“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

 

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

  1. I grew up honestly not understanding what most tried to explain.

    In school, I aided my keen sense of humor to distract the entire class so that my lack of focus was a problem I created for myself rather than the conclusion I had so early in life concluded. I thought I was stupid.

    With no ability to learn. While my peers got what was being taught I pondered away thinking up things my mind would create. My mind is great. Especially when finishing the creation which isn’t likely to happen.

    I started using meth when I was 19. While others around me were losing their ability to properly think with the chemicals and lack of sleep, I was injecting daily, sleeping nightly and learning how incredibly intelligent I truly am.

    I didn’t care to he tested I became an addict to the functioning brain I finally had. I knew I had ADHD and I saw no sobriety in my future so wasn’t an issue. I became a menace to society, no longer a functioning addict. In my blunt words… The meth was good I did a lot and that was all my life was. When to get high how to get more. Nothing else mattered.

    But intelligence eventually pushed me to sober up. I was clean for five years in which time I got a medical diagnosis and with the lack of insurance I had Adderall was all I could afford. I abused it because it wasn’t enough, of course I felt the need to lie when asked if I had a history of drug abuse and so eventually because I felt what it was like again for my brain to work I found some meth and lived as a above average functioning store manager of the most stressful business known. Burger King.

    Life got me on a different path and I cleaned up again. My inability to connect the begging and the end of my racing thoughts is the worst of them all. Knowing that I could be missing out on some very new knowledge happening in my own brain drives me crazy.

    I do not wish to be a meth addict. I am glad I experienced it because now when I’m sober it’s easier to understand. I don’t speak a lot because I’ve learned most don’t have the patients for me to get to the end. And if they do, I usually forget anyway.

    I speak directly from my mind not thinking the words but instead hearing the words coming out. I do not necessarily feel like ADHD for me is something I wish I didn’t have. I wish I was tested early enough in life that I could have been successful in school leading to great success as an adult. But I don’t hold onto what is lost .. I am planning on going to a rehab facility soon.

    And if they are unwilling to prescribe Vyvanse or something to help me I will inform them I won’t be staying because I know how to self Medicate and be intelligent to excel and anything I want.

    But the majority of the meth users, they are not exactly smarter with their use. For me it instantly calms my entire body to a relaxation and calm sense of controlling my own body. But it’s not the treatment that will work.

    Because I want to be in control. Addiction is a disease. And anyone with ADHD should not suffer with using a disease to treat a disorder. I am sorry for the length. It’s nice to share my thoughts and personal experience with others who also know what it’s like.

    1. Dear Randi,

      I am grateful to have your story here. I hope some readers will find comfort and validation — and others will find reasons for compassion and grasping science.

      I wish you all the best in finding treatment that helps you. It might be that Vyvanse isn’t the best class of stimulant. Perhaps a choice in the methylphenidate class might be better (e.g. Ritalin, brand Concerta, Quillivant, Daytrana, etc.). It really depends on genetics, as to which class works better for an individual. And it’s impossible to know beforehand.

      Please keep us posted!

      g

    2. Very similar to my experience randy. Very. I’m 3 years clean and have adhd and my brain feels super well then absolutely fragmented. I can’t do anything but think. Working is hard. Opening a bill is hard. Solving complex problems a breeze. Its not pleasant. Some of your reported responses to your own story seem analogous nice post. I even like my response. The gas bill in front of me is still over due. I really should open it. Squirrel. No seriously. I just saw a squirrel. Hahaha. I’m kidding. It was mouse.

  2. All I keep reading is “find a doctor who understands”. How are we supposed to do that?! None of them do!

    I am legally disabled for other mental disorders and have been advised to seek adhd testing. Every doctor dismisses my concerns. I have used meth for ten years in secret, because it is the onoy way I can get out of bed and the only way i can at least half function. It was that way before i started using. Im at my best when i do use.

    I see no point in gettinh tested when my use will label me an addict and ill be forced back into treatment for a fifth time. I can play the game and get clean but why stay clean and depressed in bed, unable to get up except to crawl to the toilet.

    No will to live no interest in anything to where you cant even watch a movie through.

    I KNOW if I were prescribed Desoxyn I could quit using street meth but I cant quit before that or Id never get to the appointment to begin with. Ive been prescribed high doses of every SSRI on the planet and other categories as well and nothing helps.

    I am always late, losing things, have rejection anxiety and extreme responses, impatient, always moving, overemotional, disorganized and I’m ANGRY.

    I have decided to seek euthanasia underground once I can get into Mexico for the drugs. If nobody is going to do what they should to help in my best interest because theyre cowards hiding behind fatcat government who doesnt want to lose their criminal cash cow, so be it. My blood will be on their hands.

    When are these genius doctors going to look at paces like Peru where all drugs are legal and see how well theyre doing addiction and health-wise? Far better than us.

    I hope all doctors, cops and government officials are shown more mercy by god in judgement in the hereafter than they have shown me in this world.

    1. Dear Audrey,

      My heart goes out to you. It’s not right. It’s definitely not right. In fact, it is abusive. This situation.

      I know it’s hard to read “find a doctor who understands.” I wish I made the rules—and enforced them. But I don’t.

      It might not be a capitalist conspiracy — depriving you and other people suffering underlying addictions of psychiatric disorders. It is more likely, I’m afraid, rank stupidity. Yes, among physicians. Yes, among psychaitrist. Yes, among “substance abuse disorder specialists.” (Now, that IS a cash cow, imho.)

      You might want to read my reply to Amy, below, citing various studies about ADHD+ addiction treatment. Specifically, it’s not always true that the patient should stop “self-medicating” for X days/weeks/months before getting legitimate treatment.

      I can only validate your experience and that you deserve competent, compassionate treatment. I’m sorry that’s not enough.

      g

  3. I can hardly see through my tears right now.

    I am sitting on my bathroom floor, discouraged, ashamed and late to work. A repeat of yesterday. I’ll get to work late, but I have to do what I must to hide the self hating functional addict that I am. And it’s getting harder by the day.

    Because meth is not meant to help me function, no matter how easily I ration it. I hate it I hate me because of it but I KNOW I’m not a bad person. I’m a single mom , caring for parents part time, I love people, I work, I’m educated, I’m distracted, intense, late to EVERYTHING, hurting, wishing I had this diagnosis confirmed like my brothers do. Instead I went down a road so similar to Katherine’s that I fell to my knees and sobbed right here in the bathroom now.

    You’re right, her story helped me feel like I can reach out and maybe this time I won’t be looked at suspiciously like I’m trying to score stims like all addicts apparently do. Sheesh.

    I’ve been “functioning” this way for years. And I’m tired. I’m aging fast. Even with super active health and beauty routines, zero use of any other substances or alcohol, I know meth will always win at slowly killing me. Add the self esteem issues to the mix.

    I’m so stressed. I hurt from how cruel I am to me when I’m alone. My little boy needs to see his momma in the best she can be. This is NOT ME. I am praying that you can help me, Gina.

    I have hope.

    I’ll peruse this site later of course….but I really gotta go to work now!! Routinely inconsistent is that even a thing? Ha. Oh thank you for allowing comments and for sharing to everyone here. Sure helped me turn my day around for the better!

    1. Dear Amy,

      I am heartbroken to read your story. It’s not right, in this 21st Century, having the preponderance of scientific knowledge, that you have been forced to fend for yourself in the best way you can find—and then feel guilty about it.

      Especially if your brothers had the benefit of the ADHD diagnosis while you did not — that just adds insult to injury!

      THIS SHOULD NOT HAPPEN! Just as Cameron’s story should not have happened or anyone else’s story here should not have happened.

      Yes, “Routinely inconsistent” is a thing with ADHD. Some might also say, “Consistently inconsistent.”

      That is the central challenge of ADHD: Self-regulation.

      There are several points I’d like to respond to:

      1. How well do you think you’d be functioning, given meth usage, if you weren’t also beating yourself up over it?

      In other words, how much stress are you adding to your life by what you tell yourself about using meth?

      Perhaps if you could make peace with that, temporarily, that might give you more peace of mind.

      2. Do you know who is in your corner? The director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow.

      She is a brilliant neuroscientist who could have worked anywhere. She chose public service and researching substance-use disorders.

      As a child, she observed that some people could, for example, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol but not become addicted. Others would immediately become addicted. What was the difference, she asked?

      She rejected the “morality” explanation and pursued the scientific line of inquiry. She has produced some pivotal research on dopamine transmission in the brain and the vulnerability to substance use.

      Here is an interview I did with her several years ago, for CHADD’s Attention magazine:

      https://d393uh8gb46l22.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/ATTN_4_10_Volkow_REVISE_3_19_10.pdf

      Bottom line: You are not dealing with a moral issue, an issue of your having bad character. You are dealing with a physiological issue.

      3. The risk for children with untreated ADHD of developing substance-use disorders is well-documented.

      Again, not morality. Science.

      4. You deserve evidence-based treatment.

      There is indeed a lot of well, let’s be kind and call it ignorance, in the mental health profession.

      At the same time, the increase in stimulant availability — and thus abuse — has also created a difficult situation for psychiatrists and other prescribers who seek to be responsible in not making a patient’s bad situation worse.

      Some psychiatrists might throw up their hands and say, “It’s impossible to tell if you really have ADHD when you are abusing street stimulants.”

      But that’s not always true.

      Some might insist that the patient be completely off any drugs for a certain amount of time before they re-evaluate. But then there’s the risk of attributing ADHD symptoms to “withdrawal” or childhood trauma or any of a number of narratives.

      It might be possible to evaluate for ADHD in this population, at least for some clients.

      That includes getting a full history, back to childhood, to understand if ADHD has been present for a long time.

      This is an old paper (2007), but it’s the first I could find now that explains several of the issues. Including that sometimes taking a stimulant when one has a history of SUD might be a good idea. With conditions.

      Excerpt:

      Some authorities have proposed approaches that emphasize medications with a lower risk of abuse, such as antidepressants or clonidine, before using traditional stimulant medications such as methylphenidate or amphetamine analogs.

      However, clinical trials of methylphenidate and dextroamphetamine for the treatment of either cocaine dependence or ADHD in patients with co-occurring SUD have shown that stimulant medications can be used safely in patients with SUD and have a relatively low risk of abuse under monitored conditions.

      While the treatment literature for ADHD in patients with SUD is not well developed [remember, this paper was published in 2007], the emerging trend is that medications effective for adult ADHD may be effective for adults with ADHD and co-occurring SUD, but the therapeutic benefit may be less or non-existent if substance use is ongoing. Several possible causes of this phenomenon include the following:

      —patients with ongoing SUD do not reliably take their medication,
      —patients with SUD may require higher doses (ie, higher tolerance) than administered in clinical trials, and
      —ongoing SUD makes detection of a therapeutic effect less likely.

      Amy, you deserve better. I hope that, as you become convinced of that, you punish yourself less and expect more of the medical profession. Sometimes, that shift in perspective can be enough to open doors once though locked for you.

      I hope this helps.

      Please stay in touch. We’re rooting for you.

      g

  4. Hi!

    So I’m going out on a limb here, but I feel I’m at an impasse and maybe this will help. I’m a 29 year old trans man living in Canada, with a partner of 8 years and phenomenal crisis management skills I’m hoping to turn into a career. My whole life I’ve struggled with fatigue, severe brain fog and focus problems as well as other mental health issues which are largely considered managed now. I went through my late teens and early 20s doing sleep studies for narcolepsy, epilepsy, learning disability tests, and seeing psychiatrist after psychiatrist. I wound up with an incomprehensible list of mostly NOS diagnosis (4/6), a handful of possibilities and “traits of” (ADD being the one everyone mentioned but no one followed up on), and a black label of “too complicated to treat”. Despite all my challenges I am very proud of how far I’ve come. However the recent challenge is that the last 2 years I’ve struggled with using stimulants – first cocaine, then to the rooms of NA, rehab, and now for the last year crystal meth.

    With cocaine, and in rehab, I was obsessed with the high as it was the first thing to “make me function like a human” and “make me feel normal”. Obsessed is the right word though, and I would chase that sucker down with every drop of cash in my bank account.

    On my final sit down at rehab, minutes before I walked out the door, the councillor was going on about how I “used coke for the rush, how confident it made you feel, how in control” and I was stunned. After 30 days, he didn’t even know my reasons to use! So I interrupted and corrected him – “it’s the clarity, the focus, and the being able to stay awake for more than 4 hours at a time that I liked about it. The rest is just bonus.”

    He was shocked, but shrugged it off and said “well then, it’s likely you have ADHD, you might want to get that checked,” following up with how I had to do that on my own since my time with them was up.

    It’s a sentence I’ve heard many times, but this time it hit me different – if I was using to treat my ADHD, why don’t I just take it like meds? I’d argued for them with my psychiatrist for 10 years to no avail (“a stimulant will make you manic”, yet nothing else worked). Why can’t I take things into my own hands?

    Meth changed my story. I originally sought it to reduce the financial strain (1.5g coke/day is pricy, especially on disability) and because it was known to treat ADHD, but expected something similar to cocaine. What I found was more normal than I thought possible! My thinking was even clearer and not hindered by the rush of cocaine, I could set out to do a task and it would get done, I still felt hungry and my eating balanced out from one meal every two days to two meals every day, and I could carry on a conversation without missing words or jumping trains of thought! In my new found clarity I’ve learned to love myself, since I finally feel like I actually am myself.

    Yes, at times I’ve gone overboard. Yes, I’ve had days (weeks) where I said f*ck it and done more than my dealer thought possible. No, I’m not great at portioning out and caping a daily dose, as I prefer the ritual of smoking far more. I won’t lie, I like the high when I’m hiding from myself. That’s pretty normal, I think. What isn’t normal is how I like just before the high more, where you don’t have a buzz of any sort your just awake and able to think. That’s apparently frustrating as hell for most users, who knew!

    However, I want to stop – there’s too much run around, inconsistency, and risk. I’m not obsessed like I was, with meth I find it easy to stop and go through early withdrawal – I’m day 9 of a “health and wellness” break right now, with only a “cheat” of the dust from an empty baggy to help me clean the room yesterday – yet when I am not using I get so frustrated with myself and my inabilities that it has negative repercussions in my life. My parter said last night “when you use a little your great, when you use a lot you get hypomanic, and when your in detox your hell to live with.” I know I can stop, but I feel there’s got to be something to catch me as I do.

    I’m just scared, I think. I’m scared to be written off or rejected again, or worse yet outright wrong about my guess of ADHD! I’m scared of being seen as a user who wants an extra fix, I’m scared of not making progress if I do try, and I’m scared of getting yet another diagnosis added to the pile. I just got cleared to not need a psychiatrist, the amount of bs packed into my story is intimidating to most doctors, and I don’t even know where to start!

    I’ll end this personal essay there, or I’m going to write forever. If you’ve read all of this, thank you. If you reply, thank you more! Even if you don’t, writing things out has been a cathartic way to spend my morning, so again thank you. Keep up the good work your doing, stay safe, and have a wonderful day. 🙂

    1. Dear Cameron,

      My heart goes out to you. And I’d like to inflict punishment on the string of “mental health professionals” who, from what you describe, neglected and in a very real sense treated you abusively.

      HOW DARE THEY.

      On a positive note: You are obviously smart, self-aware, and a survivor. You came through all that having what sounds like a very clear self-assessment and perspective of your situation going forward with finding professional help. Huzzah.

      Yes, a type of meth was in the past and, to a much more limited degree, still is prescribed for ADHD. But it is pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine, not street meth. I’m not an expert on this, but I am guessing the Dexosyn delivery system is more regulated than with street meth (not to mention all the variables and impurities associated with that “homemade” manufacture). Here is a bit I found on the difference:

      Desoxyn is often compared to street meth that is not quite as a potent feeling but gives much more clarity than that of the illicit drug, meth. In the same manner that people that become addicted to painkillers and turn to heroin because of the price and availability, people that abuse Desoxyn will eventually turn to street meth for the same reasoning without thinking of the danger that these drugs pose.

      It is NOT YOUR FAULT that you had days where you “went overboard.” ADHD itself creates essential problems with self-regulation. And attempting to treat that with an elephant gun (street meth/cocaine) rather than a more targeted pea shooter (pharmaceutical stimulants) can compound that self-regulation challenge. My sense is that you were doing the best you can just to function. Who doesn’t want to function?

      As far as re-starting your efforts on the mental-health professional front, I think you need to be very strategic.

      The truth is, many of the professionals you encounter will, ah-hem, not have graduated at the top of their class. Some of them are just not strong critical thinkers—or all that empathic. They might see all their patients through a restricted prism, based on their limited understanding of neuroscience or being unduly influenced by a charismatic leader in the field with one organizing principle (e.g. Trauma Causes All Ills).

      As concerns ADHD alone — without all the other issues — that is dicey when it comes to the average therapist or psychiatrist understanding, much less treating.

      Putting all that you describe here out there for a random professional to sort out……well, let’s just say, if it were me, I would not risk that kind of vulnerability. And I don’t mean emotional vulnerability. But vulnerability to nonsense, misdiagnoses, and more wrong directions.

      Much will depend on your access to resources. For example: Do you live in a major urban area where a certain level of sophistication might be found? Or are you in a rural area with scant access to help of any kind?

      Whatever the case, I would encourage you not to dump all these threads in some random person’s lap. I would organize those threads in a coherent, systematic manner.

      If you are convinced that ADHD is your core issue — that is, the one that showed up earliest in life and has continued to challenge you in all kinds of ways — you might want to just focus on that for now. And document it. In other words, take charge and self-advocate.

      For example, I would start with ADHD symptoms. Create a list and check which resonate for you — and have since childhood. Provide examples at various stages in life. ADHD symptoms manifest differently in a 10-year-old than in a 30-year-old.

      Include and detail the “domains of life” in which ADHD has created problems for you — work, school, relationships, money, etc. [I am developing this as an exercise for my online training. It’s so important.]

      I cannot advise on how much of the other information you should disclose immediately or maybe wait until you and the professional have a better sense of each other.

      But know this: The stupid truth is that some will hear “trans” or “substance abuser” and that is the box in which you will remain and that will determine any future action. Especially given the widespread paltry understanding of ADHD. So, I urge caution and pro-action, not being passive.

      Two things:

      1. We know that children with untreated ADHD are more likely to develop substance-use disorders (SUD).

      2. Longitudinal studies from Barkley et al have associated ADHD with a slightly higher rate of “gender dysmorphic disorder.” Perhaps that is an offensive term. I don’t know. I am simply pointing out that any professional who would seek to attribute your ADHD-like symptoms to being trans (and the potential psycho-social effects of that) might be putting the cart before the horse. Same with SUD. Here is the first study I found:

      https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312103102.htm#:~:text=%22In%20ADHD%2C%20difficulties%20inhibiting%20impulses,and%20ASD%20could%20be%20related

      If you haven’t read my first book, I encourage you to read it so as to solidify your foundation of ADHD knowledge.

      Then use the third-section as your consumer guide to ADHD treatment. The Appendix includes the diagnostic criteria (from DSM-IV, but it’s little changed with DSM-V; one major difference is that symptoms can manifest by age 14 instead of 7). My book is endorsed by a Who’s Who of preeminent researchers and clinicians. It is based on science, not my little opinions.

      https://amzn.to/3mLUEYJ

      I hope this helps, Cameron, and I wish you all the best.
      g

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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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