“I Was Addicted to Meth When I Was Diagnosed With ADHD”

ADHD and meth

 

A woman I’d met at a conference wrote to me: “I was addicted to meth for 5 years until I was diagnosed with ADHD.”

Katherine did not set out to abuse a street drug. Like many others with unrecognized or poorly managed ADHD and other psychiatric conditions, she faced a “Perfect Storm” of circumstances—and made a “really bad choice.”

She continues with her story, below. First, consider research: MIND Institute researchers study ADHD and methamphetamine addiction. MIND Institute research Catherine Fassbender explains:

“Methamphetamine abusers with ADHD often say that abusing methamphetamine helps calm them down and helps them to maintain focus.

This may be a reinforcing factor in their continuing to abuse meth. Of course, there is a very big difference between taking prescription medication and substance abuse.”

Let’s continue with Katherine’s real-life experience.

“I Was a Mess of a Drug Addict”

First off, I had already been a fan of yours for a few years and after reading your first blog post about DNA and ADHD meds, I’m an even bigger fan.

I’m not sure if you remember me but I met you at the CHADD convention in DC in 2013.

I was the mess of a drug addict who walked in 45 minutes late, in tears, and I was desperate for help. You were one of the people who helped me that day, and I’m grateful for you taking the time to speak to me.

I was addicted to meth for 5 years until 2009, when I was diagnosed with ADHD and my psychiatrist put me on Vyvanse. I easily stayed sober for 4.5 years and built a successful career in real estate. At some point before I relapsed, the Vyvanse stopped working. I had no idea until it was too late.

My guess is it lost its effectiveness during the last half of 2012.

I wasn’t able to focus at work. My relationships were more messed up than before. My apartment was a wreck. And my whole world felt like a bottomless pit. March 2013 I was hanging out with someone I shouldn’t have. Meth was in front of me and I made a really bad choice when I did it.

It was a perfect storm for me to relapse, and I stayed addicted until I finally went to rehab on Nov 15th, 2014 until Jan 12th.

My psychologist there told me that my case opened her eyes to the huge impact ADHD has on addiction and she encouraged me to use my experience to help others. She wants to collaborate with me on a plan to do so.

“Each Week I Make More and More Progress”

I’m still working on getting my career back to the level it was before my relapse. Each week I make more and more progress. I’ve even gotten to the point where I’ve shared my truth with a few people who I thought I’d never be able to tell due to our business relationship. The response I’ve gotten from all of them has been supportive and understanding.

It’s so sad to me that there is such a huge disconnect between addiction treatment and mental health, specifically ADHD.  It’s even more disheartening that people are living their whole lives in misery not knowing it really can be better.

I plan to attend the CHADD convention in New Orleans in November and I’m curious, will you be there?

—Katherine (posted with permission)

Dear Katherine,

Of course, I remember you and am so pleased to know that I was helpful—and that you continue to make progress.

Yes, I will be speaking at the CHADD conference in New Orleans. On Saturday at 10:30 am.  I hope to see you there!

Gina

 

17 thoughts on ““I Was Addicted to Meth When I Was Diagnosed With ADHD””

  1. I’m a regular meth user, not an addict, I won’t do anything for it but I do need it to function. I used to do cocaine but I moved across country and the coke scene was abysmal compared to where I was from. They had meth where I moved to, I used to be scared of it, TV makes it looked scary like if you tale it u will automatically become a tweaker but the reality is that I have severe depression, I’m always down and unfocused, I get anxiety and meth helps with that I think that population of users are the majority while the tweakers are the minority but are the face of it which is a great scare tactic for not use. My wife is an asshole, no better way to put it, I love her but I question if she ever did, because the way she treats me makes me want to kill myself. We been together for 20 years 15 married 3 kids. My depression and anxiety and lack of focus which I’m wondering if its ADHD, makes it hard to find motivation to get up and work and when I’m working to stay there and keep a job. My wife being the insensitive jerk just calls me weak and an addict. You couldn’t tell I was a meth user by the media’s depictions of one, it mellows me, calms my anxiety and makes me alert and focused. Coke only made me happy and awake while this stuff is like productive. I don’t know what to do I’m so alone and the drugs are my only friend. She just is to narcissistic to care and gaslighting me to death while playing the victim. If we didn’t have kids I would blow my brains out just to kill this pain on me it’s almost physical.

    1. Dear Djack,

      I can only try to imagine how painful your situation is.

      You definitely owe it to yourself and your future to get evaluated for ADHD–and, if diagnosed, try evidence-based medications for ADHD.

      I encourage you to learn more about ADHD by reading/listening to my book. It’s based on the science, with lots of personal stories as well, along with details on medical treatment and the therapy model developed for ADHD (based on CBT).

      Meth might seem to help but it might be creating more problems than it solves, with rebounding, etc..

      A major challenge will be finding a care provider who knows the connection between untreated ADHD and substance-use disorders.

      Some might insist that you get off meth first and then try a non-stimulant (Strattera, which is approved for ADHD but which most savvy experts will tell you doesn’t perform as well for most people with ADHD).

      Some might agree to prescribe a stimulant but with close monitoring.

      I know you can do better than meth, and I wish you all the best in finding the help you deserve.

      In the meantime, you might want to try to ignore your wife’s judgments — or your judgments of her. As best you can. It might be that, for both of you, perceptions are distorted through an ADHD/meth haze.

      good luck,
      g

  2. This is an old thread but I’m desperate. I’ve been addicted to meth for a decade…and Im 99% sure I have ADHD.

    The stigma of using and fear of punishment and judgment keeps me from seeking an official diagnosis. How do I get prescribed ADHD meds when I’m on meth when they drug teat you before prescribing and then label you an abuser?

    I don’t abuse meth, I’ve never stolen to support my habit, I just can’t function or get anything done without it. I want to stop because it’s illegal and I don’t want to go to jail. But I have no choice. I’m considering suicide because doctors don’t kill and are so prejudiced

    1. Dear Marie,

      I’m saddened to read of your situation. It is absolutely unjust—and worse than Medieval. It’s punishing and cruel, and I’m sorry it’s happening to you.

      It is the very rare physician who will understand that you use meth just to function—and that you’d much rather be receiving evidence-based treatment for what you suspect is ADHD.

      If you go to addiction specialists, many don’t understand ADHD. Some focus on childhood trauma as the cause of using substances, completely ignoring the possibility of brain-based challenges that leave people seeking “stimulation” of all types just to focus and calm their mind.

      If you go to a “straight” psychiatrist, many don’t understand the “self-medicating” aspect of untreated conditions. Or, if they do, they demand that you “get clean” before considering an evaluation, much less any type of medication.

      Their perspective is understandable. But it’s not helpful to the people who might truly do well with proper treatment and stop using “illicit” substances.

      I don’t have first-hand experience with this hotline, but it might be worth a try.

      https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

      SAMHSA is a government agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

      The science in charge of the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse is very enlightened on the vulnerability of people with ADHD to developing substance-use disorders. So, I’m hoping that her enlightened attitude extends to SAMHSA.

      I hope that your talk of suicide is momentary frustration. But please, know that ADHD-related impulsivity can create a higher risk for suicide — which is often an impulsive, in-the-moment act. Please keep this number handy.

      Suicide Prevention Lifeline
      1-800-273-TALK (8255)
      TTY: 1-800-799-4889
      Website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

      24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call is routed to the nearest crisis center in the national network of more than 150 crisis centers.

      If you need to make your case with a treating physician, you can offer these papers:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6037581/

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676785/

      Finally, please know that you have a RIGHT to legitimate treatment. You should not have to bear this burden alone. Sometimes, when people who write to me get very clear about that, doors start to open.

      I hope this helps.

      Please take care and always feel free to leave a comment.

      Gina

  3. Hello – it was an interesting read.
    My older brother was addicted to methamphetamines in his later teens and 20s.

    Now as a father myself, I have worry about my 13 year old son who was diagnosed with ADHD at age 6 and high functioning Autism at age 10 ½.

    For nearly 7 years he has been on an increasing dosage of dexmethylphenidate. I don’t think he is abusing, but even so, I see many of the same symptoms as my brother and wonder whether the drugs for ADHD which supposedly help with focus by eliminating the need to self stimulate are doing real, long-term damage. My son is short for his age – but that isn’t what’s worrisome. I am worried that he is in the 1% tile for BMI.

    He is moody, agitated, argumentative; lies and steals; is screen-addicted – which we try to prevent, but he steals. He had a terrible appetite and won’t eat anything but foods that give him a sugar surge.

    He was at one time diagnosed with Tourettes but now takes another medication to reduce that. He is often paranoid and has hallucinations, he often has stomach aches and constipation. So even while he technically is taking what he was prescribed, I still am of the growing belief that his. medication is the problem, not the cure.

    A couple of times in the past, my ex-wife and her husband have tried to get him off the meds, but they give up quickly because of the roller coaster which I believe resembles my brother when he came off drugs. I think they believe he can get clean an a week of so. I think there’s no way that will happen – and as he gets older, his ability to figure out the connection between the drugs and his highs could start him abusing and making the situation even worse.

    No doubt I want him to be successful in school, but not at the expense of his brain essentially being bathed in dopamine all the time through drugs.

    1. Hi Marston,

      I appreciate your situation. I’m wondering, are you in Australia? Because Dexedrine is so rarely prescribed in the U.S. and elsewhere. Yet, I hear about it often from people in Australia.

      In which case, you might be right. But your ex-wife might be right, too.

      That is, he might be gaining some benefit from the Dex. But he might also be getting adverse side effects.

      While Dexedrine might, in the end, be the best choice for a minority of people with ADHD, for most it will present more problems than it solves. Mainly due to the delivery system but also because 40% of people with ADHD respond better to the other class of stimulants.

      I implore you and your ex-wife to work together on getting better treatment for him. He is 13, so you still have some degree of control vis a vis medical care. But that window will close quickly.

      I encourage you to read the medication chapters in my first book. They explain a basic protocol that should be used for all ADHD patients — but seldom is. (Link below)

      It might be that you have to go outside of the NHS to private care. I’ve not yet encountered a single-payer insurance country where ADHD wasn’t treated with disregard if not contempt.

      re: the “high-functioning autism” diagnosis.

      I would question that. It might be the case. Or it might not. Far too often, ADHD symptoms are mistaken for autistic spectrum disorders.

      Correct diagnosis is critical because it points the way to the most appropriate treatment strategies. The “social deficits” associated with ADHD are largely treatable, and that is paramount.

      You say he’s taking a mother medication to reduce Tourrette’s. That could be further complicating things if that is also an incorrect diagnosis.

      Bottom line: Your child deserves proper treatment. The Dex could be pushing him into irritability and aggression. The stops-and-starts of the delivery could have him on a perpetual roller coaster.

      He should be given another trial of stimulants — at least one choice in each class (amphetamine and methylphenidate). And he should be evaluated for anxiety and depression that co-exists to ADHD — not that is caused by ADHD.

      Diet is important. He should be getting sufficient vitamins and minerals (magnesium and B vitamin deficiency have been associated with the vulnerability to tics while taking a stimulant).

      ADHD can make it hard to “focus” on food — or even taste food that is not sugary, crunchy, etc.. Dopamine has an effect on those things as well.

      Sleep is important, too. But these can be hard to manage while treatment remains poor.

      I hope you can get better help for him soon. I really would not delay. This can affect the entire course of his life.

      I understand that you see a lot of your brother in him. But please know that proper treatment might help him avoid your unfortunate brother’s troubles.

      Here is the link to my book in the U.S.: https://amzn.to/2ZveH4d

      Here it is in AU, if that’s where you are:.
      Learn more: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0050JCA7C/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_QYXdFb81BREWG

      Best of luck to you all!
      g

  4. Hello Gina, my name is Araceli and I’m a meth recovering addict.

    I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was about 12 I’m Hispanic and my mother was ignorant of what ADHD was she didn’t think treatment was necessary.

    My whole teenage years where very hard not wanting to go to school because I was always tired and I would rather stay home, or acted like I was going to school then ditch and go to a house party or the mall.

    I did graduate high school a year later. Then what I was supposed to do? It was hard. I didn’t go to college because I don’t think I was good enough or smart enough.

    I got pregnant instead. My boyfriend moved in with me and then he got arrested a couple of years later. He went to prison and I was left alone with a toddler to take care of. So I started waitressing in a topless cabaret.

    I was 23 the first time I tried meth and I liked it. It took the edge off. In 2007 I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. I had been doing meth for quite some time.

    I went to this free clinic here in Phoenix because I don’t have health insurance. They prescribed Bupropion ER/SR 150 mg,hydroxyz Hcl 25 mg and propranolol 10 mg see at this clinic. They know I’m a recovering addict so they only treat me for anxiety and depression but they don’t treat my ADHD.

    This is my sixth different prescription, and I always go back and relapse I have been trying to find help, I just went through a dramatic domestic violence incident and I’m even worse now.

    It keeps on and on. My life has been hell and I have the scars to prove it.

    I left my partner and my kids are not with me. Child protective services took them they said I put them in danger.

    I started treatment again for the fourth or fifth time. I don’t know what to do any more.

    Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and know probably PTSD. I don’t want to do anything I can’t focus and I’m scared and feel like nobody likes me.

    I feel like a disappointment. Right now I’m not taking any meds. I need help and nobody seems to understand me. Can you please give some advice.
    Thank you Araceli

    1. Dear Araceli,

      I am so very sorry. The ignorance in society and even the medical field is just horrendous and it results in so much unnecessary suffering. It’s overwhelming.

      You must be very strong if you’d held on through all this.

      If you have been taking bupropion, that has some stimulating properties. The prescribing physician should know that.

      I wish I had some great advice for you.

      Perhaps the most useful thing I can do is assure you that you DESERVE competent treatment.

      Here is a comprehensive article on treating people with ADHD who also have substance-use disorders.

      It mentions a few studies showing that methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana, etc.) did NOT increase cocaine cravings in people with ADHD who had a cocaine-abuse problem.

      It also mentions that the longer-acting methylphenidate (for example, Concerta) might reduce risk. The immediate release stimulants (Ritalin, etc.) take effect quickly and tend to wear off quickly. With the long-acting medications, it’s slower to ramp up and slower to wear off.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2676785/

      Here is a more recent article, specifically about ADHD and methamphetamine:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6037581/

      excerpt:

      Conclusion: This study provided some preliminary findings supporting the prevalence of Adult ADHD among METH users and its negative impacts on their global functioning and quality of life. To provide more effective intervention for METH users, detection and treatment of those with A-ADHD can be of clinical value.

      I encourage you to print these studies and bring a copy to your provider, asking to please read.

      I wish you luck. Know that you deserve 21st Century medical understanding and compassion.

      g

    2. I understand you completely as I suffer from ADHD anxiety depression and OCD symptoms. Im not taking any medications or treatments/therapy either. I also use/abuse meth to self medicate my symptoms. I feel like nobody understands me and hopeless at times. I’ve learned being associated with or known to use/abuse meth, you loose your voice and are misunderstood because of the negative stigma and perception of the drug has on society. Im not saying it’s perfect either. I just want to share your not alone. I feel nobody gets me and push everything and everyone away and just want to give up. I feel hopefully knowing I’m not alone and want to find people like me to discuss similarities and work on findind a solution.

    3. Dear Kevin,

      Thank you for supporting Araceli and expressing your personal feelings.

      I can only imagine how much harsh judgment you receive.

      I suspect that loved ones are desperately worried about you and are trying to “scare you straight.”

      However well-meaning, that is an extremely outdated—and never useful—approach.

      I encourage you to pursue ADHD treatment, if at all possible. You don’t know what is ADHD, anxiety, depression, or OCD until you start treatment.

      It might be that you have those co-existing conditions. Or it might those are misdiagnoses—and will resolve with ADHD treatment. At least one or two of them.

      Please keep reading here, especially the comments. I think you’ll find that we all “get it.”

      take care,
      g

  5. I’m being treated as an addict not someone that has adhd. How long before i can get heard that I have adhd an get the meds i need. I would like to know more. Thanks

    1. Hi Sandi,

      I’m sorry this is happening to you. It happens far too much.

      What you need is an MD who understands this issue — and your determination not to settle for less.

      Good luck,
      g

  6. I have been going to alanon for about a year and i notice the same thing in people who are alcoholics—the out of control and nervousness pacing not being able to think clearly… all signs to me that they are ADHD…with a few other problems…

    Listening to people talk at open AA meeting also hit me..they all stated they felt different from everyone else even as a young child…could it be ADD and ADHD undiagnosed?

    I bet there is a strong link… just my experiences. I am an Adult ADHD person so I am pretty good at spotting one and becoming friends with one in a second. lol.

    Thank you for your information and help on this topic and other information…
    Kim

  7. Thanks to Katherine for being willing to speak openly about this issue. I know that many ADHD families are deeply affected by addiction. I’ve seen it run through my own family like, well, a sickness. But it’s amazing how many people don’t understand the link, and how vulnerable ADHDers are to it, especially when we are untreated.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story!
    I hope to go to the CHADD convention in New Orleans this year also, Katherine, and I hope I’ll have an opportunity to meet you!

    Carolyn

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