Let’s talk about a different side of this “war on drugs” we all hear about. This is an excellent buzz word/phrase and it is easy for someone to assume that our country has this huge drug problem that needs to be addressed. All those pot smokers, cocaine dealers, and heroin users are really plaguing our society, after all…
Truth is, we have a HUGE drug problem that needs to be addressed, only it isn’t the illegal type of drugs that I am speaking of. Today, I would like to expose myself a little more than usual and tell you all about my completely legal prescription (and addiction) to Adderall, a common ADHD drug that was first prescribed to me when I was 23.
After seeing an array of therapists for 12 years, trying every medication under the sun to soothe my “depression”, I found a doctor who thought to prescribe me a medication for ADHD, which he claimed to be the source of my debilitating depression. I won’t go into depth about the numerous self-destructive tendencies I pursued to lead me to that moment, but I will say that I felt lost to this lifetime – I really didn’t think I would even make it into my twenties.
When I started this medication, my appetite plummeted and my ability to spend long hours at work and in my school books had been amplified to an astounding level. I partied nightly and worked full time with no real difficulty. In hindsight, this was a perfect blend of cocaine and speed. I took myself off the medication during my second pregnancy and had a difficult time when I resumed my dosage, approximately one year after having my daughter, Tessa. I was disappointed to see the weight loss was more gradual and the mood swings were ten times worse this time around. Still, I persisted in taking the drug because, compared to the depression, it was heaven.
Then, I started to notice the side effects. I went from happy to pissed off to weepy – in a matter of hours. Every. Day. I slept less than 25 hours per week. Worse still, I couldn’t paint because my hands shook like I was withdrawing.
Side Note: At all times during my relationship with Adderall, I was seeing a physician and was taking a prescribed dosage as well as having to physically see my doctor once a month to check-in. I did not abuse this drug by any means.
I took myself off again after we moved to Hawaii because I made the determination that I wanted to live a more natural lifestyle. My doctor had advised against it and told me that I may need medical help with the withdrawals. Still, I insisted on handling it on my own. At that point, I was living in a tent with my husband and two children. My husband held me nightly after the kids fell asleep, as I shook with chills from the withdrawals. I cried in private every day because I wanted nothing more than to die. This went on for weeks. Several months later, after relocating to Florida, I tried to re-acquaint myself with the medication for some time, only to find that my tolerance had exceeded the amount my doctor could prescribe. To me, this was a sign that now was officially the time for me to give up Adderall for good.
As of today, it has been approximately six months since I touched this medication, and roughly 60 pounds of weight gain that I struggle with on a daily basis. I am now able to see how the medication produced mood swings that destroyed my relationship with the people around me, as well as destroyed myself. I have been forced to evaluate my lifestyle and diet, now that I have an appetite for the first time in nearly six years. It urges me to look at my reasons for binge eating and a lifetime of avoiding all glances in a mirror. I have also reached depths of depression that would surely top any moment experienced in my adolescence. In truth, this has been the most difficult time of my life.
I am so grateful for this experience, despite the hardship that it has caused. I am happy to report that this lifelong depression I have faced is not actually a depression, it’s a lack of connection to this world and to the people who surround me, as well as to my true self. My ability to connect continues to improve as I discover more about myself and as I learn to love myself as I am – a very valuable life lesson. I do not wish to invoke sympathy with this posting, nor judgment for my actions. I simply wish for people to be aware of these “safe” prescription drugs that are provided to us and to our children. I would also love to offer support to anyone that has lived a life through the haze of Adderall and who may need some help coping with the detachment from this drug.
Ultimately, I hope to shed some light on the real “war on drugs”, as I know it to be.