The disease slowly degrades a persons motor neurons, until they cant walk, cant speak, and eventually cant breathe. No one knew how long he would live, so she needed to be home. She got a job as a hostess at an upscale restaurant. She lived in her parents living room while her dad slowly started to lose muscle function, and eventually most of his voice. A few months into her new living situation, Flora started feeling depressed and anxious and angry with her dad for making her life miserable. As he continued to get sicker, i felt like i couldnt do anything, she told. I felt trappedI figured if I just get some drugs, Id focus, apply for jobs, get out of my parents house, and be happier.
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Of course, were not all that sick, and people are starting to sound the alarm that were over-diagnosed and over-treated for mental illness. But Im not sure theres much to do about. Yes, prescription drug companies are largely to blame for shoveling drugs in our faces. Yes, psychiatry is an extremely corrupted practice. But the problem is a small deeper cultural one: America is the land of the quick fix. For my years on Dexedrine, i mostly blame. I was searching for an easy path to an ideal of normalcy and happiness that I could never achieve without deep thought and personal struggle. Drugs gave me the illusion of happiness, and provided everyone else with the illusion everything was okay. i have this friend Flora who ive known since high school, and who lives on the Upper West Side in her parents tiny two-bedroom apartment. Shed moved to Spain, after feeling dissatisfied with her life in New York, and taught English to elementary school students for almost two years. One day, she got a call from her aunt, reporting who told her that her dad had been diagnosed with lou gehrigs disease.
i dont feel resentment over the years I was on speed because i know Im in good company. I take solace in the fact that Im not just a lost boy with a crisis in personal responsibility. Im a statistic in Americas drug problem. There was a 17 percent increase in adhd prescriptions between 20Now, one in five high school lined boys are diagnosed with adhd. In 2011, 57 million prescriptions were filled for anti-psychotics, a scary class of psycho-pharmaceuticals that have been called chemical lobotomies, but which are increasingly used to treat depression (even though theres very little evidence they work to treat depression). Over the last two decades, antidepressant use has spiked by 400 percent. One in five american women are currently on an antidepressant.
Slowly, things got better, and I found ways to manage all the new emotions I was feeling. They still arent perfect, but they are good. Thank god I could afford six months of therapy by selling my car when I moved back to new York city from college. Thank god I can afford a gym membership and yoga classes. Thank god I have a supportive family, including two parents that are psychologists. Im lucky, and Im not sure where Id be if I wasnt. Id probably be back on drugs.
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It was just a feeling that, if I spring was going to be a real person, i needed to deal with my issues, and not just mediate them through medication. So during the last week of my freshman year, i took my last two dexedrine out of the bottle on my college-apportioned dresser, swallowed them with yellow Gatorade, and didnt go back to the school doctor. No one called me to ask why. Its been five years, and Im still not sure what happened between my last day of Dexedrine and now. What ive pieced together through therapy, and interviewing friends and experts for this piece, is that everything I was supposed to be working through during my years on drugs came rushing in at once.
I started hearing voices. I thought I was having a psychotic break. Id shake from nervousness. I had panic attacks. I had no clue how others perceived me, but i knew people were worried.
As each pill started to wear off, Id feel an immense, crushing sadness. It was part normal amphetamine withdrawal, and part realization that I hated my life. When i entered college, things got worse. Without the worrying eyes of parents, my psychologist, or my restrictive high school, i was free to ignore my demons. I partied a lot. I smoked a lot of weed.
I took too many pills. Id pull all-nighters that involved all play, and no work. I failed three classes my first semester. I drank to fall asleep. I popped my pills when I woke. There was no dramatic ending to my prescription drug binge. I just had a nagging feeling that my life wasnt real. I was living a speed-fueled dream. It wasnt the horrible side effects of not sleeping, shutting off emotionally from my friends and relatives, and developing compulsive tendencies that got me to quit.
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And the great thing about being prescribed drugs as opposed to ingesting illegal ones is that you can always say your problems are your chosen disorders fault, not the fault of proposal something deeper, masked by the 100 milligrams of amphetamines you take every day. With Dexedrine, i could ignore my strict parents, ignore the fact that half my friends had decided to stop being friends with me once i came out as gay, ignore the fact that Id eventually have to tell my parents all of this and get. Dexedrine allowed me to zone out like no other drug did, not because it was better than cocaine, which Id been addicted to at the age of 14, before being on prescription drugs, but because unlike cocaine, it was legally sanctioned and morally sanctified—my teachers. Id gone through the medical establishment to get drugs, so i had a stamp of approval, a legal document that gave me permission to get high, mentally drop out of my life, and get a pat on the back in the process. Thats the perversity of prescription drugs. Dexedrine was a sign of my progress, not a sign of my demise. Of course, beyond the buzz was something dangerous. Pain lurked right underneath the surface of my supposed ok-ness.
Amphetamines never really helped me study. Id sit at my computer in my room and look at myspace, or clothes, or porn. I could stay still for eight hours at a time, just staring at a computer screen. My grades went down. But the drugs were great friends. I never got picked on for being gay, but I was immensely uncomfortable with myself. Were it not for the amphetamines, Im convinced I wouldve experienced the self-hatred personal I was bound to feel growing up queer. I didnt want to go through the normal motions of growing up gay. Instead, i just felt high.
to questions or not, simply because i was bored. I heard the teacher calling the class to attention, and I snapped my head. Id been staring at the leg for 20 minutes, my attention unabated by anything else. This was my new life. Ritalin, and later Adderall, and finally dexedrine, allowed me to focus on anything but what I shouldve focused. Once a month Id see a psychiatrist in the west Village for no more than 10 minutes. Shed ask me how I was, Id say, fine and shed give me whatever amount of speed I said I needed. My five years on drugs werent my best academically.
I remember the exact moment the ritalin kicked. I became more focused, not on the teacher, but on the wood leg of the granite lab table that I sat. I noticed the grain, the imperfections, the dark circles where students had left gum thatd then been removed by janitors. The teacher, a loud woman who barely knew science and preferred gossiping about the pregnant teenagers of my school to teaching biology, droned on in the background. I ignored her, as database did everyone else—the usual. But the wood leg—it was so clear, and everything around it faded. It was as if I was looking through the lens of a camera with the aperture set to a pinpoint.
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Five years off Adderall and Dexedrine and Im still in withdrawal. Months of yoga, years of therapy, meditating each morning—everything helps, but nothing helps completely. Every time i sit down to do work i have pain in my chest. I feel like ive guaranteed somehow made a wrong turn in life. I miss the amphetamine salts. Drugs made me less productive and less healthy, but at least I felt better in my decline than I do in my current state. My new life started in 10th grade at a desk in my science class in my public school on the Upper West Side of New York city.