Goodbye to Adderall That: One Writer’s Breakup with His Drug of Choice

One writer bids farewell to the A.D.D. Rx wonder-drug that, well, wait look at these cats on Buzzfeed!

Illo: Oliver Munday


I’ve been thinking…we need to talk. This has actually been brewing for awhile, but it came to a head the other day. An editor and I were having a little post-mortem outside of the office about the piece I’d published the night before. You know the one. Remember? A few weeks back, you kept me company during a particularly nasty stretch, when I only got four hours of sleep over, what was it, three days? Almost three days. I know, I know: Far from the first time you’ve saved my ass, especially as far as deadlines go. But this time, it was different.

“The first four paragraphs were really good,” the editor told me. “But then you gave me the rest the next day, and it was totally incoherent. I think the Adderall is affecting your writing. Your voice is completely different when you’re on it. I mean, it’s basically just speed, you know?”

I know. I was stunned, too. He knew all about us! It was a little personal, to be honest. But as far as the note on the story, well, let’s face it, he was right. It was the way he talked about you, though, that hurt the most. He dissed you. Said you were good for a laugh now and then but had become a bad influence on me. That’s no way to treat a legally prescribed pharmaceutical, right? You’re not crack! You can’t even be smoked, unless there’s something you haven’t told me.

Of course, I came to your defense immediately. They assigned that piece at the last minute, on the night before a holiday weekend. And of course, he’d been the one to hook us up, at least on that occasion, handing over a spare 20mg extended-release capsule (“I only take it when I’m going out,” he explained), which I gladly, fiendishly gobbled up in the passionate tradition of Dr. Gregory House: no water needed.

Even after all of that, he told me to ditch you, suggested I was whipped.

“It’s just amphetamine,” he went on. “How can you take it every day and not expect to  be addicted to it?”

Ever since that conversation, everything has just felt different. Lately, I find myself asking questions, uncomfortable questions. I’ve been with you for almost three years now (tell me you didn’t forget our anniversary), and never recreationally. In fact, our relationship has been validated by totally reputable, board-certified physicians. We’re together for all the “right” reasons.

But listen, please? You need to focus, Adderall: I’m really starting to ask myself how much I actually need you. Or if I really need you at all.

Look, I know I’m not special—I’m not the first writer-type you’ve been with. The fact is, you’ve been around, okay? I mean, start with most of the journalists I’ve worked alongside over the last few years at various magazines or websites. They’ve all fallen under your spell. But promiscuity is in your blood. Back in 2005, when you and Joshua Foer had that weeklong fling (him? really?), he listed all the famous writers who’d fallen for amphetamines just like you: W.H. Auden, James Agee, Graham Greene, and Philip K. Dick, Jack Kerouac, and Jean-Paul Sartre, to name a few.

Honestly, just thinking about you and them together makes me insecure. I can’t compete with guys like that!

It’s not that I’m not extremely fond of you. You’ve been a really important part of my life. I mean, I love you, Adderall. When you’re around, I feel like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, riding a bomb of electric energy, waving a ten-gallon hat in the air as we demolish every empty Google Document in sight. Together, we’ve obliterated entire societies of blank word processing documents, not to mention civilizations of emails, Tweets, IMs, and Tumblr posts. At the same time!

I still remember the day we met. There you were, freshman year, hanging out with the guys in the dorm next door. Between a pyrex bong, a rack of Natty Light, and a stack of xeroxed library research, you lay on the table in little tangerine lines, right before you went straight up Brian’s nose. It seemed like practically everyone was already friends with you. I wanted to know you too.

I went to the university health center and said all the right words. Told the doctor I was “having trouble concentrating.” I was “tired, all the time.” Other members of my family “had been diagnosed with ADD and/or ADHD” and had “taken medicine for it” and “reluctant as I am to try a behavioral pharmaceutical” I was “desperate” for a “solution.” None of which were really lies, per se. They just weren’t urgent truths. Still, just as I was told would happen, they tried to put others between us: Ritalin, Concerta, Focalin (and let’s forget all about my brief, unfulfilling affair with Vyvance years later). None of them really did it for me. But I found you eventually.

The initial infatuation was intense. That first liftoff turned a Monday morning lecture-hall sized government class into an intimate, engaging colloquium on global policy, giving life to personal ambitions never considered, like becoming an ambassador to Turkey. Or The Maldives. You gave me a sugar rush of intellectual ambition. When we’re together, the faucet of Amazing Ideas Thought Up By Me opens up like a fire hydrant on a hot summer day. Inevitably, this sensation eventually fades into The Deep Focus. Cleaning the dorm would become a red wire-blue wire situation: Where should I hang this jacket? Here! This is it!

We were a to-do-list-crossing-off dream team—the Jordan and Pippen of crossing-off. Writing letters, returning calls, running errands. Reading, my god, all the reading. And the work? All-nighters weren’t torturous, but riveting. And whenever you got to be too much, a little pot always managed to come into the picture. You two went together like rocket fuel and molasses. It was wonderful.

But in the end, you took me further in Mario Kart than you ever did in school. And to say my sleep schedule was unorthodox would be unfair to Batman. When I left college, I left you behind. We went our separate ways.

And after a five-year separation, we reunited.

Goodbye to Adderall That: One Writer’s Breakup with His Drug of Choice