Adderall, a prescription stimulant most commonly used to treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, has been frequently abused since it was first introduced to the pharmaceutical market in 1996. According to a recent study published by John Hopkins University, the rates of Adderall abuse among young adults has been on the rise over the course of the past several years. (1) Emergency room visits associated with Adderall have been rising since the early 2000s, and misuse was found to be highest among individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. Most of these young men and women obtain the prescription stimulant from family members or friends without a written prescription or the recommendation of a medical professional.
While much of the media focus still lands on illicit opiates like heroin and prescription painkiller abuse, it is important to note that “study drugs” like Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta are being frequently abused and are resulting in vast destruction as well. We sat down with a young woman who has suffered at the hands of an Adderall abuse disorder for quite some time, and who recently entered into a long-term program of addiction recovery. While we asked her many questions about her active substance abuse and subsequent recovery, please feel free to reach out to Chapel Hill Detox with any additional questions you may have. If you believe that you are someone close to you has been suffering from an Adderall abuse disorder or has been actively abusing any other prescription stimulant, it is important to note that medically monitored detox is an important first step. For more information on our individualized and comprehensive detox program, reach out to us today.
CHD: Thank you for agreeing to interview with us today! Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about your introduction to Adderall, and what the early stages of substance abuse looked like for you:
Carmen: I was first introduced to Adderall when I was a freshman in college. My roommate had a prescription, and one day she noticed that I was studying for a big test and she asked me if I wanted something that would help me stay engaged. I had obviously heard about Adderall before, and I knew that it was considered a study drug, but I had never taken it before that day. I just remember feeling like I was so much more capable than I was before, like I was so focused and alert and even like, excited to study. I remember having a hard time sleeping that night and being like, “Okay, this actually sucks. I need to wake up early. This is totally not worth it.” But then the next day, I was thinking about taking more all throughout my classes. I was wondering how I could get my hands on more, if I could find someone with a prescription and pay them on like, a weekly basis or something. I honestly feel like I became psychologically addicted super quickly.
I asked around a little bit because I didn’t want my roommate to get suspicious or anything. I found someone who had a prescription and who sold the pills for like, $6 a pop or something close to that. I bought a handful at one time and I went through them pretty quickly. At first, I was still using them before a big test or when I was writing a paper, but then I started taking them before going out and then just kind of on a day-to-day basis. I had a sneaking suspicion that this was going to develop into something more sinister, and I knew that was the case when my friend and I started emptying out the contents of my roommate’s pills when she was at class and refilling the capsules with vitamins. This was super screwed up, because she was actually prescribed the medication because she needed it.
CHD: What kind of consequences did you experience as a result of your Adderall abuse?
Carmen: Oh my goodness, the worse my addiction got the more consequences I experienced. It got bad. At first, I was just losing a lot of sleep and losing a lot of weight, which was really dangerous because I had struggled with an eating disorder in the past. I was kind of like a zombie all day long, and I also started getting really anxious – I had never struggled with anxiety in the past. I was getting to the point where I was taking like six or seven 20mg pills every day, before class, before work, before going out… if I was doing anything, I needed Adderall in order to do it. My grades started slipping because I was so scatterbrained all the time. I was actually on academic probation for a little bit. My boyfriend broke up with me because he found out that I had been stealing his Concerta. I started drinking pretty heavily to balance out the effects of the Adderall, and soon I was drinking in the morning after not sleeping all night – it was just a mess. I was totally out of control, and I was completely miserable. I felt like I had totally lost my grip on reality.
CHD: What made you decide to stop using and reach out for professional help, and what steps did you take to get the help that you needed?
Carmen: I didn’t go home for Christmas my sophomore year of college because I didn’t want my family to see what a mess I had become, so I just stayed alone on campus and popped pills and drank myself into a stupor. I cried myself to sleep every night, literally. I hated myself so much, I hated what I had become and how little control I had over my own life. I had a friend, it was actually the friend who would help me steal Adderall from my roommate my freshman year, who had gotten increasingly concerned about me. He told me that he thought I should go to rehab or at least go check out a 12-step meeting. I didn’t want to stop, even though I was severely unhappy and at this point, I was even considering suicide. I wound up in a psychiatric ward because I hadn’t slept in several days and I did start threatening suicide. from the psych ward I went directly into a 3-month long inpatient program.
CHD: What does your recovery look like now?
Carmen: Now I’m almost 2 years sober, I have a 3.8 GPA, and I feel like I’m back in control of my life. I still look back and wonder how I let things get so out of hand, but I guess that I just have an addictive personality and I wasn’t aware of that before. I’m genuinely happy now, and I had completely forgotten what it felt like to actually laugh and smile and mean it. Things are just good, they’re honestly better than they have ever been.
CHD: If you could offer advice to someone who has been struggling with prescription stimulant abuse but who has not yet reached out for help, what would you say?
Carmen: I was embarrassed to reach out for help, because I thought that I should be able to handle stuff on my own. It also just feels like, I don’t know, struggling with Adderall addiction isn’t as “cool” as struggling with alcoholism or heroin addiction or something like that. It was just embarrassing, and I let that prevent me from reaching out for help sooner. If I was to give advice to someone, I would just say if you feel like you need help now, go out and get it. Don’t wait until things get really bad and you’re being held down in a psych ward because you’re seriously out of your mind. You only get one life, and there’s no sense in wasting it at the hands of a substance abuse disorder. If you’re battling an addiction there’s no way that you can live the way you’re meant to live and reach your full potential. There’s just no way.