This post was originally published on April 30, 2015.
According to a story in Wall Street OTC, Americans have been using stimulants like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse to help them perform better at work. Yes, apparently they need studies to tell us things like this. In case this concept is new to you, here’s the deal: while these medications were created to treat very real attention disorders like ADHD, surveys have shown that people who do not actually suffer from these issues are acquiring prescriptions with ease from their doctors—possibly lying about their symptoms just so they can have a competitive edge in their careers.
And the Breaking News Is…?
There is nothing about this that would surprise any addict, or possibly any person. There is also nothing about this that is new. Americans have been using drugs to enhance and escape their existence since the mid-20th century—with Dexedrine in the 1950s, Valium in the 60s, Quaaludes in the 70s and cocaine in the 80s. People who are willing to turn themselves into science experiments for the sake of their perceived survival—whether it’s to complete their education, thrive in their career, manage taking care of their family or simply escape a reality that feels too painful—is hardly a new epidemic.
So what is all the fuss about? Apparently, the issue is that researchers are getting frustrated with all the misdiagnoses because it makes it hard to track abuse rates in adults. In fact, conclusive studies on adult usage don’t even exist because people have been so secretive about it. But if this kind of thing has been going on for decades, why is there so much shame in everyone’s game? Perhaps it’s fear—fear that Daddy will take their candy away.
The Threat is Real
Still, we know there is a problem. Up until somewhat recently, the Adderall game primarily belonged to college students who used it to cram for exams, but news of the secret weapon spread and evidence now shows a sharp increase in prescriptions for stimulants since 2007. This could, of course, be due to the fact that many of the original the Adderall generation’ers are now in the workplace and discovering that their need to succeed wasn’t exclusive to the classroom. Maybe these kids have grown up and taken their bad habits with them?
When I entered the workforce in 2008—arguably the worst time to start a career in America in my lifetime—jobs were scarce, paid nothing and the competition to land one fierce. I remember staggering into an early morning work meeting, high on Adderall, on time and alert, even though I’d pulled an all-night drinking bender the night before. It felt like a miracle. Of course, two hours into the meeting, I began to nod off and hallucinate. When I came to, I looked at the meeting notes I’d taken and realized I had written down my hallucinations instead. No one noticed. In fact, I was even complimented on my diligence in taking notes.
A report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 23,000 people between the ages of 18 and 34 were hospitalized for complications with stimulants since 2005—complications that included difficulty in breathing, hallucinations, dehydration and even cardiac arrest.
This may not be breaking news either but it seems that we can’t put trust in our doctors as much as we would like to. While many people do need drugs like Adderall to function—much like people with Rheumatoid arthritis need opiates—it can be a slippery slope into abuse and then addiction. Perhaps it’s time we place a little more responsibilities on doctors who spend one 45-minute session with a person and send them off with a prescription for speed and their fingers crossed.