My Fourth Day On Adderall

Almost three weeks ago, I was diagnosed by a doctor with ADHD. I’d thought about getting this checked out for about 15 years after learning from a sex addiction counselor that every one of her clients had ADHD.

I only did something about my problem when people I love plead with me to get this examined.

On Thursday, Thanksgiving, I began taking my prescribed medication – two 5mg pills a day of Adderall. I’m now on day four of this new experience.

According to Wikipedia:

Adderall is generally well-tolerated and effective in treating symptoms of ADHD and narcolepsy. At therapeutic doses, Adderall causes emotional and cognitive effects such as euphoria, change in sex drive, increased wakefulness, and improved cognitive control. At these doses, it induces physical effects such as a faster reaction time, fatigue resistance, and increased muscle strength. In contrast, much larger doses of Adderall can impair cognitive control, cause rapid muscle breakdown, provoke panic attacks, or induce a psychosis (e.g., paranoia, delusions, hallucinations). The side effects of Adderall vary widely among individuals, but most commonly include insomnia, dry mouth, loss of appetite, and weight loss. The risk of developing an addiction or dependence is insignificant when Adderall is used as prescribed at fairly low daily doses, such as those used for treating ADHD; however, the routine use of Adderall in larger daily doses poses a significant risk of addiction or dependence due to the pronounced reinforcing effects that are present at high doses. Recreational doses of amphetamine are generally much larger than prescribed therapeutic doses, and carry a far greater risk of serious adverse effects.

Before I took my first pill, I was warned by friends about Adderall’s dangers such as addiction and loss of sleep. Those people in my life with the most negative views of Adderall were generally addictive personalities and single (and who had abused Adderall in the past and thus got into trouble with it), and hence on the margins of life, while those most supportive of my trying this medication were securely-attached and married, and hence in the middle of life.

My initial experience of Adderall was disappointing. I felt no surge of energy or productivity or euphoria. I felt medicated. I didn’t feel like myself. I lost no sleep, however, and felt no negative side-effects beyond that general medicated not-myself feeling.

The changes I’ve experienced with Adderall have been subtle. I notice myself cleaning more (I vacuumed my room for the first time in ten weeks) and taking care of routine tasks (such as ordering new jeans on Amazon and throwing away my old torn jeans as well as replacing fluorescent light bulbs that emitted a hum with no-hum non-fluorescent light bulbs) that I previously let slide.

I now notice that when I read, I have no desire to listen to music at the same time (which was my habit). I notice less impulsivity and a greater calm when dealing with mundane details.

I’ve spent my life blurting out inappropriate things and walking around with a fear that no matter how precious the relationships I enjoyed, I would inevitably damage them by saying the wrong things. Under the influence of Adderall, I don’t have that fear any more.

I may have caused more needless pain to people by this one trait of inappropriate speech than all my other traits put together, and this bad habit might well get cured by one simple pill.

I’ve spent my life finding it exceedingly difficult to focus on details that are not exciting. This has caused me to be compulsively careless, and to walk around with a fear that I will compulsively miss important details at any moment and thus hurt innocent people as well as myself. I don’t have this fear anymore.

In 12-step programs, we often say that there is no non-spiritual solution to a spiritual problem. At the same time, there may be all sorts of non-spiritual problems such as ADHD to which there is no spiritual solution.

We live in a post-modern world where no single narrative is sufficient to make life cohere. Spirituality is not enough. Religion is not enough. Medicine and psychology are not enough. We need multiple narratives and complex hero systems.

If you have an emotional addiction, you might want to get checked out for ADHD as well as get an overnight sleep test. It’s hard to improve your life when you are acting out and getting inadequate sleep.

I went on Modafinil in June of 2013 and it mildly helped me with my ADHD symptoms (modafinil is not prescribed for ADHD but for wakefulness). I’ve now quit Modafinil to try Adderall as my sole medication.

I’d love to get a more dramatic boost to my life by trying a higher dose of Adderall but I’m grateful to miss the negative side-effects with this low 10mg a day dose. I might hang out here a while. Excitement can wait.

Bernard: “How can you really appreciate the good days, good health, good company without the bad days, bad health, bad company, etc? You take things for granted if you don’t get the bad experiences.”

No matter how much you improve your life, you will always have bad experiences, and you will always take things for granted. There is no magic pass for leaving the human condition.

I have no history with abusing prescription medication. For example, I never doubled-up on my prescribed modafinil. I don’t expect to start wrecking myself now.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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