically, I noticed that the article itself is 5 miles long and drones on and on and on. I think maybe "Alex" gave the author some of his adderall to try.

    Just a thought.

  8. My score went up six points with Adderall. True story.

  9. The people described above (researching, organizing, cleaning) were tweaking-out--which is absolutely a danger when using something like Adderall. The extreme attention to detail Adderall inspires for **non-ADD/ADHD** users is not easily controlled. Even if you have the best intentions to study or ace the test, you are in open water.

    Regarding caffeine (specifically pills): I highly doubt you will be pulling all-nighters to study for the LSAT. This isn't undergrad finals week. Take the time to study properly and care for yourself--take Steve's advice! If you don't have adequate time or don't believe you can do well without chemical intervention, postpone the test and get your mind right.

  10. I just read this entire article on Adderall and because of my intense interest and focus on your recommendations, I agree that it is not a good idea to take it while studying for/actually taking the LSAT. Thanks.

  11. This is all bullshit. You guys don't know what you're talking about.

  12. If people do this BEFORE they go to law school, what will they do during and after? Not good.

  13. I have been proscribed Adderall for 4 years now and let me just say it has done nothing but hinder my lsat performance including barring for for a year from taking the exam. Everything Steve stated is exactly what it does. I have now been studying not taking Adderall and my understanding and scores have increased dramatically. I was so stupid I wasted a year but God willing June it is.

  14. "You guys don't know what you're talking about."

    1) Which guys?
    2) [citation needed]