A Is For Adhd, Adderall, and Addiction

 

I grew up awkward, albeit obnoxious.  Life was a tangle of messy notebooks, forgotten homework, and fidgeting hands under my desk.  As I grew older the normal teen angst was magnified.  I lacked the ability to stand in the grassy quad and socialize in a calm manner.  I never grew out of the tap-them-around-the-shoulder-and-pretend-you-didn’t-do-it phase.  I ran and hit and ruffled hair.  Needless to say, I didn’t have many friends, especially of the female gender.  I looked forward to the end of day bell, when I could run into the bus and wait anxiously to get home.  Life was simple and dull as a melted crayon. I wanted something much more.  In the following years I came to the realization that “more” is a truly jaded word.  Each and every action has consequences- sometimes good others bad; we cannot escape the results of our actions.

 By the time I hit my junior year in high school I was past miserable.  My lack of friends and declining grades had been wearing on me over the years. My mom took me to see a psychiatrist.  After a single appointment I had a diagnosis of ADHD. I spent the next few months as a guinea pig, trying a range of medications.  One made it easy to pay attention but not sit still. Another kept me completely seated and physically calm but didn’t assist with the distraction.  By the middle of my junior year I was prescribed Adderall, the perfect combination of chemicals to focus and achieve a kinetic calm.  The impact of Adderall was immediate.  Grades composed of Ds and Cs quickly turned into A's and B's.  I began to form friendships and participate appropriately in social situations.  I became friends with Matt, who is now my pseudo brother.  The year prior I was his annoyance, we argued, one day I threw a cafeteria salad on his head and the rest of the time I just plain irritated him.  The meds changed our relationship.  Matt became the one who brightened up my day and consoled me when I was down.  I formed a close knit group of friends with Matt and two girls.  In classes I finally had reached the academic potential teachers had talked about for years. It was a miracle, I was fixed. 

Nothing comes without a fair price.  Adderall is a particularly potent and untargeted method of altering neurochemicals.  ADHD brains have areas that are too low on specific native chemicals.  The meds add a flood of these chemicals into the brain, replacing the missing ones.  Adderall is a mixture of amphetamines, these highly addictive chemical compounds cause treatment to be effective but dangerous physically and mentally.  For me Adderall replaced distractions with obsession.  Life had to be perfect, the polar opposite of before.  Homework assignments I would spend half the night writing over and over again.  I couldn’t tolerate writing a “Y” that wasn’t shaped right or a sloppy “n”.  Every letter must be perfect.  Every tiny object organized.  Every outfit must be matching, and clean.  Every bite of food must be calculated to calories.  It is not definitive if the obsession was a result of the change in brain chemical patterns or if I was doing it just to prove I could.  I didn’t eat for days sometimes.  My friends and parents began to notice.  I was fascinated with my ability to shrink, everyone else was worried.  After shedding 30 pounds in two and a half months, the doctor decided it was the meds.  His solution was to lower my dose.  I was not pleased.

I was cocky as a teenager: I knew more than the doctor about medication so I’m not listening to him.  When I was given the lower dose, I took multiple doses a day.  I truly believed I was right the way 17 year olds think they always are.  My mental and physical health began to decline and despite taking more Adderall than I ever had before, my concentration level was faltering.  Then there was rage.  My temper had become short and violent.  The walls of my bedroom were spotted with holes.  My knee and protruding hip bones became the weapon of my rage.  I convinced Matt to go on an Adderall binge with me and I stayed at his house for 2 days.  Talking, just sitting and talking for hours.  Watching the sun come up and wondering about the world beyond what we knew.  I was having fun, everyone else was trying to bring back the misery of the pre-medication era.

Between my Junior and senior year the Doctor decided to give me a summer med break.  To specify, he let me finish my current bottle of meds but would not write future prescriptions.  My last pill was swallowed on the last day of school.  I predicted the next day would be miserable.  I was wrong, it was hellish.  I was either screaming or sleeping.  The neurochemical results of amphetamine withdraw are easy to explain.  Adderall as an amphetamine is an old med, thus non-specific on where it loads the brain up with extra chemicals.  The results of these overages are common side effects such as euphoria and sleeplessness.  In most cases, the brain adjusts by lowering its self production of chemicals in oversaturated area.  This is the reason why most side effects don’t last for more than a few weeks with a regular reasonable dose.  However, when the body’s tolerance is impacted up to an extremely high dose, the brain has almost completely turned off its own chemical production in oversaturated areas.  By the time I stopped taking Adderall, my brain wasn’t producing enough on its own in these oversaturated areas, leaving me deprived of the ability to be happy, awake, and comfortable mentally and physically.  The type of body and mental pain one experiences from amphetamine withdraw is hard to describe.  My joints and muscles felt like they had been running for ten miles and my head ached and throbbed.  I wanted to scratch off my skin, to peel the corners of earth away.  There is something deep, bitter, and dark under the skin.  It’s impossible to understand without experiencing.   After hours of screaming, my mom finally called the Doctor.  The doctor refused to resend his orders.  I was too exhausted to put up a fight.  I spent the summer hiding in my room, fearing one of my friends would realize I was once again a hideous socially-awkward creature.  I dropped my AP Biology class for the next semester because I couldn’t complete the summer work.  When senior year started I was off Adderall.  The semester started out in a familiar way, bad grades, disappointed comments from teachers, and misery.  I had kept my friends but sitting and talking was forced.  It was boring. As the year progressed I was put on a lowered dose of Adderall.  The pills made life get easier, but the glory days I had loved were gone.  I switched Psychiatrist when I moved to Washington for college, whom changed me to a higher dose. Life began to taste sweet and a little familiar.

This is why I am back on the bus waiting anxiously to get to my destination.  The ride has changed since childhood; I’m going to the pharmacy.  This is my fifth trip in the last week.  The close of the pass caused a shortage of Adderall at the local pharmacies.  It takes aprox. Two hours to get to the pharmacy ask about the shipment and walk home.  My life revolves around assuring I have my pill every morning with breakfast.  I fear living without Adderall, I fear losing my friends and fiancé, and failing at life.  I believe that without Adderall I would be worthless but that’s the way it will be.  I will have to stop taking Adderall someday.  I’ve been on the med for a long consecutive period meaning that withdraw will be much worse.  I'm screwed.

 

magazinegirl magazinegirl
22-25, F
10 Responses Feb 25, 2009

As I read your story, I began to hear it in my daughter's voice. My beautiful, first born baby girl now almost a woman at 17, and she is addicted to Adderall. The pain, anxiety, insecurities, and worst of all hopelessness, is so familiar. I can barely type through my tears right now. I just tried to read your story aloud to my husband but I couldn't make it through with the lump stuck in my throat. My heart aches for you, and my daughter, and all the young people desperately seeking to grow in this messed up world we brought you into. As a parent in my early forties now, I see with a gift of clarity because my generation has been in a unique position. We all grew up experiencing so many huge changes in life and technology, probably more than ever in history. As a child in the seventies, life was still fairly simple and I used the kitchen wall phone with its rotary dial to whisper secrets to my BFF. Since the cord(I wonder if my children even know what that is), was only about 3 feet long so my mom or dad was almost always in earshot. Then we had the first VCR on the block. In my freshman year, I had typing class on an actual typewriter. Researching for a school paper involved a trip to the library with my mother to utilize the card catalog and first locate the books I needed to find the information. I met my first computer at school when I was almost an adult. My parents purchased our first home computer when I was already in college. The size of those things back then could measure up to the size of my new Samsung refrigerator. We quickly went from 8 track and actual vinyl records to cassettes,and discs of varying sizes and DVD's, and Blu Ray and HD, and 3D and on and on. My first cell phone at 21 was so big that ET probably could have phoned home with it. We all used to physically interact with one another, play outside safely, enjoy the gift of each sunny day. Now we just struggle to keep up with ourselves and pretend that its all so great. We keep ourselves so incredibly busy and running so fast that we don't even notice that no one is chasing us. Now the tears are coming stronger and my heart aches for all of us. Why are we surprised that no one ever feels they can measure up. Of course our children are seeking that magic pill to make all the troubles go away. We all want the easy way and forgot the most important lessons in life, such nothing worth having is ever easy getting. I always touted that line to the kids,.......... all while I spend 20 minutes shouting obscenities as I'm searching for the remote rather take the 30 seconds to get up and change the channel. Happiness and our perceptions are all up to each one of us. I desperately still hope that we can wake up and actually let ourselves enjoy anything. The Adderall has stolen my daughter's hope. Your last line cut me like a knife. The drug represents the path we are all on. And if the drug wins, we are all screwed.

Your post made me tear up...<br />
I have been taking this weird medication for 4.5 years now, and I realize more and more how badly I want out. But I want a decent existence too. I don't want to find that months after withdrawl I am somebody I hate. I don't want to feel miserable and spacey, I don't want thinking to be a tiresome chore, like trying to swim through heavy syrup. It's ******* scary to try and come off this stuff. This is kind of what I take away from your post.<br />
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But then again, you were so young when you were given Adderall! Maybe time would have changed those personality/academic issues you had. You're obviously very intelligent, so that can't be the reason you were messing up in school. Like you said, you were probably BORED, and insecure too. Smart people feel like this in high school, and develop all sorts of coping medhanisms (mine was being a space cadet, which of course landed me the classic ADD diagnosis) I hope your situation with the A. gets better, I believe in the power of the mind.

In reading all these posts I am scared.....my 11 year old daughter is on Adderall. Yes, we can tell a difference when she doesn't take the medication. Her grades fall from As & Bs to Cs & Ds. She has a terrible time focusing...even for simple directions such as to clean her room. Even on Adderall that seems to be an overwhelming task for her. I have to break it down for her or make a list. I know that she doesn't abuse the medication now....on the weekends she begs not to take it, because it upsets her stomach. The doctor says, however, that it is better for her stomach if she doesn't stop and start it. Believe me, after reading what you all have to say...I will keep a close eye for this and immediately take her off of it if it happens.

Omg... This is like me so much its scary... i wish i could write as well as you did just to describe that i know what you are going through.. aderal has ruined my life.. what it has left in my mind is misery, dought, fear, And paranoia on a extream level. I as well have thoughts that im some kind of creature.. set aside from the world for being insane.. but the thing is when i talk with some of the few friends i have they tell me no one notices... im just paranoid... This should be as illegal as coke and meth... i come to find so many people that have gone through aderal addiction suffer these patterns in brain chemistry.. and aderall is severely addictive so its not our falt if we are fed it every ******* day... i hate society for **** like this.. ive lost my friends.. feel so socialy awkward i cant stand it... and all my mind does is dose off into unreasonable parananoia... i was in 12th grade when i started abusing it, I was diagnosed with ADHD but things before all this were never this horrible... im in the same boat your in now... i started taking it again and things seem better... but im scared of what my mind will turn into once i stop taking it... i wish life didnt have to be like this...

dracena, adderol is meth. plain and simple, a very similar amphedamine. we're drugging our kids for gods sakes.

Honestly, you're probably just somewhat insecure. I say that for a few reasons, the first of which being that ADHD is a socially constructed mental disease, not a legitimate clinical disorder. There is no way to determine the physiological and or neurological responses your brain receives from certain stimuli, and whether or not those responses would clearly warrant a diagnosis of ADHD. Personally, if ADHD is real and not simply a complete social construction, then there shouldn't be more than 3% of the population affected by it. You need to go to rehab if you're taking the dosages you describe, there's no way you could get over the withdrawals effectively and safely without clinical assistance. Also, rather than focusing on finding medication, you should focus on finding the cause of your inability to pay attention, sit still, and comfortably socialize. Those symptoms could be caused by something that occurred long ago that you have consciously accounted for.

You're a great writer. And since literacy is a dynamic skill, you can probably write just as well without the adderall. Though I understand that motivation is hard to come by, it is not impossible to generate. I had severe ADHD all my life, but I still managed to do well without medication since I was persistent. And my parents had been tough with me, especially my dad who recognized some of his symptoms in me. I graduated from highschool with straight As and a scholarship. Back then, I knew I was different, but I wasn't even aware that my concentration problems had a name: inattentive ADHD. I was never hyperactive and since ADHD would always conjure up the image of a young boy bouncing of the walls, I didn't think that the diagnosis applied to me. Though I always did have social problems; somehow, all through the rubble that is often reminiscent of an ADHD life, I managed to keep a small circle of close friends. I don't know how they accepted me or even why, but they did. And, I am glad that we now go to the same University and that they understand my sense of humor. <br />
So, the moral is, don't give up. You will have to manage your ADHD symptoms all your life, and it will be difficult but no impossible. If life did not come with challenges, it wouldn't be worth living. Good luck and thanks for the story. I now know that the medication route may not be the best option, as everyone seems to glamorize it so.

You're a great writer. And since literacy is a dynamic skill, you can probably write just as well without the adderall. Though I understand that motivation is hard to come by, it is not impossible to generate. I had severe ADHD all my life, but I still managed to do well without medication since I was persistent. And my parents had been tough with me, especially my dad who recognized some of his symptoms in me. I graduated from highschool with straight As and a scholarship. Back then, I knew I was different, but I wasn't even aware that my concentration problems had a name: inattentive ADHD. I was never hyperactive and since ADHD would always conjure up the image of a young boy bouncing of the walls, I didn't think that the diagnosis applied to me. Though I always did have social problems; somehow, all through the rubble that is often reminiscent of an ADHD life, I managed to keep a small circle of close friends. I don't know how they accepted me or even why, but they did. And, I am glad that we now go to the same University and that they understand my sense of humor. <br />
So, the moral is, don't give up. You will have to manage your ADHD symptoms all your life, and it will be difficult but no impossible. If life did not come with challenges, it wouldn't be worth living. Good luck and thanks for the story. I now know that the medication route may not be the best option, as everyone seems to glamorize it so.

omfg do hav time to tell me that story again? i mean really that was probably the most interesting thing i have ever heard!

Wow, that is interesting. You should probably stockpile. Anyways, I took adderall a couple times and it was glorious. I can never seem to get a doc to prescribe it for me though... I just noticed something in the name as you said provides the full range of neurochemicals Add-er-all.