Author Topic: NY Times: Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill ...  (Read 1527 times)

Offline Chip (OP)

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NY Times: Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill ...
« on: July 12, 2015, 09:27:10 AM »
... and A Pharmacological Education


the article is too long to post here so take the link to this extensive front page report.

also from

A Pharmacological Education

Low on energy, drained of resources and out of ideas about what to do, I consulted an expert on recovery and was given my personal stimulus package. It came in a small brown bottle of 60 pills, a dose of which was to be taken twice a day (but not too late in the day, because it might cause sleeplessness, and not too closely together, because it might cause dizziness). The psychiatrist who prescribed them predicted good things — enhanced concentration, a new competitive edge — and he minimized the risks, which is what finally sold me on Adderall. The drug was a compound of amphetamines meant to combat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he said, that had proved safe in many trials — if used as directed. I sensed an insult. Did I look like someone who couldn’t take direction? I let it pass.

That was about a decade ago, during a one-man economic downturn that is, in miniature, reflected in the current national one. What I wished for back then — a modest, short-term boost that would yield sustainable long-term gains — is what so many of us want right now, particularly, I would think, worried college students who find themselves stumbling back to school in a season of grim, uncertain prospects. “It’ll help you get back on your feet,” my doctor told me, using America’s favorite metaphor for accepting a little help, but not too much help, when we’re facing daunting circumstances that we’re slightly ashamed to find daunting. The key word in this phrase, of course, is “back,” because it implies that the subject stood upright previously, and all by himself.

To strivers young and old, the lure of mental accelerants like Adderall and its many molecular cousins has only grown since I swallowed my first dose and started down a pharmacological path that was more dizzying than I expected. I found out the hard way that revving up your brain in order to win the race, or just stay in it, comes at a cost that may exceed the benefits. Lately, others are learning this lesson, too, sometimes in traumatic ways. In the last eight years, it was recently reported, calls to poison-control centers concerning overdoses of legal stimulants by young people shot up 76 percent. The increase tracked a near doubling of the rates at which such medications are prescribed, from about four million prescriptions eight years ago to eight million today. Neither of these figures surprises me. In matters related to modern pep pills, everything seems to double every few years, including, sometimes, a person’s appetite for them.

Adderall, I discovered during the courtship phase of what became our deeply tortured relationship, offers a kind of assistance to the brain that feels just right, at first, for the age of multitasking. The drug might as well have been invented by Microsoft and embedded in the Windows toolbar. It seemed to allow me to do three things at once and not completely fail at two of them. Far more important, however, it helped me do one thing at once and focus on it. If I was toiling at my computer, it sharpened the clicking sensations of the keyboard while lowering the volume of the phone whose ringing might have broken my work trance. It also, for me at least, suppressed emotion, freeing me from the claims of other people (my children primarily, because I work at home) who wanted a piece of my precious, deskbound time.

The ability to stay on task, even the dullest, most numbing task, was Adderall’s first gift to me. It was also its first curse, because it encouraged me to take on work of an increasingly stupefying nature and do it well enough that I got more of it, until I was doing almost no other kind. I can see, though, how harried students might covet this power and why, according to some estimates, a quarter of undergraduates at certain colleges are availing themselves of such stimulants. They’re well aware of the dire economic news — big law firms instituting hiring freezes; whole industries, like publishing, imploding — and it’s natural that they would welcome any advantage in their quests to get the grades that will get them the jobs that will get them the insurance that will get them the medications to do the jobs.

A recent labor statistic suggests to me that this circular relationship between pressure and productivity is operating in full swing. In this year’s second quarter, the numbers tell us, the American work force squeezed from its tired body the largest increase in output in the last six years. What caused the jump is open to speculation, but I imagine it was partly because of nervousness. The tension produced by the fear of losing a job suggests an adrenalized state perhaps not unlike the one that Adderall unleashes. Anxiety is nature’s most plentiful stimulant. Under its influence, trembling fingers fly.

The flood of energy released by my pills was, like the recent surge in productivity, a bracing but also troubling development. How long would it last? What would happen when it slowed down? The writing I did on Adderall strikes me now, as I look back on it, as the work of a fellow trying to stay warm by burning semicolons. It was high on intensity, rather low on feeling and marked by a certain jazzy, hectic tone. The income it brought me got me over the hump, though, and I banked my savings, luckily. That’s because a new hump soon emerged, more massive and forbidding than the first. And this time it wasn’t financial, or merely financial. It was systemic, biological. It manifested as sores inside my mouth, a faint corona of gray hair and a case of hemorrhoids from nonstop sitting.

I reached a point with Adderall that reminded me of a warning the United States Marine Corps is said to give its enemies: You can run, but you’ll only die tired.

Or graduate tired, in the case of college students. And what’s so wrong with that? The course of a formal education is short but its consequences vast, so why not give it your spirit-crushing all, especially during a fiercely competitive age? “Simply because,” the parent in me says. He’s been there, this man. He’s weary, he’s spent and he just knows.

« Last Edit: July 12, 2015, 09:44:23 AM by Chipper »
Over 90% of all computer problems can be traced back to the interface between the keyboard and the chair !

Offline Roman Totale

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Re: NY Times: Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill ...
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2015, 10:13:32 AM »
Adderall/Dexedrine (and to a lesser extent Ritalin) plays a very odd role in American culture.  From the 30s-70s, college students were well known for taking amphetamines to cram for exams or papers.  This was alongside but not really part of a much more serious pharm speed culture that started developing in the early 60s culminating in widespread IV Methedrine (pharm methylamphetamine) use/abuse by the late 60s/early 70s (and the illicit production of meth as legit supplies were constricted. 

But throughout that period, there was a sort of winking acceptance that certain demographic groups -- e.g., students taking "bennies" (Benzedrine -- racemic amphetamine, originally in inhaler form but then pills), long-haul truckers "taking little white pills" (to quote "Six Days On The Road," the "white crosses" of the era), dieters (or Andy Warhol) taking Obetrol (which was discontinued but the formula was purchased and reintroduced as Adderall in the mid-90s)...

I'm sure posters who were around for the 60s-70s period have much more to relate, but my own university education was propelled steadily, but actually pretty conservatively, by frequent infusions (dextro)amphetamine).  It was so available and so cheap -- 20mg of Adderall IR cost the same as a fucking Red Bull.  I did watch my best friend go off the rails with it at the same time, though.  Not to mention a client many years later who really developed an amphetamine psychosis (or the amps aggravated his paranoid-schizophrenic type behavior) which ultimately culminated in his suicide.


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