“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.”

You would never take Katherine for a drug abuser. A realtor in her early 30s, she was the picture of fitness and beauty. You see, 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.”

After you take in Katherine’s real-life experience, please be sure to read the comments. You’ll read the accounts from many people living in fear of getting arrested for purchasing street meth, spending more money than they have on it, and desperately wanting legitimate treatment for what they feel sure is ADHD. Yet, they face little to no help or compassion from psychiatrists.

Katherine takes it from here.

“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. During 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

 

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

  1. I was searching on the web to see what prescription that makes you focus just like when you are high on meth as I don’t want to keep using just to make me focus and get things done. I came across this link and clicked on it and reading all the comments I’m shocked and surprised there are people just like me. Who smokes it and it helps with focus and getting task done. I don’t want to smoke it anymore or rely on it to help me. I was diagnosed with ADHD and was prescribed Adderall. I felt like it didn’t give me the same focus like when I’m on meth. It made me feel zombie like sometimes or even more alerted. I couldn’t sleep. I want to go back and see my psychiatrist and get explain my situation. Is there a prescription out there that gives you the same focus just like meth? I want to stay away from it but it’s the only thing that helps me get things done around the house. I can get organized, be more productive etc. please help I just want to know what prescription medication that will help you focus.

    1. Dear Linda,

      I’m glad you found this post. I’ve not seen anything else like it on this topic.

      Here’s the problem with relying on any medication to “give you focus just like meth”?

      Even Adderall can result in the person feelings like they have a booster rocket attached to their backs. It propels them through their day. They feel efficient. They get things done.

      Only problem is, they are using Adderall as a performance drug, and that never ends well.

      Stimulant medications treat ADHD. They help to improve certain brain functions. But relying on that is a losing strategy.

      People with ADHD do best when they treat ADHD with medication AND implement organizational strategies that help them prioritize their tasks and goals and follow through, get good sleep, eat well, and exercise.

      In other words, ADHD medications should help a person “regulate” their lives.

      It’s not easy learning this. But bit by bit, it can be done. There are lots of tools and plenty of information online.

      So, to answer your question, you’ll not find anything that “works like meth.” That is not a long-term solution.

      But you could find a stimulant that helps you learn new skills and strategies.

      You’d have to wrap your mind around the fact, though, that it won’t “feel” like meth — or even Adderall (which I could discourage anyone with a substance use history from using).

      I hope this helps.

      Good luck
      Gina

  2. I guess I’m just adding my name to a long list of others who were in the exact situation. I was clean for over 16 yrs. But when I changed insurance my new Doctors refused to treat me for ADHD. I was very clear that I wanted treatment not just Meds. I was basically blown off by a few therapists and psychiatrist (all from the same carrier, I had low budget insurance. My life completely unraveled. After 5 yrs I was so depressed I stayed in bed for days at a time. I gained weight and had no support. This clinic had done depression screening twice a month. Every one showed I was severely depressed for at least 4 yrs. Yet my records showed temporarily depressive episodes, and CPTSD. One Doctor (who I saw twice and told me I just needed to let go of the trauma of abusive marriages I’d just gotten out of! hinted that I had a personality disorder. I told everyone I had ADHD. My 2 day long assessment came back as having severe ADHD. which she concluded was probably a major reason for depression. Three psychiatrist still blew me off. We are talking 7 years and my life being completed a wreck. I ran into an old friend who gave me a line. The following day at a Dr appt for my hurt knee they asked for a drug test. Apparently it was requested by my psychiatrist when it came back positive I was so ashamed. He didn’t make it better. He now says he won’t prescribe any ADHD Meds and it’s now trying to refuse me the right to change Dr’s. I FOUND A WONDERFUL THERAPIST WHO HAS ADHD and is so understanding. The psychiatrist at his clinic understands ADHD but this Dr has labeled my records that I’m not aloud to get another doctor. But worse he lied about it. Telling me he’ll do it. But again just doesn’t. My insurance company says he can’t do it. But other doctors can’t or won’t take me with the note. I’m so frustrated!

    1. Dear Wendy,

      That sounds like an absolute nightmare. It’s shocking on every level.

      Are you sure you cannot get that MD’s note deleted from your record? Where is it, in some kind of national database?

      There must be a way to appeal this.

      good luck!
      g

  3. That’s exactly what happened to me I was prescribed by VyvAnce while I was in the hospital. It was working great for a while but then it stopped working. I went out to the find the next best thing which was Meth. Meth ruined my marriage because my husband got addicted to it too meth ruined my freaking life.

  4. I am living this story now.

    I am a functioning (barely) addict. I am pretty sure I have suffered from ADHD my whole life. I was never diagnosed, but just always labeled as the “hyper” little girl that talked really loud and fast and had trouble sitting still in school.

    It wasn’t until motherhood though that the ADHD started to really overwhelm me. I started having overwhelm managing all of my families schedules. This overwhelm led me to go out for girl time more. Getting cocktails with girlfriends a little more often. That’s when I took meth one night.

    I had tried meth in my early 20’s recreationally and liked the focus, but didn’t like how guilty, ashamed and embarrassed I felt after, so I only tried it a couple of times. However about 5 years ago during a girlfriends night out I had a few drinks and then I made a bad, intoxicated choice to do some meth .

    It was only a matter of time before it slowly but surely creeped into my life. Now I find myself in a predicament that I never in a million years thought I would be in. None of my friends or family know, or had know until a couple of months ago when my husband found out. He’s the only one who knows. He was very understanding (to a point), and wanted to helped me quit. I quit for almost a month, but then I slipped up because I couldn’t handle how foggy I was feeling. I wanted to tell him I messed up, but before I could he said, “ I thought for a minute that you got more meth and that would have been awful to have to go through those three weeks detoxing again!” )-: I couldn’t bare to tell him. I know he probably does not want to deal with me being down and out for three weeks again. It would be too disappointing . He doesn’t understand how this is.

    If he did he could have said, “ Hey, don’t get discouraged, if you slipped you’ll just get back up and keep going! I know this isn’t easy, and you aren’t a failure, you can’t do this!” Or maybe if when my Mom, Dad, one of my friends, or better yet, someone from church asks, “ how are you doing?” I wouldn’t have to say, “hanging in there, pretty tired and busy lately”. What if people could handle the truth and didn’t judge you for it, but genuinely wanted to help you. Maybe then when asked how I’m doing I could could say, “I’m not doing great. I’m really lonely and scared. I’m embarrassed and ashamed, I made some bad choices. I think I may be trying to self medicate for undiagnosed adhd, and I got myself into a situation that I need help getting out of. Can you please help me because I don’t want to be doing this anymore and I would like to get some help. Will you support me and not judge me? “

    It’s killing me to live this lie. I don’t want medical records marking me an addict. I don’t want people looking at me different. It was hard enough being the “hyper” girl growing up.” I can’t even imagine the things I would be called.

    So, about s month ago I ended up making a therapist appointment to get properly diagnosed with adhd. I didn’t mention my meth use, and I did get diagnosed with ADHD. I was given 10mg of Vyvanse, but told before I will be prescribed another bottle I will need to get bloodwork done. I haven’t started it yet, but my plan was to quit again this coming week and then start taking my pill sometime after that. When searching for info on Vyvanse and meth, trying to figure out what to do, I came across your article.

    I have your ADHD book. So I took this as a sign that I should write to you for your opinion.

    My question to you is, “How soon after the last time I use meth, can I start taking Vyvanse?

    I am really anxious about stopping meth and going through empty headed, depressed, brain fog days again. I’m wondering if the Vyvanse may ease the transition and then at least get me on a legal drug that I have a prescription for. On the other hand I don’t want to start it, if there are bad effects from overlapping. What are your thoughts on this?

    Any advice you have to offer would be appreciated more than you can imagine. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Reading everyone’s messages helped me to feel less alone. Thanks in advance! ❤️

    1. Dear Ann,

      First I want to head off public criticisms at the pass by saying…. I am not a medical professional. I cannot give medical advice. Etc. Etc.

      But you asked for help and so I will give it my best shot. Because what are the alternatives?

      Kudos on taking the first step toward getting the help you deserve. That shows a lot of determination and guts.

      IF IT WERE ME ….. here’s what I would do:

      1. Get my ducks in a row.

      That is, make a plan. Write it down. Don’t depend on your memory or self-perceptions.

      It seems that without the meth, you can function “okay.” You were off it for a month. While it was hard, and you were feeling fuzzy, you can probably manage for a week or so.

      So, get out your calendar, mark the date when you will stop the meth and when you will start the Vyvanse.

      I’m not sure there has to be a huge amount of time. No one can say. A week seems reasonable.

      2. Beginning now, start giving my body (including your brain) all it needs to create new neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine, etc.) and support their transmission. That might mean:

    2. A good multi-vitamin/mineral
    3. Eating sufficient (not too much) healthy proteins — and a variety of them (the proteins in amino acids supply the critical building blocks for neurotransmitters, we need a variety because we can’t get all the amino acids from one type of protein).
    4. For example… rotating meals with fish, beef, beans and legumes (lentils, etc.), cheese, etc….. If you are vegetarian, you’ll need to take specific steps to be sure you’re getting all the amino acids
      some other way; I don’t know how.
    5. Getting sufficient sleep. If you have a “sleep debt,” start paying it.
    6. If you’re consuming caffeine, cut way back on that or quit altogether if you can.
    7. All this will increase chances of a positive response to the Vyvanse.

      3. Read my book’s chapters on medication. You’ll see that most people with ADHD respond to one class of stimulant better than the other.

      Vyvanse is an amphetamine. The other class is methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, etc.).

      You might luck out and have a good response to Vyvanse. It might even be that 10mg is enough to register a response.

      But, after giving it a few days and not noticing a response, you’ll want to ask your prescriber about, for example, taking two pills (20 mg).

      4. Talk to your husband. Tell him what you’ll need his help during this “transition.” Tell him exactly what kind of help. My book also explains why teamwork is often the best approach to treatment.

      Any medication that can have a positive effect can also have a negative effect. Trouble is, we might not notice it ourselves. We’ll need someone else to help us.

      It’s a little tricky, telling your husband what to watch for. You don’t want to “lead the witness.” 🙂

      Maybe increased irritability or anger. But on the positive side, more stable mood or focus. That kind of thing.

      I hope this helps! Best of luck to you!!

      g

    8. I’m crying because You’ve never met me but you just explained my life. Please give me an update! I’m struggling really bad. I need help. I just want to feel normal..

    9. Hi Ann, Hi Gina, I am replying to your comment because it was the first one I could reply to and I desperately need to open this vault that’s busting at the seams. I recently began searching for peer-reviewed research on illegal drug use in people with ADD/ADHD to see if a correlation had been found…

      I like so many of us here was so completely thrilled & over the moon to find validation of my feelings & struggles but also that what I had been suspecting for decades to be in line with the results of so much research. Like many of us here I too have a sad story. I accidentally found out the usefulness of this drug. I am diagnosed with ADD I have been unmedicated well over a decade and my life has spun completely out of control.

      I only use when something is being demanded of me or I have to produce something for someone or perform a Duty or responsibility or if anything at all is expected of me. I have to self medicate or I will literally live in my bed and not shower or even brush my teeth for weeks. I’ve suffered various forms of chronic childhood abuse and other trauma that has followed me into adulthood. I feel I recently woke from a PTSD dissociative state that lasted the span of 15 plus years.

      With this “Awakening” came much realization that caused a heightened level of concern & an urgency to address. It just came a little too late & I am in such a bad place today. What I’m about to tell you is the reason I’ve chosen to speak up. I’m still a little bit hesitant because each of us has the right to choose whether to share our story or not but this story isn’t only mine it also belongs to my son, my only child but for the first time ever I feel such a sense of security from these comments that not only has it made me able to speak but has filled me with a sense of urgency to do so.

      My son can no longer make this choice for himself nor could he share if he so chose to do so. I want/need to use this platform to give my son a voice & speak on something I have been fearful of for some time now .

      For many years from the time my child was in Head Start/Jumpstart preschool all that stuff every teacher has mentioned or suggested getting him tested for ADD/ADHD. I took what they I said with a grain of salt and did not worrying myself too much with it because at the time I felt everyone was getting labeled with this diagnosis like it was the new fad. I was also completely against medicating him for fear of stunting his growth and I also feared the loss of authenticity I didn’t want him to lose all the things that made him my boy.

      Fast forward to the 6th grade and a heart-to-heart with a male math teacher I decided to go ahead and have my son tested when I realized I had not been giving enough concern or maybe I didn’t realize because he had only just begun to show signs of it negatively affecting his self-esteem.

      With all the laws and regulation of controlled substances it has always made it difficult for me to stay on top of calling in to the doctor’s office requesting the prescription having to drive to the doctor’s office to pick up the paper prescription take it to the pharmacy and me being the only one that can pick it up excetera excetera excetera.

      The ridiculous Drug Reform & laws put into place to protect us from falling victim to the various problems that often times have shown to come hand in hand with the unmonitered use of controlled substances need to be re-reformed because they have inadvertently led to soooooooo many accidental deaths it’s too shocking to ignore.

      My son is 23 years old he was still seeing a pediatrician but had been recently told that he needed to establish himself with another doctor and since he’s over the age of 18 Mommy couldn’t help. They did allow him some Grace and continued to write his prescription for a short time after until they just couldn’t any longer.

      My son worked two jobs, he was a high school football coach, he started a Bible Study group and converted many non-believers into believing whatever they chose to believe but to believe in a higher power. He was on his way to GREATNESS until he wasn’t… having struggled myself and hiding my truth as all of us here have it occurred to me that my son although not medicated had been for some time able to keep up with the demands of his life and rigorous schedule so I began to prod and pry a little.

      I don’t want to go on and on about this cuz believe me I can my son did not want me worrying about him but he did finally asked me if we could do whatever we needed to do legally so that I could handle his medical business because he was struggling with selecting a doctor is setting it all up all the stuff that comes with ADD.

      I was not given enough time after this conversation to become his power of attorney or whatever other documents and loopholes they make you complete or perform in order to do basically anything with your own damn life somebody else with all the power always has their nose in the middle of everything. On March 1st of 2021 after completing his shift at his full time job my son was returning home to change into his uniform & cook dinner for himself and his roommate’s before having to report or his night shift at the gym.

      My son had recently discovered the “power pellet” effects of opioids after having a tooth extracted and when he couldn’t find his adderal on the street like that was any safer he would at times settle for something different but I’m not aware of any meth use as of yet but he too was self-medicating and if you hadn’t yet it was only a matter of time before he had discovered it as well.

      My son died less than 30 minutes after taking what he believed to be adderal only for us to later find out what he had taken was nearly pure Fentanyl. My life or what we were trying to make of it will forever be destroyed a mess of nearly unrecognizable shards or fragments of a life that once was serving as constant reminders of what used to be but is no more or what could’ve been but is no longer in the cards for me and since then I’ve learned so much and just how prevalent this dirty little shameful secret is.

      I just recently heard news of a young girl also self medicating to help manage her ADHD symptoms having fell out in the girls restroom at a local high-school into a full blown Grand mal seizure after having ingested cocaine laced with fentanyl. I feel I am suppose to speak out about this and bring awareness to the actual reality of how easy this can occur but in doing so I would have to expose my very private prideful son.

      I can’t do this without being completely honest & with that being said so do all of us because it could very easily happen to me just as it could very well happen to any of you and then we won’t have to worry about protecting any reputation cause it will be too late…

      I really just wanted to share my story I don’t know what I’m looking for here right now but I thought maybe Gina might share some insight some words of wisdom some ideas on where to go from here I promised my son that I was going to do the work to heal myself from past trauma in promising that I also knew I was going to have to tackle this enormous problem of self-medicating and figure out how 2 utilize the services we have available to speak on it or a better way to bring it up and have an open conversation about it to a healthcare Professional without being labeled an addict because I absolutely if I had a choice would never take any medication because I hate taking medication I hate taking pills I hate that I need to take something to function or feel normal and more than anything I hate that I passed on this curse to my son and that my silence and my secrets for fear of being labeled an addict or druggie is what actually killed him.

      If I can help keep this from happening to anyone else or bring awareness to this very real nightmare I will do whatever it takes. For anybody that read this thank you so much for your time and for being brave enough to share your story and Gina thank you for all of this and for just being you. After reading this blog I now feel newly capable and less fearful to address the call for action & hopeful for the possibility of actual change to one day occur. For the first time since my son I feel I have a purpose in still being here & something to look forward to and feel passion for.

      I apologize for the novel and run on sentences and my free of form spastic account of my story. Forgive me & my mush brain I’m unmedicated, in a PTSD fog typing through tears that will probably never ever stop. I appreciate your time and patience❣

    10. Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for telling us your story, hoping to spare others of similar consequences.

      Please accept my sorrowful condolences on the loss of your son.

      I just can’t imagine.

      None of this is your fault. I’ll repeat, none of this is your fault.

      You were clearly doing the best you could.

      ADHD is a complex syndrome. All the “dumbing down” of what it means results in skepticism and confusion. And, often, rejection.

      Sometimes, understandably so. If somebody told me, “You’re just a quart low on dopamine,” I’d walk out of the room. Because I’m not stupid. And neither are you. That is obvious.

      I’ll be direct: It’s very tricky, trusting the average therapist or even psychiatrist to know what’s what about ADHD.

      That’s why I always recommend education first. Get grounded in knowledge. Know what the diagnostic criteria is and how it might apply to you. Be pro-active, not submissive. That’s my best advice.

      I’ll be in touch via e-mail but I have to run now.

      take care,
      Gina

    11. I struggled from the exact same scenerio you are in. I’ll let you know what worked for me but I am sure it is not medically recommended.

      We all know what we are supposed to do but Meth is a bitch and I quit many times over a 10 year period but always relapsed until now and I have been clean for 9 months now.

      Here is what I did:
      Followed the steps in the book “Quit Meth Now”. Follow it all the way through and take all the supplements. Once you are done with the 14 days start your prescription.

      That is what I did and I was able to get my energy levels back and my life in order and I don’t have to hide anything and am not ashamed or feel like a fraud/liar anymore.

      You still have a shitty meth withdrawal period but it’s manageable and there is a light at the end of the 14 days.

      Again….I am not a doctor …..

    12. Hi Amy,

      Thanks for sharing that resource. I’ll check it out.

      Yes, you’re “not a doctor” and neither am I. But if MDs had all the answers, neither of us would be here. 🙂

      take care,
      Gina

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