As a college student, I knew why I shouldn't use study drugs, and I didn't let that stop me.
A part of me still loves addy.
The overachiever in me does—the part of me that would gladly trade in my well being for a good day’s work.
I had my first taste of adderall xr late in my college experience—less than six months out from graduation. A new friend had gotten it for me. I tried to pay him back, but he wouldn’t accept the money, likely because he was trying to get in my pants. (Whether or not he succeeded is yours to imagine.)
At this point, I’d experimented with other drugs, but all of them were recreational. All of these drugs were designed to break reality, break the monotony, break the overachiever in me. Adderall was the first drug that took that inner drive and revved it up.
That makes adderall the most dangerous drug I’ve ever taken. It wasn’t the craziest drug—it didn’t make me run into traffic or sleep with random men—but it was in a good position to do the most damage. I—thankfully —never became an addict, but had I started using it a little earlier, or had I had direct access to the dealer, I might have.
Take my workaholism—my need to be forever striving toward an endgame, my hatred of mistakes, and my desperation to be better than the dumb kid I was yesterday. Add in a little orange pill that strips away doubt and hesitation and distraction. Throw in some looming deadlines and unresolved childhood trauma. That’s a recipe for a college student dependent on study drugs, and I’d bet this month’s student loan money that it’s cooking up for some other kid right now.
What disturbs me, and what researchers and social workers and therapists don’t seem to realize, is that I was fully aware of the dangers of taking adderall before I took adderall. In fact, I researched it fairly thoroughly.
- I knew it was addictive—but I’d been addicted to cigarettes and quit those, right? I was (sort of) careful and never took more than one every week, but I could get antsy when my friend’s dealer, whom I never met, was unable to supply.
- I knew it spiked my heart rate—So did high intensity workouts. I still guzzled coffee and energy drinks for extra energy during the high.
- I knew it would affect my brain—the only thing I value more than my face. But what’s the point of having a brain if you’re not going to use it? Burn out or fade away, right?
All of this information was really easy to find on the internet, and I think I can safely bet this was intentional. Health officials believe that if young people fully understand the consequences of their actions, they’ll be less likely to put something they shouldn’t in their body.
I try to be objective about it when weighing whether or not it was the right decision. There’s a long list of things I was able to do.
I finished projects.
When I say that, I mean I would blow through school assignments in two hours when they would normally take me a day. At that time, my assignments were often complex—the types with several variables in various platforms. (My personal favorite was transmedia storytelling.) Yet, regardless of how much data there was to sift through, or how many new ideas there were to dream up, I was unfazed. I would sit at my desk, I would start my work, and I wouldn’t get up until I finished.
And then I would move onto the next project.
I stayed up all night.
Even after the adderall wore off, my brain would still be unable to truly relax. I have a personal policy dictating that if I lie in bed for more than two hours and am still unable to sleep, I get up and do work until I get tired again. This happened almost every night after I swallowed the pill, but being more proactive couldn’t be a bad thing.
Sometimes I would go back to sleep.
I impressed my peers and made my professors proud.
Adderall is, after all, a means to an end.
Doing my work quickly doesn’t mean I half-assed it and tossed it to the wolves. It means I had more time to polish and refine my work before the deadline.
Those who worked alongside me in group projects were grateful for my “dedication” and the instructors I admired so much “admired the mastery and application of my skills.”
I did my chores.
I lived in an apartment with two other girls, and we all identified as “the creative type.” And supposedly, messiness is a sign of genius, or maybe it’s just a smartass excuse.
Either way, there’s comes a point when it can’t be ignored that your home looks like the aftermath of a tropical storm. So I dug my heels in and cleaned. Maybe it’s not satisfying/ fulfilling work, but it had to be done. Addiction doesn’t discriminate races, and adderall doesn’t discriminate tasks.
I snapped at my roommate.
Everyone reacts to drugs differently.
I am the quiet type, and deep down, I can be a bit of a loner. Normally, this isn’t a problem, as I can function in social situations well enough that I don’t get arrested. Adderall, however, exacerbates the distasteful personality trait. I wind up locking myself in my room, reveling in uninterrupted creative flow. Hoping to, anyway.
My roommate at the time was nothing like me. We were friends and we got along well, but at her core, she was the type who needed interaction. Insecurities, or just plain manners, caused her to be rather reserved while sober.
Adderall took those insecurities, manners, or whatever it was protecting me, and it tossed them out the window.
We used adderall at the same time one day (it was actually her first time) and every fifteen minutes she would be knocking on my door. It would never be anything important—“hey, I cleaned the sink,” or “I’m going to call the exterminator”—and after a while, I had to defend my work hours.
I’m not proud of the way I can treat other people, but I’m obviously willing to risk my personal health for this. It should come as no surprise that I’d risk my friendships.
I’m normally pretty good at handling my emotions, but I was no match for an adderall crash.
It should be noted that not everyone crashes. I’m actually the only person I’ve met who’s crashed from adderall. After all the homework was done, I would feel exhausted and down about myself. All that work, and I didn’t even get to feel content.
But crying is supposed to relieve stress and induce the release of endorphins, according to people who call themselves experts. Just because I hate it doesn’t mean it’s bad for me, right?
This is stupid. Call it what it is—another fucked-up kid took her search for pride too far.
I’d like to say that I don’t take adderall anymore because I know better, but it’s probably because I don’t have access to it right now. Knowing what it does to human biology in general, and well aware of what it does to me specifically, I would do it again, for that piece of work I won’t be content with.
I’m not calling for health officials to stop their campaign to educate students about the dangers of study drugs. Maybe (hopefully) I’m the exception. Maybe other students (those who bother to research the drug) would trade in the pill for a seventh latte.
But officials should also take into account that regular study drug use is a different game than the regular use of recreational drugs.
I never had to deal with my roommate constantly knocking on my door more than once, because she never bothered to take adderall more than once. She didn’t feel the need to become a working drone. She did, however, smoke marijuana regularly. Now, I’m sure if she had read a credible study from a reliable source stating that marijuana caused, let’s say, heart disease, she would have stopped smoking and found relaxation somewhere else. But unlike her, I don’t need to relax. I don’t even like relaxing.
Kids like me prioritize achievement over well being.
I wish I knew the solution to this madness. There were a dozen reasons to be scared of it—plenty of reasons to discourage me—but I was the type of person to make the decision anyway. How do you campaign against that?