I was assisting teach an alignment based technique workshop in August of 2016 on the beautiful island of Friday Harbor in Washington. Orchestrating this workshop was a dream of mine, and all I could focus on was getting more Adderall. I had run out early that week. I had three more days of the workshop, and I could not imagine teaching without my medication. Panic took hold. How would I even wake up for morning class? How would I drive students to town during lunch? How would I think, speak and teach? These thoughts clouded my mind and destroyed my judgment. I texted a drug dealer I knew in Seattle and asked him if he has an Adderall hookup. He said he might know someone. I lied to the instructor and told her I wasn’t feeling well, I then boarded a ferry and began the three-hour trek back to Seattle in hopes of getting more Adderall. I was addicted, I knew my behavior was insane and did not care.
Adderall is a potent stimulant used to enhance alertness and productivity. Adderall is a commonly prescribed medication for attention deficit disorder amongst high school and college students. I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) my first year of Graduate School. ADHD is a highly genetic, brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. These brain operations are collectively referred to as “executive functioning skills” and include vital functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation, and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization and social skills. Various contributing factors play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics.
Adderall quickly became my drug of choice and a gateway drug. Gateway drug theory is a comprehensive catchphrase for the medical argument that the use of a psychoactive drug can be coupled with increased probability of the use of further addictive substances. Possible causes are biological alterations in the brain due to the earlier drug and similar attitudes of users across different drugs. I thought Adderall would help me with my school load, but secretly I was using Adderall to cut off my emotions from a gut-wrenching break up. I knew Adderall would keep me focused on work and school and take away any distracting and upsetting feelings I had about my recent breakup. I knew Adderall would make me feel like I could do anything, help me get school work done, lose weight and feel like a legend doing it. According to Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr. DeAnsin Parker:
“Stimulants will help anyone focus better. And a lot of young people like or value that feeling, especially those who are driven and have ambitions. We have to realize that these are potential addicts–drug addicts don’t look like they used to.”
I was prescribed Adderall extended release and instant release as well as Vyvanse, another stimulant. Within a month, I was abusing all three medications. After three months, I was taking up to 1000 mg a day, 850mg over my prescribed dosage. As a result, I ended up in the hospital with a kidney infection. I got off the Vyvanse but continued to abuse my Adderall. I became dependent on Adderall to function. I had lost 30 lbs; I did not eat, I did not sleep. I began to drink and smoke pot every day to combat the effects of the anxiety I would have a result of the medication, I then started taking sleeping pills and Xanax to counter other side effects. I began exhibiting side effects of someone using meth or cocaine. Adderall can lead to severe and potentially deadly side effects. Overdose is one of the worst side effects of Adderall abuse can result in heart attack, stroke and liver failure.
Telltale signs of Adderall abuse may include:
- Being overly talkative
- Loss of appetite
- Unusual excitability
- Social withdrawal
- Financial troubles
- Sleeping for long periods of time
- Secretive behavior
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of appetite
- Sexual dysfunction
Adderall can also cause physical changes in the brain and lead to altered behaviors and cause depression and suicidal thoughts. An Adderall abuser experienced these altered behaviors and stated:
“My personality changed. I didn’t want to hang out with anybody. I wasn’t as funny. I lost my appetite, and I was irritable. In the first hour, I felt invincible, but when I started coming down, that was when all those negative side effects happened. I took more than prescribed because I did not want the negative side effects to hit me. Then I started selling it and used the money I got for other drugs.”
Those who develop a tolerance to Adderall will experience withdrawal symptoms. When I grew a tolerance to Adderall, it didn’t work for me like it used to. Adderall used to make me motivated and efficient, towards the end, it took me eight hours to clean a tile in my kitchen because I was so mentally dysfunctional. Despite the lack of effectiveness of the drug, I still relied on it. When I stopped taking it, I couldn’t think or function regularly for at least three months. I needed detox, residential and then an outpatient program to help me do daily functions that I relied on Adderall to help me achieve. If you or a loved one is suffering from Adderall addiction, you do not have to go through it alone. Having a community and a support network with like-minded people will help the rehabilitation process.