#Film Review: Netflix’s Take Your Pills (2018)

Director: Alison Klayman

Rating: 4/5

Take Your Pills is yet another film on Netflix with good message and good intentions. In this documentary, we learn how the US Government focuses on regulating hard drugs, while soft drugs are sweeping through the US causing damage of mass proportions.

Therefore, drugs for treating ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are also used as so-called smart drugs mostly by college students who want to maintain very active social lives and still achieve outstanding results in their studies. In other words, some people want to have their cakes and eat it, and nobody is doing anything about it.

This phenomenon is a consequence of the society these youngsters live in, a society where the competition for jobs is very high and where everyone wants to have fun. Working hard to achieve something and sacrifice are obviously beyond imagination for the current generation. It is not their fault however. I believe that the fault lies with Government for not regulating this issue but also for allowing the demise of production and arts and crafts. As a result, there are no worker’s jobs and the whole society turned into a service industry. Nevertheless, those worker’s jobs that do exist are so poorly paid that everyone wants to go to study to get a better job. Because there are no decently paid jobs that do not require a degree, youngsters are encouraged to go to college to succeed, and thus this whole hysteria of having to go to college and be successful feels like a fraud of the century.

It is not that these young people do not have a mental capacity for achieving good results. Many simply do not have any academic interest but in a society where everyone has to succeed, as film also correctly recognises, everyone is going to colleges and thus also on Adderall. In other words, instead of doing something meaningful such as crafts and arts and living fulfilling and happy lives, people are studying something that does not interest them, like one of the speaker in the film who admits taking business modules because of job prospects even though it does not interest her. Thus, in order to pass assessments in a field that does not interest her (with an ultimate goal of obtaining decently paid job) she is taking Adderall and harming her health.

In addition, the film also shows that some working people take Adderall to keep up with their performance and make more money (e.g. in the finance industry), and thus nobody seems to be immune to the desire to succeed in an ever more competitive society and increasing pressures in work performance. The latter is outrageous really, because people are often asked to do more than is humanely possible, as it was boldly emphasised by one N.Y. Times editor who decided to take a redundancy after many years with N.Y. Times simply because of rising expectations that humans can no longer fulfill.

Many speakers in Netflix’s film are actual users of Adderall, however, they are not just those who use it for performance but also those with a genuine ADHD. Some of them are stunned that people take it for performance and feel almost betrayed that this drug is used by so many and yet many of those who have ADHD still suffer stigma. Nevertheless, one student hates the fact his parents forced him to use the drug, explaining how he was constantly switched on and unable to relax.

The disillusioned feeling among some speakers is also shocking. For example, one college student is convinced she will be get off Adderall once she finds a job and leaves college. The question is, if she cannot perform well in college without a stimulant how will she cope with pressures of the industry?

The film fundamentally, in my view, tackles inequality because it is very clearly emphasised that the rich have better chances in life, and an access to better stimulants. For example, while rich college kids can afford to buy Adderall (it is a prescription drug), poor kids buy meth, which has a similar effect but even more devastating consequences.

In addition, the film also tackles the issue of bad parenting and parental influence in creating a ‘must succeed’ society. It has been well known from academic research that some parents project their unfulfilled ambitions to children, but this film shows that some are going a step forward by forcing their children to take pills to make sure they ‘do something out of their lives’. Some even had the audacity to come to TV and say their son wouldn’t have accomplished what he did without being pushed to take the pills. What is more, they know their son did not want to take those pills because they were making him feel bad, but they forced him to do it anyway even with signs around the house reading ‘take your pills’.

My criticism of the film is that it starts in a way that is confusing the viewer. Until the last third of the film I kept wondering if the director is promoting the use of stimulants in order to enhance performance. Criticism of stimulants does come but only towards the end, which is very confusing and it can be dangerous in a world where the attention spam among youth is very low. Thus, a viewer can misunderstand the film, discontinue watching or loose concentration and assume that using Adderall is desirable to enhance performance. This leads me to another criticism, and that is the lack of mentioning of social media and its influence over younger generation. It is not just that college students want to have a rich social life. Many ‘have’ to have it to be able to  post excessively on social media. In addition, lack of concentration contributes towards decreased study performance and this then also comes from ‘reading’ content on social media rather than traditional newspapers and magazine (and don’t even get me started with books).

Overall, the film is worth watching and is well made. There are plenty of speakers and plenty of statistics. Speakers are diverse and come from all walks of life, and lots of effort has clearly been invested in the film.

Thank you for reading.



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