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Adderall: From Angst to Anguish

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Detroit, MIFor seven years, Jennifer’s doctor tried her on different antidepressants but they weren’t working, then she was finally pegged for adult attention deficit disorder (ADD) and prescribed ADD Adderall in 2010. “If not for an intervention by my friends - one of them a nurse - I wouldn’t be here today,” says Jennifer, mother of two.

“After getting off this insanely dangerous drug, it took two years to recover from the effects of Adderall,” Jennifer adds. “During the time I was taking Adderall, I was also experiencing a lot of stress. Combine that with not eating properly (the drug is an amphetamine) and I ended up experiencing amphetamine psychosis.”

Jennifer had worked in health care for 15 years so she had enough sense to reach out to her friend, a registered nurse. She also knew that her work record could wind up with “mental health issues” added to it, which could seriously affect future employment. Thankfully, her friends intervened when Jennifer was in the depths of delusion and paranoia. If they waited much longer, it may have been too late.

“If not for my friends, I might be dead,” Jennifer explains. “I was already having suicidal thoughts. My other saving grace was my kids; they forced me to get up in the morning and maintain a semblance of routine. But when they were at school, I curled up in a ball in my bed and - this seems funny now but it was deadly serious back then - the garden gnomes were going to come and get me. I can tell my oldest son (he is 13), and he jokingly says we will get you a gnome for your birthday. But my 11-year-old still worries and doesn’t see the humor in it.

“I got off Adderall on May 22, 2010, and I will never take it again. If I find out that people, even those I barely know, are on it, I say to them, ‘Whoa, I have a story to tell you.’ So many things happened that week in May due to my delusion thinking. I made a scrapbook from everything I was seeing on the highway, magazines; it was so bizarre.”

It also gave Jennifer a brief look into the world of mental illness, albeit a very brief glimpse.

“If there was one good thing that came out of these Adderall side effects, it did give me a deep compassion for people who suffer mental illness all the time,” Jennifer says. “Thank goodness I didn’t hear voices like some poor souls do. But sometimes I hear a song on the radio that takes me back to those times when I was delusional and I hate it.

“My last day on Adderall was full-out delusion and paranoia. There was a big off-road event close by that we attended and I thought I was seeing helicopters, everything was centered around me, but of course it wasn’t.

“After I got off Adderall, every time I got within the vicinity of that event, I got panic attacks. I did a technique called flooding: I would fill my brain, force myself into the stimuli that triggered the attack, which is similar to getting over a phobia, and it would wash over me. I would do breathing techniques to get over it, to let it go.

“I started to research Adderall after it took me two weeks to get it out of my system, during which time the muscle twitching was awful. Luckily, we were able to move in with my parents. It took about two years to fully recover. This past six months have been the best ever, without any residual effects. When I go back to that location, there are no triggers, the panic attacks are no longer. I know on a research level what can happen, but I am not bothered with it anymore. It isn’t debilitating.

“Knowing Adderall is on the market, knowing the Adderall side effects makes me disgusted. The anorexic side effects and this dependency of college students to take the med when they wake and then again at night to study creates even more stress. It increases the level of dopamine, hence the delusions. Shire Pharmaceuticals, the maker of AXR, or Adderall, knows about these horrific side effects. I cannot understand how they can contribute to Adderall death. Some people don’t have the support group I had, so what happens to them? If I stayed on Adderall, I don’t believe I would be here today.”

Currently, an Adderall lawsuit claims that Shire Pharmaceuticals, the company that makes Adderall, was artificially inflating the price of the drug for years by trying to keep generic versions off the market. If only they were that busy protecting their consumers.


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