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victoria

12 Years On Adderall and Ready To Quit

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I've been on Adderall since I was 21, and I'm 33 now. It undoubtedly changed my life for the better and fixed pretty much every work-related problem I had, as well as helping with my chronic fatigue (I have fibromyalgia) and depression. I've always been genius-level smart, but it wasn't until my last two years of college that the fact that I could only spend 20 minutes writing a paper before getting bored and distracted caught up to me. The medication also helped my confidence — I was SO insecure — and anxiety. On Adderall I was finally able to stop using obsessive meal planning and caffeine-guzzling to keep me regimented. I was prescribed 60 mg of Adderall back then, and now have tapered down to around 20-30mg/day. I would feel insane taking 60 mg again.

 

Now I'm the CEO of my own business (an online magazine, events and merchandise for a niche female community), very well-respected in my field, and have a community and workplace that relies on me — this is one of many reasons I've been hesitant to drop the drug, I'm afraid of what a change in work habits could do to my company. But I feel like an imposter. People are always wondering why I am shy to take credit for the company I've built — it's 'cause I feel like I cheated, and was only able to work those 14-hour days to begin with because of drugs. I don't even know if ADD actually exists.

 

But it's really screwing with my health! My resting heart rate is usually around 100 BPM, my blood pressure is high, my teeth seem to be dissolving and drifting away from each other and I'm always grinding my teeth. I'm aging much quicker than I'd hoped. I'm dehydrated and constantly guzzling water. I can't even go on long hikes or play team sports, my heart races, I'm thirsty and light-headed. I feel physically disabled as a result of this mental drug. My company is run remotely with a bunch of people working from home, but whenever we are in the same place, I notice that I feel wired and unable to communicate as effectively as my co-workers, like I genuinely feel like I am on speed whenever social and work collide. 

 

I've been very unhealthy in the past. I've always exercised, though lately I've been scared to push myself because of my heart rate, but exercise has been my saving grace to not totally lose control of my body. But there were periods of time where I was taking 80 mg of adderall, taking ambien every night, doing other drugs, drinking and smoking pot every night, eating like shit, sleeping 5-6 hours a night. Now I eat very healthy, quit ambien cold turkey three years ago, I smoke pot medicinally for my chronic pain and insomnia at night, I sleep 8-9 hours, rarely drink, and still exercise regularly. (I still take 40 mg of elavil every night for fibro, as I've been doing for 14 years.) But those negative health effects haven't changed despite other positive lifestyle changes.

 

I want to get married soon and have a baby, and I know I have to be off adderall before I can get pregnant. Last night my partner told me that she's not ready to start making wedding plans or anything until I get off Adderall, because it is negatively impacting my health and isn't what she wants around her children. I think her impression of the drug isn't entirely fair (based on her own family's experience with it), but maybe this is the push I need to finally drop it. 

 

I am terrified, but I'm also excited to be healthy again. I don't know where to start — I'm not very well insured, so I don't have a therapist or access to counseling or other things I could take to ease the withdrawal, but I know I'm going to need a lot of support to quit without it messing up my work life or destroying my relationship. 

 

How did you do it? Where did you start? Did you manage to do it without taking another medication to help? (I used to take Wellbutrin, and am open to that, but not permanently or during pregnancy) Any experience with dealing with depression or chronic fatigue as well? Any natural or homeopathic solutions?

 

Thank you for any advice or hope you could give me!

 

 

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Welcome Victoria.

 

To answer your questions, I made a plan to quit and quit cold turkey in Dec. 2011. I planned my quit in Dec. because I could take three weeks off work around the holidays, and I knew work would be slow for another month after I got back (I worked at a college). So, I knew my slacking off wouldn't really be noticed as I eased back into work. I also chose to quit at this time because the weather was nice in Phoenix. I could get outside every day, walk and hike on the weekends. I loaded up my Netflix queue with tons of shows because all I could do for the first year was go to work, come home, watch TV, and sleep. 

 

I prepared myself for being extremely tired, depressed, and unmotivated for my first year off Adderall. I prepared for the cravings, the iatrogenic ADD, the mental anguish and utter lack of confidence. I read up about PAWS (post acute withdrawal). I also prepared myself for the possibility of getting fired due to lack of productivity. It never happened, but I had a lot of anxiety about it, because any enthusiasm and/or motivation I had for work went out the window. It was especially tough because my job was very self-directed and not really deadline oriented. If you have a fast paced job with deadlines, that should help, and if you like your job that will definitely help. Most importantly, I had faith that the misery of getting sober was temporary. I wanted to stop being a drug addict and that was more important to me than anything else. That's why I am three years sober today.

 

If you can step down instead of quit cold turkey, that should make it easier. I didn't have the willpower to do that. I was taking the same amount as you, about 20-30 mgs/day, for 5 years. I failed at the step-down method many, many times.

 

I would suggest writing a list of all the reasons you want to quit and figuring out if you are ready for this fight for your freedom from speed. All the negatives need to outweigh the positives for you. Are you ready to deal with the depression and fatigue that can last for many months or years, knowing it gets better as time goes on? Are you ready to deal with working less, within your own limits, and not being superhuman CEO anymore? Are you sure you want to have a baby if you have chronic fatigue and can't take Adderall? If you are so reliant on Adderall to maintain your status at work, what will happen when you have work and the lack of energy/sleep/time that comes with taking care of a child, and you can't take Adderall because your partner forbids it? I think these are all questions you need to ask yourself. I'm 34 and thinking about having kids. I only now feel like I'm back to normal enough to deal with the fatigue, craziness and lack of sleep that comes with pregnancy and having a kid, knowing that I won't need Adderall to get through it. It took years of recovery to get myself to this point, physically and mentally. 

 

So what should you do once you quit? You should completely cut off your access to the drug or you will risk relapsing. This means finding a different doctor or telling your current doctor to never prescribe you speed again (tell them you are addicted and can't take it). If I were you I'd find a new doctor and tell them about your problems with the drug - get a clean slate. You could take Wellbutrin to help with the transition. The supplement l-tyrosine helps some people, and a daily vitamin. You could go to NA meetings, SMART Recovery, or another support group in your area. These are free and you can go as often as you want. It's hard to find people recovering from Adderall, but it's easy to find people recovering from meth, and guess what? The withdrawal is exactly the same. Anyone quitting amphetamine/methamphetamine will understand the challenges you are facing after you quit. My friend used to be a meth addict and he was great to talk to about withdrawal symptoms/life after speed. This site is amazing as well and vital to my own recovery. 

 

So, that's how I quit and my thoughts for you based on reading your story. Quitting is very doable - you just need to be realistic and prepared for recovery to be a process, not an event. It's worth getting your soul back and not being a slave to a pill. 

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Thanks for your response! This information is really helpful. I definitely think that I'm ready to quit, I wrote a whole pros/cons list before reading your comment, actually! — if nothing else, I need to quit for my health. Which is actually a thing that has confused me a lot... doctors insist that there's no real harm in taking adderall and that i shouldn't be worried about my heart rate. But it feels really bizarre to, at the age of 33, have a heart that's always thumping out of my chest at 100 beats per minute. It seems like every doctor I've been to either refuses to prescribe adderall to anyone as a rule, just because they don't wanna fuck with the laws around it, or is willing to prescribe it but not receptive to my concerns about its impact on my health. 

 

You ask, "If you are so reliant on Adderall to maintain your status at work, what will happen when you have work and the lack of energy/sleep/time that comes with taking care of a child, and you can't take Adderall because your partner forbids it? "

Yes, this is a concern! Probably a top concern. But I also feel like I don't really have an option, this can't possibly be healthy. I'd hope that anything wrong with my brain chemistry that could be fixed with a pill must have a treatment option that involves a pill other than adderall? 

 

I do think I might be a little delusional right now 'cause I seem to think that the comedown/withdrawal won't impact my work TOO much... I think because I've never had trouble in my life wanting to do work, even before adderall, i was always a straight-A student, etc. So I think I can't fathom what it might look like or feel like to need to take a few weeks off. Maybe it won't really sink in until I'm feeling it.

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... I think because I've never had trouble in my life wanting to do work, even before adderall, i was always a straight-A student, etc.

 

Sigh...you have damaged that part of yourself.  Get ready to be utterly shocked.  I was on adderall for almost 7 years, and I am not who I was before.  I am hopeful that I can rebuild and get some semblance of my pre adderall self back, but it is sad.  I am feeling a loss like a death in the family.  I am very lost right now, but still feeling better that I am not on adderall anymore.  It only gets worse the longer that you are on it.    Hang in there!

 

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I agree with AlwaysAwesome. I was a straight A student too. I started taking Adderall at age 26, four years after college and already experienced in the workforce. I didn't need it, just wanted the boost. I worked fine without it before, but now I still struggle, 3 years off it. It's much better though. I'd say I'm 90-95% recovered. I feel normal almost every day. The problem is you will be anhedonic for a long time after you quit, and you'll feel slow and dull and socially awkward. You have to have a lot of patience as your brain recovers from all the doping.

Have you never taken periodic breaks from it over the 12 years, like a week or month off here and there? Do you take weekends off?

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