Netflix’s “Take Your Pills” tackles the dependence on Adderall that is growing in every nook and cranny of the American population. Composed of interviews with high schoolers, college students and Adderall users in the workplace, along with interviews with the ones who sit across the counter and write the prescriptions, “Take Your Pills” creates a sometimes chilling — an all-the-time intriguing — depiction of how Adderall may be changing the concept of modern human performance.
By nature of its style of documentary, “Take Your Pills” shies away from any grand sweeping statements about the use of Adderall and other analogous prescription drugs. The documentary instead provides history about the use of the drug as well as testimony from medical experts, allowing the viewer to form their own opinion. The tone of the documentary surrounding the drug certainly isn’t neutral, but it’s not a film made to scare anybody straight. “Take Your Pills” focuses less on how any one individual case of Adderall abuse can affect someone’s life and more on what had to have happened in the last century to get to this point.
The way the documentary tells the history of the drug since the 1930s is great, producing some of the best moments in the film as a whole. It provides an interesting perspective into the pharmaceutical boom of the second half of the 20th century, using amphetamine, the drug that would become modern Adderall, as an example of how alarmingly ready American society was to adopt a prescription practice without a second thought. The anecdote of school children being fed the drug by their administrators to increase docility in particular is interesting in its contrast to how the situation would be viewed today. The idea of children being given medication by their teacher without first going through a parent would be unbelievable in this day and age, yet, in the 21st century, the use of the drug is only increasing.
“Take Your Pills” chalks this up to what they call the “arms race of human capital” — a dressed up moniker used to describe the pressures placed on kids from a young age to do whatever it takes to knock out the competition and reach their potential, much of the artillery in this arms race coming in the form of things like a GPA or the SAT. All of this falls into one of their driving questions toward the end of the documentary, essentially asking what the world would lose if it became completely saturated by Adderall use. An interesting question — one that it seems the filmmakers believe soon might have to be answered.
The heterogeneous ensemble assembled for “Take Your Pills” is a highlight of the feature. The documentary never feels like it dwells on one aspect of the issue for too long, and seems to make it a point to give as many differing opinions on the subject that it can. The film’s fluidity was confusing to follow in the first 15 to 20 minutes, however once it became clear that it was not going to be a tightly character-driven documentary, it made sense. “Take Your Pills” benefits from this choice in the end. In a lot of ways, the documentary feels like something that will be shown in ninth grade health classrooms in 10 or 15 years, which, given the subject at hand, is just about as much as one could ask of the film. Whether that classroom will be filled with 25 13-year-olds wired on the super pill, or whether the Adderall craze will be a thing of the past, only time will tell.