Fighting A.D.H.D with Amphetamines


Ryan Williams, Contributor

Everyday I look at my pill box with each day of the week on it, looking at whatever Ritalin or Adderall alternative I’d be taking at that time. I can’t do anything without it, because without it I feel seemingly non-functional. 

I always knew that I wasn’t “normal,” noticing more and more each year I was in school. I would get pulled out of class to get my dosage of adderall or get my Wednesday special counseling. It wasn’t drastically life changing though, I still had the ability to make friends, maybe not as well as other people, but I still had some of the skills needed to make them. Take my adderall away though, and that would noticeably change. 

Having A.D.H.D always felt like a fight for me, treating it as something I got because I got a bad hand at life. Being diagnosed with it at six years old, I didn’t even really know about my diagnosis until middle school. I thought being pulled out of class for my medication everyday was just a time or medical thing, thinking that other kids would do something like this at home. 

Every year I felt more and more detached from the feeling of being normal. I didn’t know at the time, but I was trying to convince myself that I was like every other kid I went to school with, just a normal, average kid. I didn’t really accept the fact that I had a struggle until sixth grade, the year I went off meds. 

Adderall has many side effects that people don’t know about, like shortened appetite. Because of this, I ate around a meal and a half every day. Not because I didn’t want to eat, I just couldn’t. The adderall affected my appetite so much that I couldn’t stomach food without feeling ridiculously full after. My mom wanted me off the medication when she started to realize that I was unhealthily skinny for my age. The week I got off of adderall I started gaining weight, which made me a healthier person. 

It wasn’t all good that I went completely off adderall however, as my grades started to slip immediately. I had trouble focusing in every single class I had, and I always fell behind. At least once a week I would have the embarrassing moment of a teacher calling on me because they knew I wasn’t paying attention. Moments like these and not being able to keep up made me hate what I had. 

In seventh grade, I started taking a new alternative to adderall, known as Vyvanse. Vyvanse did practically the exact same thing as adderall, only it didn’t affect your appetite.  But I still felt like I was falling behind. This medication wasn’t much better than adderall, I built a tolerance to Vyvanse quickly since I was taking the drug everyday, making my normal 30 mg dose practically useless. 

I had to up my dosage every couple of months, then I would take a break, and I did that cycle for a couple years. Each year it felt my A.D.H.D was getting worse, and I did nothing but try to fight it. Whether it was going through the first stages of grief or just giving in to my mind’s urge to space off and do whatever it wanted me to do. 

These actions only got worse with the coronavirus pandemic. Not only did I go off medication for a whole year, but all of online school felt like a free ticket to piss off and do whatever I wanted. I didn’t pay any attention to any of my classes, and I would do the absolute bare minimum to get by. There would be times where I would sit through a virtual class for an hour and a half, and not retain a single bit of information because I sat there and did nothing. 

Everyday I thought, “I didn’t pay attention today, I’ll be fine next year when I actually have to.” That was the most wrong I have ever been about anything. I had to go back on medication only a couple months back in school, all because of the fact I couldn’t pay any bit of attention whatsoever. 

Having A.D.H.D felt like a disease to me, feeling like everything I did was hindered by it. Seeing all of my friends excel in advanced classes made me feel like I was less than them. I despised having A.D.H.D and I despised myself. 

But like I mentioned before, medication doesn’t fix everything, and I felt as the shorter my attention span was the worse I felt about everything. I started feeling awful about myself, looking at all the grades I got and my lack of retention for information. This hit me especially hard in Algebra 2 and English class, feeling like if I spaced out for even a second I would miss everything. I felt like I would never catch up. 

The way I’m writing this article makes it seem like it’s something only I go through, but this is way more common than it seems. About 4.4% of all adults in the United States have some form of A.D.H.D, and 45,000,000 people take some form of adderall. When this many people rely on medication like this and there’s a shortage, there is a huge problem for anyone taking it. 

At that point I had practically accepted the fact that I wasn’t really like anyone else, and that this “disease” I thought I had was something that would hinder me more and more for the rest of my life. 

I stopped taking Vyvanse again for the summer, and I felt drastically better. The lack of amphetamines in my system helped me live my life as I wanted to, with the lack of responsibility of being in school. 

But the lack of medication came back to bite me in the beginning of senior year, as I immediately started falling behind, making me feel like I was nothing without a pill. 

With this I had to accept something, the fact that this wasn’t something I could fight. This is something I have to live with for the rest of my life, and there is no cure. Medication may suppress it, but it will never fix it.