A thing that happens when you’re diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 35, after quite a bit of life experience, is that you suddenly look back on all the work you’ve done in school, your career, etc., and wonder how much more you could have accomplished if you had been diagnosed earlier. You speculate whether you could have been more productive and accomplished had you known earlier on that the dragons you were always trying to slay were just a tad bit stronger and deadlier than those most people need to deal with. The same principle applies with a late diagnosis of depression or anxiety, or the fun combination of both that I have. But ADHD is its own special pain in the ass, because it is the definition of anti-productivity. Its primary afflictions are those that impact our executive functioning: the ability to plan and organize, focus our attention, utilize our working memory, inhibit our impulses in order to carry out the task at hand, exercise patience when sorting through a difficult task or unexpected roadblock, and solve problems. Neurotypical folks usually take the executive functions for granted, because to them, they are as automatic and natural as breathing. And many of us who are diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood have spent our lives unconsciously compensating for these deficits with our strengths in other areas.
Now, my view of my own skills and abilities has shifted from one of “this is just who I am and as much as I’m able to accomplish” to “I could be capable of so much more if I use the right tools and strategies.” One such tool is a prescription for one of the many ADHD medications available these days.
I was on Strattera, a non-stimulant ADHD medication, from about December through early February, and I won’t comment much on that except to say that it didn’t seem to work and gave me a bunch of unpleasant side effects. Now I am ten days into my first foray into the world of stimulant prescriptions. I will identify the drug I am taking by its brand name, Adderall, since many will recognize it, although I am actually taking a generic.
Funny thing about that, actually. I go to pick up my generic Adderall, and pull out a bottle labeled AMPHETAMINE SALTS. Ack! That doesn’t sound at all like something I should be putting in my body! I actually considered returning to the pharmacy to tell them they made a mistake. And then, via the power of Google, I learned what Adderall is: a highly addictive, highly valued street drug; beloved by college students, the overachievers, and the overweight; and a Schedule II controlled substance, in the same drug class as cocaine. Wheeeee!!!
Look, I was born in 1979, and although I remember vague references to “speed” throughout my childhood, I never really knew what that was. I knew it was bad though! Remember the so-called war on drugs? That crap worked on me, and as a result I was pretty terrified of any and all drugs, including alcohol and nicotine, up until I was done with high school. So even if I had learned more specifically about the amphetamine family of substances back then, I wouldn’t have been interested. And had I not been diagnosed with ADHD well into adulthood, I may have remained blissfully unaware that doctors cheerfully write out prescriptions for amphetamine cocktails to treat ADHD – both real and imposter forms – on the regular.
And no, I haven’t seen Breaking Bad. Let’s just get that little hilarity out of the way right now, shall we? I have long been familiar with the term “crystal meth,” but I never stopped to consider what was dropped from that second word in order to create this nickname for my Adderall’s wilder and sexier cousin.
So what happened next? In the exciting sequel to this post, I’ll tell you all about how my new friend
speed Adderall is beginning to impact the life of this CTWorkingMom.
Image Credit: “806.jp” by Сергей Панасенко-Михалкин – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.