This woman’s scary Adderall addiction story is one we all should read
Casey Schwartz is a woman from New York who became addicted to Adderall. She beautifully shared her story with The New York Times, and it’s a story everyone should read. Because even though Adderall may seem safe and unassuming for a drug, it can be highly addictive.
As you may know, Adderall is the brand name for a mixture of amphetamine salts and it’s used to treat ADD and ADHD.
Schwartz pointed out that according to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 3 to 5 percent of school-age American children were diagnosed with ADHD in 1990. And by 2013, that number rose to 11 percent and continues to rise. The more people who are diagnosed with ADHD, the more people who are prescribed Adderall.
"By the mid-2000s, adults were the fastest-growing group receiving the drug," Schwartz wrote. "In 2012, roughly 16 million Adderall prescriptions were written for adults between ages 20 and 39, according to QuintilesIMS, an information-and-technology-services company that gathers health-care-related data."
According to a review published in 2012 in the journal Brain and Behavior, by 2004, Adderall was the second most common form of illicit drug use — second to marijuana. The major problem is, almost no research has been done on the long-term effects of Adderall in humans.
"In a sense, then, we are the walking experiment, those of us around my age who first got involved with this drug in high school or college when it was suddenly everywhere and then did not manage to get off it for years afterward — if we got off it at all," she wrote. "We are living out what it might mean, both psychologically and neurologically, to take a powerful drug we do not need over long stretches of time. Sometimes I think of us as Generation Adderall."
Schwartz was a sophomore at Brown University the first time she took Adderall. She had a five-page paper due the following day, and had only just begun to read the book. So her friend offered her Adderall, the drug that made the friend “stay up all night doing cartwheels in the hallway.”
Staying up all night is exactly what Schwartz needed at that exact moment, so she took two blue pills.
And they worked. She not only finished the book that same night, she cranked out an amazing paper — something she felt she couldn’t do without the drug in the same amount of time.
Adderall was readily available to her on campus, and she took it frequently — but she felt like it was frequently enough.
"My Adderall hours became the most precious hours of my life...I now needed to locate the most remote desk in the darkest, most neglected corner of the upper-level stacks, tucked farthest from the humming campus life going on outside. That life was no longer the life that interested me. Instead, what mattered, what compelled, were the hours I spent in isolation, poring over, for instance, Immanuel Kant’s thoughts on 'the sublime.'"
The drug gave her the false energy she needed to accomplish everything she wanted to in her day — and none of it involved communicating with her peers.
"Adderall wiped away the question of willpower," she wrote. "Now I could study all night, then run 10 miles, then breeze through that week’s New Yorker, all without pausing to consider whether I might prefer to chat with classmates or go to the movies. It was fantastic. I lost weight. That was nice, too."
She communicated the only way the drug allowed her to.
"Though I did snap at friends, abruptly accessing huge depths of fury I wouldn’t have thought I possessed," she added. "When a roommate went home one weekend and forgot to turn off her alarm clock so that it beeped behind her locked door for 48 hours, I entirely lost control, calling her in New York to berate her. I didn’t know how long it had been since I’d slept more than five hours. Why bother?"
Eventually, she wasn’t even able to complete her school work. Her life had become unmanageable. After not sleeping for several days in a row, she even ended up in the hospital. The diagnoses: “Anxiety, amphetamine induced.” AKA a panic attack.
Schwartz ended up dropping out of school and moving back to New York. She promised to stop taking the drug and began sorting through her essays she wasn’t able to cope with while taking amphetamines. What she didn’t know then, but knows now, is that Adderall effect on cognitive enhancement is ambiguous.
Martha Farah, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the drug and concluded that “lower-performing people actually do improve on the drug, and higher-performing people show no improvement or actually get worse.”
Schwartz moved to Los Angeles and was working as a private tutor for high-school kids, many of who were addicted to Adderall.
She ended up hanging out with the wrong people and found herself taking more pills a day than she could count.
For years she tried quitting the drug, and eventually succeeded with the help of a psychiatrist she credits with saving her life. She was finally able to live again, and of course, write her story.
If you or a loved one is addicted to Adderall, just know that you’re not alone and that you do have resources. Visit Addictioncenter.com — there’s a confidential helpline you can call.