07 September 2009

What Were Those Side Effects Again? (Discussion about ADHD Medication.)

To clarify a bit about why I wrote this and decided to post it here: I wrote this on a "medications' review board" for Adderall on the side effects, and whether it actually helps even out the symptoms of ADHD or not- in my experience. I decided to post it here, because I have a close friend who, I just found out a few days ago, has taken Adderall habitually "just for the energy to do okay in school... and to lose weight." I was shocked, and honestly, pretty angry! Taking this medication "willy-nilly" can easily become an addiction and can be very dangerous- just like any illegal street drug, if you are not taking a medically prescribed amount for diagnosed ADHD! Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera, etc are not for weight loss or other recreational uses. Hopefully, if you've been thinking of somehow illegally obtaining it, you'll think again...

Typical side effects:
  • nausea
  • panic and/or anxiety
  • energetic, sometimes to the point of mania
  • sleeplessness, "drained," or physical exhaustion
  • extremely painful, involuntary jaw-clenching
  • long-lasting, acute tension headaches
  • lower back aching
  • dry lips and mouth, which leads to chewing on lips compulsively
  • weight loss (resulting from other side effects, such as lack of appetite, maniacal physical activity, and dry mouth)
  • feeling strong compulsions to do repetitive or "perfecting" tasks (eg, wasting ten full minutes lining up a pen and pencil so they are "perfectly" parallel)
  • worsening of obsessional thoughts (I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder before taking Adderall)
  • fluctuation between excessively dry or oily skin
  • mild mood swings while taking it (I have been diagnosed with multiple co-morbid mental illnesses), but...
  • severe depression, suicidal ideation, mania, and/or rage, if I miss a full day's (or two) of the medication
  • overwhelming urge to smoke much more than I typically do
  • chronic constipation, until the moment I eat something, which causes...
  • severe and urgent diarrhea (hey, don't get all "ewww!" on me- these are the cold, hard facts!)
I take 10mg of Adderall 3x/day for ADHD, after being diagnosed in February 2008; however, my mother is absolutely sure I have had it for years (since I was a very young child). I'm not sure, but I believe that all of these typical side effects happen when I have:
  • Unintentionally mixed the medication with too much caffeine- that is, several cups of black tea or a few large cups of coffee.
  • Stupidly forgotten to take my medication for a day, and then resume taking the medication the next day.
  • Been getting over a very bad flu, or have otherwise suppressed immune system.
Only within this last week or so, when I've been in the utter pits of despair due to being sick with the flu, have I ever noticed the sheer amount of cigarettes that I've been puffing through, or the painful extent of how hard and often I was clenching my jaw. I now feel as though my cheeks are puffed with acorns, and I can't completely close my mouth due to a "phantom" or "perceived" dislocated jaw. The same goes for pretty much all the other side effects listed above.

On a positive note:

It took me so long, with my mother actually agreeing to come and talk to the psychiatrist about my childhood, to convince my doctor to prescribe me some form of medication for ADHD. Sadly, after years of hardcore therapy, I've come to realise that an illness I suffer from (anorexia nervosa) stems from the need to calm myself down, and thus cutting out foods (that is, energy) to do so. Fifteen or more years and multiple hospitalisations and treatment centres later, I was relieved to find someone that would finally, though hesitantly, prescribe me a small dose of Adderall, just to see if it would help. And it most definitely did. Yes, there are times when I am still blurry and hazy when it comes to getting things done or wander while trying to get a point across, but Adderall (due to proper dosing and medical supervision) has helped me a lot.

And now, the final topic I'd like to address:

For those of who who've decided to buy these drugs off your friends to help you "study for a test," or (God forbid) to "lose a little weight" (No, it's not permanent!), you are making it all the more difficult for the patients who truly need Adderall in order to get through the day. I have found it nearly impossible to find a doctor or psychiatrist who will prescribe it here in my hometown, and their explanation is always the same- "We don't prescribe medications like Adderall for ADHD because someone else may get a hold of it and sell it to people wanting to get a kick."

So! For those of you who pop pills to stay up all night and cram, in order to do well on that test:
  • Stop procrastinating- do the homework and studying throughout the course like you're supposed to
  • Finish your homework ahead of schedule, instead of losing sleep, popping Adderall, and getting it done 1 hour before it's due- you're only fooling yourself if you think you'll ever be able to pass the mid-terms or final later on
  • Remember that you will most likely not remember much of what you've studied, and in fact, may even do worse on the impending test, because the brain actually needs "rapid-eye movement" (REM) sleep in order to consolidate memories- that means that, even though you've stayed awake all night cramming, you're probably only going to really remember the last few pages, exercises, etc of what you studied the night before

For those of you who "just wanna/need to lose weight" by taking Adderall, I challenge you to:
  • Learn how to eat appropriately and exercise adequately, by seeing a dietitian if possible
  • Start advocating for positive and healthy body image by ditching the gossip magasines and sticking to non-aesthetics based television channels or websites- for example, if you have cable, block E!, VH1, MTv, Style Network, etc- while even perhaps seeing a therapist to work out the deeper issues with self-esteem
  • Remember that Adderall is highly-addictive medication- if used by individuals without ADHD, it can cause the same amount of devastating damage of a street drug like cocaine or speed; do you really want to jeopardise your long-term physical and mental health in order to temporarily lose a few pounds? If you "just don't care"- definitely get your bum into a therapist's office now! I don't want to make any assumptions about your mental health, but you've obviously got some deeper issues you need to work on, in order to live a full and happy life!

Anyway, sorry for the novel. Just some "food for thought."


  1. PS I used to take adderall on days I had to open at Starbucks [not all the time, but when I could get it] and Ill admit it helped me immensely. I was awake and I was able to really interact and serve the customers. I also only desired water, my heart raced, my hands shook...and coming down from that buzz was rough on me.
    I can see why people take it even if they aren't prescribed it...based on how it can make difficult tasks bearable...but I also know that it was stupid of me to take. For all the reasons you have mentioned. [And I havent done so since April!]
    It's an amphetamine. That should say it all right there.

  2. Yes, I wrote this. :) Thank you for the compliment!

    And yeah, sure, the pro is that you become maniacally focussed, and "it can make difficult tasks bearable." But as I pointed out (and you, as well), it only lasts awhile. Also, once you get addicted to the "easy 'coping' pill," you start wanting it, needing it. It becomes like any other street drug, like I mentioned. You start taking WAY too many, and the effect is less and less. And that's when things get REALLY dangerous.

    My whole point in writing this was to explain that if someone feels they "need" to take ANY sort of drug (Adderall included, when it's not medically regulated), it means there's some other issues they need to come to terms with. Just like anorexia/bulimia nervosa, alcohol addiction, smoking (yes, I need to quit, but I'M ADDICTED), compulsive shopping/gambling, etc, taking Adderall so you can be "awake and able to really interact" with people/customers is a flashing red light, warning siren, blatant alarm for substance abuse.

    Yep, it's an amphetamine combo, for sure. I take a generic form, which is basically a combo of "salts," so to speak. Weirdness. But yeah, "that should say it all right there," as you said. ;)

    Glad to hear that you've stayed away from it since April. I hope this hasn't triggered any urge, because honestly, you KNOW the side effects.

  3. It hasnt, at all :)
    My boyfriend has a prescription. The only time I'd ever use it was for opening at Starbucks. Seeing as I am no longer working for that company I know longer have a desire or 'need' for the pill.
    Now I just stick to my own prescribed anti-anxiety pills that may not give me energy [in fact, they make me woozy] but they strip away some anxiety and shyness which I experience.
    I also think removing myself from toxic co-workers and early waking hours has helped me, personally.
    While the whole appetite suppressant thing DOES seems enticing in the moment, in the long run, for some many reasons, it is not worth it. Not at all. [Sorry about the horrendous structure of that sentence].

    As for the smoking, good luck! My bf smokes, too, and while I don't like being around it...I know it is up to the smoker to quit. There is nothing I can do to MAKE him quit until he is ready. You have to want it first. So, your time will come, if quitting is what you want. My dad smoked for 30 years and has been cigarette-free for...maybe 15 years? It's that evil nicotine, I tell you. Good luck!

  4. *I no longer have a desire...
    [I wrote "know", ugh]


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