What it’s Like Being on Adderall – What Doctors Won’t Tell You.
This is my experience with Adderall. A little background about me: I started Adderall when I was 18 after my dad had prevented me from taking it since I was diagnosed with ADHD since I was in 1st grade. I had dreamed of being a computer programmer but having ADHD makes that almost impossible, and when I turned 18 and my dad considered me an “adult who could make their own decisions” he stopped standing in the way of me getting my medication. Adderall truly gave me a second chance at pursuing my dream once I get in to college. I’m 25 now so I’ve had quite a bit of experience with it.
You can find a list of side effects just about anywhere on the internet but the information that is sparse is how it affects you on a personal level. I’m writing this so that people who are worried or curious or just want more information about the drug can read into it.
One thing you’re going to need to keep yourself in check with is now the drug affects your brain. It’s an amphetamine- a stimulant. In addition to the focus it sends a rush of positive chemicals to your brain and depending on how you are as a person, it can affect you differently. It increases your dopamine and serotonin levels which are associated with happiness and energy, and it increases your norepinephrine levels which is associated with focus, energy, and feeling awesome. Norepinephrine is colloquially referred to as adrenaline.
When you take it the first time and you’re not used to it you will get a high that’s somewhere between being hopped up on caffeine or cocaine, and you’ll feel more than just that physical good feeling in your chest and head. You’ll also get the side effect of grandiosity. The first few times I took it, I felt like a super-rational being, almost like a robot using finesse and logic to solve all problems with ease. Pumping out papers, doing math problems, or coding for hours on end was a breeze. The thing is, with this feeling you can lose sight of reality. You will think that your impeccable logic and genius that comes with the drug makes you right all of the time... You will want to argue with people in real life and on social media about what someone is clearly wrong about and what someone will clearly change their views on as soon as they read your logical thinking. This is a delusion of grandiosity. You’ll look like an asshole. Just avoid that type of thing, or at least pay extra attention to how you interact with people. Don’t treat your friends like a courtroom.
With drugs that give you a high there is usually a come down. With a consistent stream your body and mind can adapt to it, but before your body gets used to this new stream of dopamine and serotonin, you may run into some problems.
I made what was in hindsight, could have been a bad decision of ignoring the depression. I don’t mean ignoring it in the sense of not letting it get to me, but telling myself “The advantages of Adderall academically are well worth the downside of not wanting to be alive”. Eventually I was able to cope with this with a mindset where I’d tell myself in my head “This is literally just my brain in a chemical imbalance, it’s resulting from a boost of extra dopamine from the Adderall. My friends don’t hate me. My life isn’t going nowhere. I’m not pathetic. It’s literally just the Adderall.”, and when I’d say that I would physically feel the depression melting away. I’ve been able to do this ever since I read How to Stop Worrying and Start Living but it’s not for everyone (I highly recommend that book by the way). Everyone’s brain is hardwired differently. Some people can be entirely aware that the depression is from the Adderall and still feel like shit. You can’t always logic your way out of depression. If you get hit with depression, stop taking it, and tell your doctor. They can put you on something different that won’t make you feel like shit. Performing well academically isn’t worth feeling like shit.
Adderall can make you less personable. I’m generally a relaxed person, but in my experience it made me prone with certain types of people and indifferent towards others. When I’m working with someone on a project or playing together with them in a game and they’re doing something I perceive as wrong or “illogical” as described above, it can throw me into a fit of rage for a few seconds before I get ahold of myself. This did happen very rarely, so I couldn’t pre-emptively adjust my behavior, but I could tell myself after “You were only angry because of the Adderall, this is not something you’re supposed to get mad about.” and return back to normal. But this is different than the depression feeling, since it affected other people. I’d apologize and explain that the Adderall would do that type of thing. It got to a point where my friends expected an immediate apology after a 5 second fit of rage and I got into a habit of warning people beforehand that I might fall into a fit of rage if things aren’t going my way, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for my behavior. Haven’t had that type of thing happen to me in years now. Sometimes my robotic emotionless indifference could make my friends or my girlfriend think I’m mad at them or being rude to them. If it’s damaging to your relationships and you can’t mediate it, tell your doctor and switch to something else.
Adderall does more than just make you focused on your work, it makes you really want to do work. It’ll get you in the mindset of “Yeah I want to get every fucking question right on this exam, every single one” or “I can complete all of my assignments right now in one session. And I can clean my room, and do my laundry, and write a chapter in that book.” I would say this is mostly positive, but one thing about this extra wind of motivation combined with hyperfocus is that you can hyperfocus on the wrong thing, and it can be detrimental.
There have been dozens of times in class where I have a great idea for a project and I need to whip out my laptop and start right then on it. And if I don’t, my mind is racing with ideas for the project. This can especially be a problem with an entrepreneurial spirit. There have been times when I haven’t been able to get to focus on anything else until I did a full outline of the novel I was trying to write. One time in a statistics class I tried calculating out the most likely win numbers for the lottery. I’ve completely lost focus in class writing down a lengthy idea for a business venture. I’ve stopped paying attention to lectures so that I could watch stock tickers or refresh my facebook to look at my post that's doing particularly well. Even when I’m not in class I can’t get my homework started sometimes until I write that outline for a novel or game I’m trying to create later or write a screenplay for a short play. In hindsight a lot of these ideas seem dumb or poorly executed, but in the moment they seem like the coolest thing and I can’t get my mind off them. My advice would be to leave your laptop or phone at home while in a lecture.
Right now, by the way, instead of studying for my IT certifications I’m writing this damned article for my website.
You can have trouble sleeping even after it wears off. I was able to remedy this by taking melatonin and other sleep relaxants. This should be the same for most people.
In terms of waking up in the morning, it’s a great thing for people who have a hard time waking up. I’m the type of person who, without Adderall, would hit the snooze for 3 hours straight. I have a very limited amount of control over myself- I have an app (Can’t Wake Up) which makes you solve a small puzzles before snoozing or turning it off (in hopes that after a minute of solving it, you’ll be awake enough to lose the urge to go back to bed), but that’s not enough for me 100% of the time, especially if I’m more sleep deprived.
The solution I found was to do this: leave an adderall pill and bottle of water on top of my phone as I wake up to the alarm, take the pill, and then solve the puzzle, and then head back to bed. By the 2nd or 3rd time I snoozed the alarm after I took the Adderall, my urge to go back to sleep disappeared. This was true during my final exams when I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep and I was able to get a lot of work in.
Lower appetite is usually listed as a negative side effect but honestly this has made it a lot easier for me to diet and I appreciate being able to eat whatever I want whenever I want. I’ve been 170 +/- 5 pounds for the last 7 years and I love it. If you are worried about not eating enough, just take your adderall with food and remind yourself to eat if you need to. Can use an app like MyFitnessPal to keep track of daily calories. If you’re trying to diet, and eat regularly at the college dining hall, take in 15-30 minutes before and go in afterwards. You won’t want to eat much.
Adderall completely removes your perception of fatigue. You will not get tired playing sports. It is very much a performance enhancing drug if you care about that type of thing. But for health reasons I wouldn’t recommend if avoidable, even if you are a dirty cheat.
You may get tics that can be anywhere from voice murmurs to shouting out curses or racial slurs. I have this problem, but it’s usually not in public so I don’t worry about it.
Sexual Side Effects
Adderall has a WEIRD stream of side effects and they aren’t always consistent. Like that robot feeling I talked about earlier, you can be completely disinterested in sex, OR it can give you an increased interest in sex. It can give you erectile disfunction OR it can give you prolonged erections. (The reason why meth is a huge thing in the LGBT community is because amphetamines allow you to go for a long time).
Additionally, and, Adderall screws with your estrogen levels. This isn’t talked about enough, but you can see stories on forums about this all the time. “Does this happen to anybody else…?” “This weird thing happens to me on Adderall”. For women, this can screw with your period. For men, this can have an effect on your sexual identity. There are not-uncommon stories of men feeling more feminine and more sexually liberal when it comes to gayer things when on Adderall than normally. This makes sense, since homosexual behavior in men and gender dysphoria in those that identify as women is linked with higher estrogen levels. Really these effects are mostly harmless, but if you worry a lot about your libido or sexual identity, and these feelings hit you like a curveball, you’ll know where it’s coming from. If it’s important to you just tell your doctor and they’ll switch you to something else.
Building Up a Tolerance
If you’re on it for a while you may start to build up a tolerance for it. If that happens just tell your doctor you’re building up a tolerance for it. It’s normal. Don’t be paranoid that they’re going to think you’re trying to get more in order to sell it or get high with your friends. It’s normal and they’ll up your dose.
There are two ways you’re probably going to build up a tolerance. The first few days after you take it your body is going to start producing chemicals in a way that compensates for the new influx of chemicals you’re getting from the Adderall. That first initial super-rational robotic high feeling that you get is going to dissipate a little more. This doesn’t mean that it stopped working, it just means your body is getting used to it.
After a longer time (and I can’t specify an amount of time, because everyone’s body/brain are different), you’ll build up a tolerance to it, and you’ll need more to get the same amount of focus you got after you reached that equilibrium. For me I started on 20mg a day and 7 years later I’m up to 35mg a day, and I don’t take all of it every day sometimes. It may be different for you.
Don’t sell it. It’s a felony. You’ll get kicked out of school. It’s equivalent to selling meth in the eyes of the law. It’s not worth the extra $5-10 you’ll get in your pocket. If you have friends that need extra study help encourage them to see their doctor to see if they have ADHD. Don’t ruin your life by getting a felony charge on your record.