Adderall and YOU
August 24, 2009 8:38 AM   Subscribe

How did Adderall change things for you?

My doctor thinks I may have ADD (not ADHD), and is prescribing Adderall for a few weeks so we can see what happens. I have no idea what to expect, and I know that it works differently for everyone. I'd like to have some individual examples of how it affects people, rather than the more general things I've been able to read elsewhere. How did taking Adderall change your life?
posted by ocherdraco to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
For me, it was like someone flipped the switch in my brain. Suddenly I was able to hear the little voice inside saying "don't use the computer til you finish the laundry" and actually obey it. The only side effect I had was decreased appetite.
posted by Biblio at 8:44 AM on August 24, 2009

I was prescribed ritalin for a long time, and have taken adderall on several occasions. I don't use either now. Ritalin I just kind of hate for a lot of reasons, but I feel like adderall actually changed the way I think about getting work done for the better. I'm not sure if I ever actually had ADD, but I had a lot of the symptoms. The feeling of immersing myself in a project and working until it was finished was new to me when I tried adderall for the first time, and I can kind of slip into it at will now. Simply knowing that I had the potential to do solid work made me a much better student in college, and I stopped using stimulants (except caffeine) altogether pretty quickly. A lot of people I know liked the adderall a bit too much, and that was scary to see (some of them literally wasted away in front of me). As long as you don't overdo it, it can be a really useful drug.

Just make sure you remember to eat. Seriously.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:54 AM on August 24, 2009

i had to stop taking it after a week or so due to severe depression.
posted by lester at 9:04 AM on August 24, 2009

Adderall changed EVERYTHING. Like Biblio, a switch was flipped and I suddenly became prompt, efficient and calm. I even got the added bonus of losing 80 pounds.

After three years on it, I started to develop intense paranoia and anxiety, so I stopped. My life fell apart (ok, the Adderall was a major contributor, but not the only one). As an added bonus, I gained 80 pounds.

In the last two years, I've fixed much of what needed fixing. The anxiety is gone, the 80lbs are gone, I'm a much more balanced and confident person, but I'm still an unfocused spaz. My pdoc really wants to try me on Adderall again. I'm currently on a low dose of Abilify, and he thinks that will shield me from the paranoia, so I'm considering it.

Adderall did some wonderful things for me, but also some not so wonderful. Everyone is different.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:07 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I should add that Adderall also typically made me very, very sleepy.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:09 AM on August 24, 2009

My experience was similar to what Biblio describes: on Adderall XR (25mg), I was suddenly able to choose where I placed (and kept) my focus, instead of being at the mercy of a million little impulses all day long. I'd begin a task and find, an hour later, that I'd actually completed it instead of moving on to six or seven other things in the meantime. Suddenly, to-do lists worked, because I could actually move through the items on the list. I won't lie, it was pretty awesome.

Side effects were present, but not horrible. I lost about 7 pounds (over nine months of use) and would occasionally notice periods of rapid heartbeat-- not uncomfortable, but odd, especially when you're in the gym staring at a 160 on the heartrate monitor after some light warm-up walking. In the beginning, I noticed some mild irritability when external things would break in to whatever task I was focused on, but that pretty much dissipated after a few weeks. No other unpleasant side effects, for me at least.

As a disclaimer, though, I'll add that I only used Adderall for about 9 months before stopping for unrelated health reasons, so it's possible some of the more serious side effects Cat Pie Hurts mentioned were waiting around the corner for me. I will definitely consider getting back on it once my current issues are resolved, so I hope for my own sake that CPH's experience is a fluke and not the norm for this drug.
posted by yersinia at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

My doctor thinks I may have ADD (not ADHD)

The DSM doesn't consider there to be anything called ADD, just ADHD, whose symptoms, despite its name, may or may not include hyperactivity. Don't mean just to be pedantic, but to provide info that may be useful in your researches: just because a given article refers to ADHD doesn't mean it's inapplicable.
posted by Zed at 9:36 AM on August 24, 2009

Response by poster: Good to know. That fits in with what my doctor was describing, but the way she referred to it made me think they were two separate things.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:43 AM on August 24, 2009

It will feel pretty amazing for the first few weeks, and your appetite will be noticeably smaller. As katherineg says, the phenomenon of being able to choose and hold your focus is the biggest benefit. I've been on it for a few months, and I've starting developing a tolerance for the 15mg (5 non-XR tablets per day) that I'm prescribed. As a consequence, the focus is not as trance-like, and the appetite has become more normal.
posted by mpls2 at 9:55 AM on August 24, 2009

One thing I noticed about Adderall is that it has a noticeable come-down. When I was prescribed Adderall (2 x 10mg of XR a day), if I decided in the afternoon that I didn't feel like taking the second pill, I would start to feel really strung out after the morning pill had worn off. It also made me sweat more, and my sweat was smellier. After I developed a bit of tolerance to it, my body's response to Adderall in terms of energy level varied wildly. Sometimes the Adderall would just do its job, sometimes my afternoon pill would keep me awake long into the night, and sometimes it put me straight to sleep. I never noticed any correlation between other events in my life and how it affected me.

But yes, the fact of the matter is that it made me much more responsible. I stopped feeling that wall of frustration that accompanied the thought of returning an email or call or anything else that felt like drudge work that I couldn't possibly summon the attention to complete. I didn't burn rice or overcook pasta after leaving the pot on the stove while I got distracted with something else. I had the wherewithal to not only complete homework assignments but to revise them once they were finished. Despite all that, I really had to stop taking Adderall because of the come-down and the fact that exercise of any kind became impossible if I had taken any pills in the past six hours or so (my heart would beat so fast that it was frightening and uncomfortable). My creative impulse felt stunted, which was a problem for me. I don't regret it, because that period taught me what staying on top of my obligations felt like (though without the medication I have reverted to a lot of my past behaviors, even though I recognize and cut them off sooner), so I would recommend trying it, but be prepared for the fact that the effects will change over time and may make Adderall not worth your while anymore.
posted by invitapriore at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2009

Personally, Adderall did absolutely nothing for me. No effect, no side-effects, no nothing. It was like I was taking a placebo, even at "clinical" levels of disage. But, I think that I'm one of those small number of people who have "drug-resistant" ADD anyway.
posted by Citrus at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2009

The DSM doesn't consider there to be anything called ADD, just ADHD, whose symptoms, despite its name, may or may not include hyperactivity.
That's right. What most people think of as "ADD" is actually called "ADHD, inattentive type". There are also the hyperactive type and the combined type. My son who has the combined type does not seem hyperactive at all, but he always has to have something in his hands to fiddle with.

Please keep in mind that Adderall is not the only drug option, and some people who feel bad on Adderall feel fine on Concerta or Focalin or Strattera. There is no way to tell in advance which ADHD medication is the right one for you. If one has bad side effects for you, have your doctor try a different one. Strattera's by far the most convenient choice because it's not a controlled substance, so you can get refills by phone instead of having to pick up a paper prescription as you must in my state; it didn't work out for my son, but if it does work for you it's a lot less of a pain.
posted by Ery at 11:39 AM on August 24, 2009

my experience was just like that of biblio -- just like someone flipped a switch and suddenly i was able to do normal things -- i remembered conversations again, things i'd read the day before, movie plots -- and i was FINALLY able to complete a task from start to finish, without having to check email six times plus CNN and MSNBC and then the email again a little further along in the task. now that i'm not on it, i really miss it.

my understanding was that if you are not ADD, adderall won't have this effect on you. it might make you jumpy, or some of the other weird side effects...
posted by unlucky.lisp at 12:55 PM on August 24, 2009

I have ADHD; originally diagnosed when I was a child, and rediagnosed about 4 years ago, when I noticed that things started to fall apart at my old job. I also have Spastic Paraparesis, this comes into play. Here's my latest result with Adderall:

I started having ADHD issues again when I stopped taking Wellbutrin, so I got a prescription for name brand Adderall. My dosage is 5mg a day. (I stopped the Wellbutrin because of spasticity, and it made me really anxious.)

What I noticed: with my attention span, it was really too small to make a sizeable dent in my ADHD. The one thing that it did do is make me notice when I was getting off track, and it allowed me to get back on track easier. Like, surfing the web instead of working, reading instead of cleaning at hom, etc. I could take a bigger dose but... also affected the Spastic Paraparesis. Adderall inhibits the reabsorption of dopamine in the body. In my body, my SP is somehow related to dopamine - so while the drug was in my system, not only could I think clearer, but my spasticity went away, and I would walk and move better! Awesome, right? No. Because when that drug wears off, that spasticity came back with a vengeance, and by the time it's 8 pm, I'm nearly immobile with pain on the bed. Taking extra Baclofen helped, but the higher dose would just put me out - and not totally kill the pain and spasticity. Some days were better than others, but consistently I'd crash out, both mentally and physically, when the drug wore off, leaving my evenings just wrecked.

Also, Adderall made me *gain* weight, of all things, because I'd have a constant craving to chew on things. I hate gum, so I'd eat. all. the. time. Even low calorie foods and veggies didn't help quash this. So, this is all on the baby dose of 5mg. I'm not willing to see what happens if I take more.

Finally, I missed drinking coffee and tea. If I had either when I had Adderall in my system, they'd make my heart race. Now, I don't drink a lot of tea or coffee, but I cherish the ritual aspects of it. So, instead of Adderall to help with work, I keep a thermos of Welsh Breakfast Tea at my desk instead.
posted by spinifex23 at 1:07 PM on August 24, 2009

You know the moment when a car alarm shuts off after it has been going off for an hour? That moment of "Oh, finally it's quiet"? That's what Adderall felt like for me. I could finally hear the birds. I could finally think about something other than blocking out the wall of "noise" that surrounded my day-to-day life.

YMMV, of course. One of the good things about Adderall is that if it doesn't agree with you and you need to stop taking it, it has a relatively short half-life.

Remember to eat by the clock, if you can, rather than eating when you feel hungry. If you're cranky all the time because you're not eating, it can end up defeating the purpose of being on meds in the first place.

Be extra kind to your gums and teeth. Adderall dried out my mouth pretty badly and I ended up with a horrifying gum infection (again, YMMV.)
posted by corey flood at 1:10 PM on August 24, 2009

Note that a lot of these descriptions are exactly what Adderall will feel like even if you don't actually have ADHD. A proper dosage of dextroamphetamine will increase focus, attention, and energy in anyone. It's just that people with properly diagnosed ADHD don't have the same ability to focus that people without ADHD have. But you'll almost certainly feel like Adderall is helping you focus and have more energy either way. Because it actually will be helping you focus and have more energy regardless of your condition.
posted by Justinian at 1:52 PM on August 24, 2009

I echo all the same things.


Remember to eat. It is easy to forget, and get all wigged out by mid afternoon.
Cut wayyy back on the caffeine. The amphetamine is doing a way better job of stimulating you, and the caffeine will just make you sweatty and twitchy.
Drink more water- it's like you are taking a decongestant, so its easier to get dehydrated.
Watch out for the afternoon hungries. I'd "come down" off of it in the early evening, and just eat ravenously.

I prefer Vyvanse- it lasts longer and feels "cleaner". Less jitter, more focus. 40mg of Vyvanse is about like 15mg of Adderall XR. (They say that the rule of thumb is to double the dosage, but it felt like the top of my head was going to come off the first day I tried 50.

And I echo the thoughts that getting treatment for ADHD is only part of the picture. Changing ones attitudes and thought processes is a necessity. The Adderall restores the ability to focus, but it does not change the desire to focus, or the desire to focus on the right things. If you set yourself to watching TV rather than doing the right thing, you will be laser focused on watching TV and less likely to remember to do the laundry. In other words, drug treatment does not discriminate between good focus and bad distractions, and bad focus and necessary distractions. So if you decide to get treatment, also make a renewed effort to try some of those hundreds of failed organization plans that had failed in the past... they will probably start working now.

(Yes, amphetamines give everyone more focus, energy, etc. The difference is that someone with ADHD was a deficit of focus and is using the amphetamine to try to get to normal. Someone who is already normal and takes the same amount is trying to go beyond 100%, and this falls into the abuse spectrum.)
posted by gjc at 4:27 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I take adderal whenever I have a day's worth of crappy chores which need doing: bills, housework, certain kinds of gardening or anything else that I would ordinarily put off. I average about 3 or 4 days a month. My doctor approves. There aren't any next day effects or cravings to do more. I've been doing this for a couple of years now and I honestly believe it has changed my life (in a very positive way) forever. It is also great to take when you have a big single purpose and physical job to do. I find it isn't so great for jobs which require too much thinking, research or writing. It is easy to get waaaay to deep into things.
posted by Pennyblack at 5:49 PM on August 24, 2009

I took it for several years. The downside examples: tendency to chew my nails (the one bad habit that I didn't already have) and smoke more. Some upside examples: If I saw that I needed gas, I STOPPED FOR GAS rather than wanting to go just another mile because stopping for gas is boring. I was less crazy with my cats--instead of "HEY kitty kitty!" pet pet pet pet pet, I was much less frenetic and less pesky to them.

In all, I think it was helpful to my subclinical ADHD, and when I went off it, I had no problems doing so. I might consider going back on if I had insurance.
posted by thebrokedown at 4:20 AM on August 25, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. This is all very helpful.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:07 AM on August 25, 2009

Note that a lot of these descriptions are exactly what Adderall will feel like even if you don't actually have ADHD. A proper dosage of dextroamphetamine will increase focus, attention, and energy in anyone.

Not my experience. Some years ago, I tried one of my son's Adderall pills at work as a test to see if it would help with my own inattentiveness (which ultimately turned out to be due to undiagnosed hypothyroidism). I did not experience increased focus or attention; the only difference was that I felt kind of hyper and did my usual distracted time-wasting activities a little faster. The hyperness was uncomfortable enough that it was clear that the dose was as large as I should consider trying.
posted by Ery at 7:00 AM on August 25, 2009

« Older I love you, fresh egg   |   Not looking to be Indiana Jones, but George... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.