In third grade, I told my mom that it felt like I was in a thick cloud. I couldn’t pay attention to anything Ms. Odell was teaching, and I felt like nuggets of my brain were strategically being scooped out with a melon baller and getting replaced with dried bits of Crayola Model Magic. My mom took me to the doctor, where I was tested and quickly diagnosed with ADHD. I was put on medicine to help, and suddenly, that thick fog was lifted, and my brain was no longer being pilfered and replaced with modeling clay. Ever since, I have been on some cocktail of ADHD medications, switching drugs and dosages from time to time under the direction of my doctor. as my body becomes accustomed to the effects of each drug. This is not a medication that I pop when I need to stay up studying for an exam. This is not even a medication that I take only on school days and then skip on the weekends. I take my medication every day because if I didn’t I a) would have zero friends, b) would be collectively hated by the general public and c) would probably do something incredibly stupid and impulsive.
To put it simply, my brain has a built in deficit when it comes to attention span and focus. Un-medicated, I am unable to function at the level you are capable of functioning. Think of it as cups of chocolate milk, but the milk is focus. My glass has about a tablespoon of liquid in it, and yours is full. Now, imagine that me taking medicine is adding a half a cup of milk to my glass. When I pour milk into my glass, it is not full all the way, but it is definitely more full than before. If someone with a full glass of milk pours a half a cup of milk into their glass, it will overflow. This is exactly what my medicine does for people who do not have ADHD. When I take my Vyvanse, I am giving myself more focus, but my deficit, to begin with, is too large to be made up for entirely. When someone has to study for a final and decides to take illicitly obtained Adderall, they are able to reach this overflowing level of focus that those of us with ADHD are incapable of achieving and frankly do not take the medicine for.
Focus is so much more than just a tool for school. It is an invaluable skill that aids in conversation, making friends, playing an instrument, taking walks, cleaning your room and literally anything that you have ever done. Off of my meds, not only am I not able to focus on school work, but instead of cleaning my room, I would sit on the floor with a lint roller and lint roll my entire floor to get every piece of dust. This is a real thing that has happened to me on multiple occasions. If I go on a walk without my meds, I end up getting distracted by something off the beaten trail and then proceed to count every leaf on every goddamn tree. Hours later in both of these scenarios, I snap back into reality and realize that I have literally been doing nothing. The idea that people who are prescribed ADHD medication are just lazy students who need to focus at school belittles the condition and delegitimizes my quotidian life. Yes, focusing on homework is often a massive struggle, but the drugs do more than just that for me. ADHD medication provides balance in every aspect of my life and facilitates my own ability to take care of myself. When I am off of my meds, like at night when they have worn off, not only can I not focus on my homework, but I am literally the absolute worst person to be around. I once went to CVS at night with my cousin long after my meds had worn off, and she told me I was so out of my head that she could see the gears and cogs moving in my skull.
Additionally, there is this misinformed idea that those of us with ADHD achieve that superhuman level of focus at all times. But the truth is that I am incapable of ever achieving that level of focus. In reality, someone without ADHD’s reaction to the medication is severely different than my own reaction, and they end up with boundless focus and superhuman determination.
When people use ADHD medication illegally, it delegitimizes my actual need for it while simultaneously making the process of me getting my prescription even more difficult. My insurance covers a 90-day supply of Vyvanse at a time. This is unusually high, and because it is a Schedule II controlled substance, pharmacies tend to not carry too much of it at a time. This means me having to get a thirty-day supply and then coming back to pick up the rest when they get it in. Also, because it is a Schedule II controlled substance, my doctor cannot call in or fax a prescription directly to the pharmacy, nor do I get any automatic refills like many other medications. Every time I run out, I have to go to my doctor and get a paper prescription, making it especially difficult to get if I run out of medicine at school. With the phenomenon of college students abusing ADHD medication, school doctors and doctors who do not know my situation are incredibly hesitant to prescribe me the medicine that I need to function. The abuse of ADHD medication, especially on college campuses, is so widespread that it makes it absurdly difficult for someone who actually needs the medicine to function safely as a human being.
The next time you decide to pop an Adderall because you have a test you should have studied for earlier, just know that you are actively fostering a negative environment for everyone with ADHD and making it more difficult for me to access treatment for my condition.