I Have ADHD, And There’s A List For That

Sex, Drugs, and….

Given my love and need for lists, you’d think this might be a listicle. (I never even heard of that word until I started writing on Medium.)

Each ADHD’er manifests symptoms differently. To one not familiar, you might picture a person who has maniacal tendencies. While there is that aspect with some who are afflicted, most do not come off looking and acting like hyperactive trainwrecks. It mostly has to do with focus and the lack thereof.

My ADHD Story

My main symptom is an overriding, internal panic attack. If everything is necessary, how do you prioritize? As the day wears on, I become more and more anxious about the things not done on my lists. (I have an anti-anxiety medication but will only take that at bedtime.) My plan of attack has been to create piles roughly sorted by subject and lists. Tons of lists. I’m also constantly trying to put things in a logical place, but rarely can I find what I need. Why?

Because of the fucking “to be filed” piles, nothing ever gets put in its place.

Upon describing these and other symptoms to a new psychiatrist in Chicago in 2015, he administered an ADHD test. I don’t remember one question on it, but I did “well” enough to qualify for a prescription to Adderall. That’s what I was hoping going in to see if it would make a difference.

I did NOT tell him — and this is a biggie — I had a history of alcohol and substance abuse for which I had been hospitalized. I also had attempted suicides, which were more cries for help than anything. Oh, I almost forgot about my stays in psych units. I just wanted the drug that I’d heard many speak of in favorable terms, and that made a difference in their lives.

It did make a difference. I found a new focus, which helped in compartmentalization, and it gave me a little more energy, which aided in getting more accomplished. Kind of like “Mother’s Little Helper.”

Another thing I did not disclose was that I’d been taking a mood stabilizer up until 2011. I lost my insurance and couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket cost, even for a generic. I think I just forgot to tell him. I was able to sustain my antidepressant prescription, but this new cocktail, sans mood stabilizer, resulted in a state of mania that lasted through 2019. I’m not sure why he didn’t prescribe one, and to be honest, I didn’t want anything to bring me down from what I was getting from Adderall.

In the spring of 2019, I took a fateful road trip that turned into one of the biggest debacles of my life. I felt that perfect manic high, using a combination of an extra dose of Adderall, vodka minis, and some pot. The combination made me feel invincible. Ambling eastbound on a secondary road in southern New Mexico, my goal was to drive to White Sands National Monument.

Somehow, I ended up in El Paso, Texas. The police report said that I wasn’t moving but was parked in a very precarious place. I don’t remember anything from the point of getting out of the car. I’m sure I went into shock, as it was different from a blackout. It was as if my body went into sleep mode — this was all a dream, and I’d wake up relieved that it was.

But when I came to, I was handcuffed, attached to a bar in a padded cell in the El Paso County Jail, having been arrested for DWI. That experience is a story unto itself, but this one continues back home in Albuquerque.

In preparing for my defense in my impending case, I thought my mental issues could come to my aid. One of the first persons I contacted was my best friend from college, who became a psychiatrist and now works for a major medical firm in California. When I told her what meds I was taking, she said, “where’s your mood stabilizer? Without that, you’ll never get out of this manic phase you’ve been in”.

So I got a prescription for Abilify. Many medications are not easy to get in New Mexico, partly because of how they’re classified and partly because of the state's shortage of psychiatrists. I first had to find an agency that I could work with, then plead that it was a life or death case. I’ve not been manic a day since, but I lost my desire to exercise and stay fit. Mood stabilizers make you gain weight. I can’t seem to get too happy or sad about anything. I stopped writing. The only thing I’ve been able to get emotional about in the last 15 months is my son’s death.

I Want a New Drug

Knowing how accessible meth is in Albuquerque, I wanted to try it. According to the American Addiction Center, cities like Omaha, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa have the highest incidence of methamphetamine usage. Fifteen percent of the population of Phoenix are said to be active meth users! The CDC claims Cincinnati is at the top of meth usage. Whatever the case, with these kinds of numbers, someone you know is probably an active user of methamphetamines.

I‘m the “I’ll try anything once” kind of guy (except for skydiving). I learned the code language used in gay hookup sites for meth use and tried it for the first time when I had a guy over one evening. I liked how it felt, and the sex was amazing. From there, I hung out with a group of people for several weeks. Unlike them, though, I never wanted to stay up all night and party. I felt it was important to be as “normal” as possible and continue to do normal things.

After a nasty episode with one individual (see my story, https://artsma57.medium.com/6-weeks-with-a-covert-narcissist-a5c443f3314f), I “broke up” with that crowd, and I began to function more normally. But I did not give up meth.

For me, it’s acted as a mood enhancer complementary to Adderall. There are days when I forget to take my morning cocktail, which includes Adderall. There are times when I don’t even think about smoking meth. But at some point every day, I use.

What has changed the most is my sleeping patterns. I typically go to bed between 2 and 3 am, get up by 11 am, and have a very disciplined day in which I dedicate certain hours to reading, writing, and doing household chores and errands. I eat normally, maybe a little bit less. I drink very little — and I see that almost universally across all meth users. I even smoke fewer cigarettes because I forget to.

In an article written by Tony Farah in Pacific Standard (5/15/2019), he reports that “meth is an incredible medicine.” Doctors are known to prescribe it for disorders, including ADHD. But it carries such a stigma. Most associate it with the award-winning series, Breaking Bad, where the meth heads are tweaked out, have no teeth, and are homeless.

“One misconception is that it’s always very addictive,” according to Mark Willenbring, an addiction psychiatrist from St. Paul, Minnesota, with over thirty years of practice treating substance abuse disorders. “It’s just a stimulant, like any other stimulant,” he goes on to say. “It’s a marketing issue.”

Methamphetamines have even proven to be useful in stroke victims and those with traumatic brain injuries. Among a team of researchers at the University of Montana, David Poulson theorized that “everything will kill you if you take enough of it. “Some things don’t require a lot to do that. Meth is one of those things. But just like any drug, the difference between a poison and a cure is the dose”.

Bonus Section: Hallucinogens

As an aside, though not in the same classification as meth, hallucinogens are finding their way as a tool for specific ailments. Moises Velasquez-Manoff describes in his story, “Hallucinogen Therapy Is Coming,” that Johns Hopkins School of Medicine already has a psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”) therapy program in place.

The State of Oregon as, of February 1, has decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs, including methamphetamines, LSD (“acid”), and oxycodone. It’s not an all-out party — a user caught with a small amount of these substances is subject to a $100 fine OR addiction counseling. At least it does not jeopardize their livelihoods, such as making it difficult to find housing and jobs. It’s more like getting a traffic ticket.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t condone, nor am I trying to rationalize my usage of methamphetamines. Legal issues notwithstanding, it is not as big of a deal as most people think. The source is a potential danger — you may know a few dealers, but it’s best to stick with one you know well. If he were found not to be trusted with having “good stuff,” he wouldn’t be a dealer much longer, and his reputation would be sacrificed. In that, this is a small city.

Cocaine is a lot more worrisome. I’ve been there, and meth doesn’t come close to the addictive properties of cocaine. But again, this is me talking, and individuals react to substances in different ways.

I have also not covered any of the other physical and/or mental dangers that using meth may cause. It works for me at this time and place in my life. If you’re not a user, don’t start. I’d rather be chemical-free, but until then, I will make sure I brush my teeth twice a day and floss.

Like most things, the issue is moderation. With the small amount that I smoke, it helps in these ways:

  • It takes the gray out of the day.
  • It gives me focus.
  • It makes me drink less alcohol, which is good, for I see it as the greater evil.
  • It decreases my desire to smoke cigarettes.
  • It helps me to stay active and on-task.

When I am ready to quit, the physical withdrawals will be minimal — from what I have gathered, they will be mostly mental. By most accounts, you’ll sleep a lot and perhaps be lethargic for a few days. I’ll stick to my regimen of Adderall every day and maybe drink two cups of coffee a day rather than my usual one.

I’m not worried. I will stop once I have a few more things written off the list. Lists.

My life in the context of 20th-century history and pop culture — infused with a dose of fun (where appropriate!) More to come when I get my sea legs on here.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store