Adderall pills

My Adderall Addiction and How I Quit

The Saga of my Crazy Adderall Addiction

A year ago I overcame a severe Adderall addiction. Very severe.

Looking back, it’s baffling to imagine living with such an addiction. Such a level of dependence. Waking up was impossible without Adderall. As was socializing. As was writing. As was enjoying life.

Adderall addiction doesn’t get much attention from the media. It may be hard to view ADHD medications like Adderall as something from which a serious addiction or dependence can form. They’re neither viewed nor discussed in the same terms as similar street drugs like meth. But make no mistake, Adderall is just a trusted brand of speed, and is every bit as addicting.

An Adderall addiction waiting to happen
Photo by Patrick Mallahan III // Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Young adults today were largely encouraged, and even forced, to use drugs like Adderall growing up (around the same time we were having D.A.R.E. and the evils of marijuana shoved down our throats). So they don’t share the same negative connotations with their relatives on the streets. But Adderall and other pharmaceutical stimulants are just as dangerous. And indeed, that they don’t carry such negative connotations makes them more so.

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I was taking anywhere between 150-270 milligrams of Adderall in a typical day. To put that in perspective, the maximum daily dose any reputable doctor will prescribe is 40 milligrams (usually).

Yeah. I was consuming an egregious amount of this shit. On my best days I was using three times more than the maximum daily dose. Ugh. I want to vomit just thinking about it. People have died from less.

I had an Adderall prescription. I was invincible. I could do anything. The sky was the fucking limit.

I was so addicted to Adderall, I came to accept I would never quit. That I could never quit. Life without Adderall was unimaginable. Unbearable. I believed, and accepted, I would die before age 40 as a result; probably sooner. I knew the level of harm this extreme Adderall abuse was causing.

Though I was bothered by such thoughts, they did nothing to dissuade me from continuing the addiction. I loved Adderall. I loved the way it made me feel. Made me think. Made me act. If a shorter life span was the cost of feeling this way, so be it.

Conversely, I hated not being on Adderall. Periods of time without it (never longer than a week) teemed with depression, self-loathing, and sloth. It wasn’t just my love of Adderall that made me unable to imagine quitting, but how dejected I felt without it.

To clarify, Adderall wasn’t the only facet of my addiction. The two chemicals that make up Adderall, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, are quite mild compared to other stimulant drugs (when used correctly).

Three flavors of Amp Energy: Original, Orange, and Cherry
Original photo // Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Anyone who has experience with Adderall knows that caffeine intensifies its effects threefold, if not more. A small eight ounce coffee will do this. Combining Adderall with a full sixteen ounce energy drink results in a cocaine-like high. Amp Energy was my favorite. I drank two or three a day (about 280-420 milligrams of caffeine).

Tobacco is the other thing. For some reason, stimulants like Adderall impart an insatiable desire to smoke cigarettes. This has been documented by scientists for years, but has never been explained. Regardless, I was smoking more than a pack a day.

Oh, and marijuana! Of course! Being high on weed and Adderall at the same time is quite a treat, I must confess. The high produced is like a Godsend for creative types like me. All the creativity and open-mindedness of weed, with the motivation and clarity of mind to actually do something with it. My best articles on this blog were composed under the influence of varying combinations of these four drugs. But Adderall was the one I needed. My poisonous muse, if you will.

In addition to these unhealthy habits was my Mahatma Gandhi level of food consumption. Adderall is a potent appetite suppressant. It overpowers the opposing effect from smoking weed. What I did manage to choke down was shit. Microwaveable meals. Processed meats. If my body was somehow sentient, it would’ve thought I was captive in a labor camp or something. There’d be no other explanation for the lack of quality food and sleep it was getting.

As for how I kicked the addiction? I didn’t know until I finished this article. At first, this paragraph was all about how perplexed I was that I quit by myself. How it wasn’t a revelation about my health or future that spurred my change of behavior. I knew the deal. That Adderall was shortening my life span. Destroying my health. It dawned on me long before the day I quit that my addiction wasn’t sustainable.

But for some reason, I committed to quitting Adderall that day. I threw away my remaining pills and committed to enduring the withdrawal, which lasted months. I didn’t know what empowered me to quit until I retraced the whole fucked up story in writing.

It’s a doozy.

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9 thoughts on “My Adderall Addiction and How I Quit”

  1. James, thank you for sharing your story with us. The dosages I take are in the same range that you were in. I do believe that I can overcome my Adderall addiction that is currently deteriorating my life. However, my motivation tends to fade at times because I sometimes feel like too much damage has already been done. My deepest fear is that my Adderall bingeing may have caused a permanent chemical imbalance in my brain. You would be the best person to talk to about this I feel since you successfully overcame this horrible addiction. What are your thoughts on Adderall abuse causing potential brain damage? Do you think any damage has been done or do you feel overtime your brain can fully recover? I would really appreciate your input. At the age of 26 I am at the point right now in my life where I honestly wish I would drop dead because of how much of a failure I have turned into from this addiction. I am absolutely desperate for help. As pathetic as it is I cry and sob almost every day because I wish this never would have happened. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Kevin,

      Thank you so much for reading this, and opening up about your struggles.

      The fear that my abuse of Adderall had already caused irreparable damage to my brain was a demotivating factor for me as well; it’s easier to continue your addiction when you’ve convinced yourself that your brain is broken and therefor needs the drug to remain functional. So I totally understand what’s going on in your head with regard to this concern.

      I’m going to answer your question directly before I delve into my reasoning: No, I do not believe that Adderall abuse causes permanent long-term brain damage – even heavy, chronic abuse.

      This is based off my own experience… though it would obviously be quite difficult for me or anyone to consciously recognize a decline in their own IQ or general brain function… but after being off Adderall for about three months (give or take), I can say I felt 100% like myself again. To put it more bluntly, I do not think for one second that my brain is any less functional, or less capable of critical thought, or less capable of anything now than it was before I began abusing Adderall, or than it would be now had I never taken a single Adderall in the first place. The human brain is an extremely resilient organ. The human brain is amazing.

      However, though I do not think Adderall use or abuse causes any substantial brain damage, it absolutely alters your natural brain chemistry. The question is does this alteration lead to actual damage, and I think the answer to that is no. I would need to do some actual research on this, and I might just do that after posting this, but I believe this because although Adderall does alter your brain chemistry, it’s not like it introduces any chemicals to your brain that aren’t already there; it merely alters the rate at which they’re produced and disposed of by the brain. While sustaining such a chemical imbalance is certainly not a good thing, I don’t see how it would lead to permanent brain damage.

      The thing is – and this is why it’s so easy to convince yourself that your brain is badly damaged – this chemical imbalance exists both while you’re high on the drug, as well as when you’re withdrawing from it. When you take an Adderall one time for the first time, you’ll hardly notice much in the way of withdrawal symptoms. However the withdrawals become more intense and longer lasting the more you abuse Adderall. Withdrawing from Adderall sucks for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that you just feel stupid, to be frank. Your brain simply doesn’t work as quickly and effectively when it’s withdrawing from a drug like Adderall. After a while, you convince yourself that’s just how you are without Adderall, not realizing how untrue that is; in reality, that’s just how you are withdrawing from Adderall. But when you abuse it every day for months and months, years and years, you’re constantly either experiencing the high, or the withdrawal, so you’re literally never “sober”. The longer such a chemical imbalance is sustained (i.e. the longer you abuse Adderall), the longer it will take to fix itself once Adderall is out of the picture. But it will fix itself, and you will become yourself again.

      Please stay in touch, Kevin. Either through these comments or email. Right now I’m having trouble with my “james@ewwty.com” account, so if you’d rather talk through email, shoot me one at jameskaliway@gmail.com for the time being.

      Thanks again for sharing. Best of luck to you.

    2. I know how you feel. I was in college for 9 years and the last 3 were the hardest to get through. Subsequently, that’s when the depression was holding me down. I started to think of myself as a bad person for wasting my parent’s money, cuz I was at college, and I was just there. No plans to get out, no motivation to do any homework, go to class, try and fix the situation. No direction. No wanting to get a job. Nothing. Just adrift without a paddle. And I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening was because of depression. When you’re depressed, it’s impossible to understand what the problem actually is. Usually you resort to thinking that the problem is that you’re a bad person and you should be ashamed that you’re not willing to work hard anymore. That’s not true at all, but it’s what I told myself at the time. And I was miserable.

      And I was 26 and still in school and still without a single degree. I felt beyond ashamed.

      I will say that the 9 years I was on adderall have permanently altered my brain. I stopped adderall the december before I graduated from college. However in the 2 years since then, I literally just sit around and browsed the web all day. I’ve had 2 meaningless temp jobs in that time. One working as a delivery driver, and one working in a mall. I graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering, and I was working one day a week in a mall. Also, I started drinking a lot and have only recently kicked that habit too.

      It took the culmination of a couple of things to get me out of the post-adderall damage phase, which I only emerged from in september of this year (so like 2 – 3 months ago).

      1. I began to research life after adderall and that’s when I learned that I had a (semi) permanent state of depression. I thought I was just without direction, even though I finally had a degree. Turns out, my aimlessness was due to my brain chemistry.

      2. Found out that taking rhodiola rosea was EXTREMELY effective at cancelling out the damage. I also just started on omega 3 to help with my chronic anxiety that never showed until the first year I went on adderall.

      3. Forced myself to get aerobic exercise (weight lifting just won’t cut it) every day.

      The rhodiola rosea was like night and day. I started with 680 mg per day, and after a week or two, I started to notice I was actually INTERESTED in things again. I would listen to the radio and be ENTERTAINED!!!!

      It turns out that 680 mg is too high for me cuz I couldn’t fall asleep, so I toned it down to 340 mg. I can sleep now, and I feel amazing, and I have energy to devote to things that I love again. I haven’t had that ability in 4 or 5 years.

      I also take welbutrin, because that has historically kept me from sinking into an even worse depression. So, right now I’m on welbutrin and rhodiola and omega 3 and I am a whole person again. Even 2 years of just welbutrin didn’t fix the problem. It took the suppliments.

      Oh, and I won’t go into my addiction story, but it’s pretty similar. Hearing voiced, screams. Something that felt like a mild seizure. Staying up for 6 entire days solid. Dead on the inside as a person. So, I feel where you’re coming from.

      The exercise is another big one. The body, and brain, have the amazing ability to fix themselves when you actually use your body as evolution built it….. to be active. I cycle. That’s what works for me. I also have a gym membership for the days when the weather gets bad.

      I thought my best days were behind me for the longest time, hang in there man.

  2. This hit me pretty hard. It sounds just like where I am now. It’s a bad feeling but I know I have to do this. I go back and forth so much with myself. I WANT to quit I just don’t know if I have it in me to stay strong. My family has known of past issues with taking too much. They have no idea what it’s like now.. Becoming this lying and stealing addict is sick. I have so much.. A beautiful life..amazing husband, adorable son..why do I do this. Your words about how accepting that you’ll die young was like a smack to the face. I have accepted that as well and I even will make jokes about how ill die young bc of my health going down hill. This is not fun..it hasn’t been in a long time. No one knows and I feel like I have people (family) so tricked that this will kill them. This addiction has ruined so many relationships..my biggest fear is that it will my marriage. I know that eventually it will as well. I want the old me back. Last night or should I say this morning when I went to bed for a hr I had a nightmare you can call it that I ran out of adderall and woke up. I felt kinda stupid that when I woke up I realized this bad dream was about my pills..wow..it’s just like a -this is my life- only thing that matters to me anymore. I’ve ran out in the past and went the most 2wks. In those wks I was taking other pills(phentermine,vyvance, whatever I could buy) and drinking every energy drink that’s in store just so I could not crash..hard. But at the amount I am now it’s going to suck way more and at this point i really am scared for my health. This is the most and fastest I’ve gone through a months worth in a short amount of time. How am I going to make it in a few days when I’m all out…this is what had been going over and over in my mind. But even knowing that it’s like I physically can’t slow myself down or stretch the rest out to make it closer to getting more. Even tho I know that would mean taking a tiny dose but that’s better than nothing right….? I still can’t do it.
    Finding this blog has gave me some hope. I so needed to come across this you have no idea…
    All the best to you<3

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Katie. I’m glad this article got you thinking…

      The way you describe your experience is striking to me, and it proves something about the nature of amphetamine addiction, and probably addiction in general.

      It’s striking with regard to how different our circumstances and lifestyle certainly are; I was a single college student/dropout during the time of my addiction, while you’re a wife and mother raising a family. But the circumstances of life doesn’t change the way this drug effects and controls people. It’s just crazy to me how much I relate to everything you’ve said here.

      First of all, I’m far from qualified to help you with this, so I feel the responsibility to tell you what I’m sure you already know: you should seek professional help with this – or at least the support of your family – if you’re serious about ending this addiction in the healthiest way possible. However, being able to relate to you so well, and understanding that you’re an adult who is going to make her own decisions regardless, I do have some stuff to say that I think you should just think about.

      First of all, with regards to what you said at the beginning of your comment, “I WANT to quit I just don’t know if I have it in me to stay strong,” that’s a stupid reason to not go ahead with trying (though I remember thinking the exact same thing a million times). Trying and failing does not necessarily mean that you’ll be less likely to succeed in the future; on the contrary, quitting is something that takes practice, I think.

      I’m just going to kind of quote some of what you said and respond to them from here.

      Becoming this lying and stealing addict is sick.” – Be careful with negative thoughts like that. I know how easy it is to hate yourself over this addiction. Though you certainly need to remain cognizant of the negative effects your addiction is having on those around you, especially as a parent, you simply cannot beat yourself up over it. Try to have compassion for yourself the exact same way you would have compassion for a loved one dealing with the same addiction. Imagine if it was a grown up version of your son going though this, you wouldn’t harbor such negative thoughts toward him, and certainly wouldn’t say such harsh and negative things to him about it, and you shouldn’t say such things to yourself, either.

      I have so much.. A beautiful life..amazing husband, adorable son..why do I do this.” – This is a powerful reason to quit, and all I can say is that – as I convey in the article – my main motivation to quit were my friends. So I think it’s safe to say that if I was able to derive the strength to quit from the desire to save my relationships with them, you certainly are and will be able to derive the strength to quit from the desire to save your relationships with your husband and son. My best advice is to never stop thinking about how much you love them and how much you don’t want to hurt them, and never for one second let you convince yourself that there’s a chance this addiction won’t hurt them and destroy your relationships with them, because it will. There’s simply only so long you can go on realizing these things before you commit to quitting.

      I have accepted that as well and I even will make jokes about how ill die young bc of my health going down hill.” – I did this ALL THE TIME as well. It’s very human to deal with such dark, depressing realizations with humor.

      No one knows and I feel like I have people (family) so tricked that this will kill them.” – Like I said in the article, telling your loved ones about your addiction is a huge and necessary step toward quitting. This might sound like a negative statement, but it’s true: you cannot do it on your own. And I’m sure, if you’re like me, your fear of telling them how bad it is originates more from the fear of how it’ll affect your ability to continue your addiction than it does from the embarrassment of telling them. This is something you’ll only be able to conjure the will to do once you’ve completely committed to quitting, because if you don’t want to quit, you won’t want to tell them, because you won’t want them prevent you from continuing to use.

      my biggest fear is that it will my marriage. I know that eventually it will as well. I want the old me back.” – I’m sure your husband does too. And you’ll both watch her reveal herself more and more every day when you quit. I know it seems like you’ll never get her back, like maybe she’s gone forever. But she isn’t, and getting her back is as simple as getting off Adderall.

      Last night or should I say this morning when I went to bed for a hr I had a nightmare you can call it that I ran out of adderall and woke up. I felt kinda stupid that when I woke up I realized this bad dream was about my pills” – Just wanted to let you know I have had many many dreams about Adderall, and I felt the same feeling of stupidness for actually having these ‘nightmares’, which is what i considered them to be as well.

      The thing is, and I just want to tell you this so you’re prepared, you better get used to these ‘Adderall nightmares’, because they won’t go away, even after you quit. If you continue your addiction, they’ll keep happening in the form of you running out of Adderall or not having any to take when you need it or something along those lines. But once you quit, it won’t be long before you start having a very different type of Adderall nightmares: I feel it’s very likely, given I experienced the same type of dreams as you describe when I was addicted, that you’ll also experience the same type of dreams as I did when I was quitting (and still have from time to time).

      But these nightmares will have you dealing with your struggle to quit. For me, I started having them about 2-3 months after quitting. They were nightmares because in most of them I relapsed. At one point I think I probably had nightmares of me relapsing 7+ nights in a row. The craziest part about them is… like when I relapsed and popped the pill in my dreams, like the dream would be so real that I actually felt the amphetamine high IN the dream. But they’re fundamentally a good sign, as (in retrospect) I realized they signified that relapse had become my greatest fear – which is obviously a good thing.

      I’ve ran out in the past and went the most 2wks. In those wks I was taking other pills(phentermine,vyvance, whatever I could buy) and drinking every energy drink that’s in store just so I could not crash..hard. But at the amount I am now it’s going to suck way more and at this point i really am scared for my health. This is the most and fastest I’ve gone through a months worth in a short amount of time. How am I going to make it in a few days when I’m all out…this is what had been going over and over in my mind.” – It’s a horrible cycle of getting high and withdrawing, getting high and withdrawing, over and over again. Think of it like this: Yes, when you decide to quit the withdrawal process will suck, but it’ll be the last time you have to deal with it. Because if you continue the addiction, you’re going to wind up dealing with withdrawal for many more days than you will if you just quit.

      Thanks again for sharing, Katie! Best of luck to you and your family. If you’d like to discuss your feelings or update me on the situation or anything else, please email me at james@ewwty.com. But like I said, and even though I’m certainly willing to help, you’d be better off contacting a professional instead. But even if you do that, I’d still be interested to hear how that goes and your feelings about it.

  3. Great reading, man. I’m newly in recovery from an opiate addiction so I understand how difficult it is to quit, and how hard it is to admit what you have become to loved ones and share with others.

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