Permanent brain damage?
Hmm. That’s not what I wanted to hear about my Adderall prescription. But stimulant medication may be causing more problems than solving them, according to Dr. Tracy Ware, a board certified psychiatrist from Chapel Hill who was this month’s guest speaker at the Adult ADHD Meetup group held at GardenSpirit.
Research shows that even long term use of methylphenidate (Ritalin and its ilk) is safe but taking amphetamines is a quite different story. Dr. Ware showed convincing evidence that amphetamines like Adderall, Dexadrine and Vyvanse induce an artificial “hyperfocus” by increasing the availability of dopamine (neurotransmitter) in the brain.
It mimics the “flight or fight” response that evolved to protect us from woolly mammoths (of old) and muggers (of late). In other words, everything that is non-essential to survival either shuts down or shifts focus. Our peripheral vision narrows (to better focus on the danger), our heart rate increases (to better escape the enemy) and our focus pinpoints precisely the object in front of us.
There are obvious advantages to this hyperfocused state – we pay attention to every detail that might save our lives. But for ADHD, hyperfocus is an overresponse to force our wandering brains to PAY ATTENTION, DANG IT!
I’ll share more of Dr. Ware’s info in a later post but, I wanted to come clean first: I stopped taking my Adderall. Not as a direct result of her presentation, but a few days before the Meetup gathering.
I was in a terrible place when I returned from Chicago, the ADHD Coaches Organization conference and a visit with my family in central Illinois. I don’t know what happened but I felt so out of control with everything that I needed to stop and regroup.
For some reason, it made sense to me to stop taking medications that were “optional.” I have taken Adderall on a regular basis for only 18 months, so that went first. My Wellbutrin, which has been my main ADHD medication for years, stayed on board.
It’s been three weeks now and … oh, I think I’ll make this another post. It will get waaaay too long to read …. join me in the next post: “Three Weeks without Adderall.”