Should you stop taking your Adderall or Vyvanse or Dexadrine now that you’ve heard Dr. Tracy Ware’s presentation about the potential dangers of amphetamines? Maybe yes. Maybe no.
I just got off the phone with a woman (let’s call her “Maggie”) who recently started taking Vyvanse with great success. No side effects and improved attention, etc. After she listened to Tracy’s presentation, she was unnerved by the possibility of brain damage with amphetamines so she switched medications (to a second tier ADHD drug). Maggie’s been in a downward spiral ever since. Missed appointments, foggy brain, battered self esteem. Nothing we aspire to, right?
So why didn’t she immediately stop the new meds and go back to Vyvanse? I suspect she called me for a reality check on whether I believed amphetamines really killed off brain cells. And I do. I told Maggie that many medications have potentially serious consequences: high blood pressure medication can cause sexual problems for men. The FDA reported today that taking a malaria drug could cause severe kidney damage and heart failure. There are unintended consequences to almost every choice we make.
But also I told her that returning to Vyvanse sounded like a good idea. I’m not a medical doctor so my opinion is worth about what you pay for it – $0. But it makes eminent sense to me to stick with something that works versus flailing around trying to save your brain cells. And yes, I DO understand that salvaging brain cells is an important goal, but the jury is still out on whether those cells will regenerate or not. There is a LOT we don’t know yet about the brain and how it repairs itself.
Even more important, there is a quality of life issue here. We ADD women have been through a lot of stuff (OK, sh**t) in our lives. Finding a medication that actually works to bolster our time management, organization, sense of well being, is a godsend.
We shouldn’t stop exercising because we might pull a hamstring or sprain an ankle. And we shouldn’t stop taking our amphetamine medication because someone told us there is potential for cell death. For heavens sake do NOT stop taking medication without telling your doctor! Those consequences could be even more dire than continuing the meds!
Anyway, Dr. Ware doesn’t shun amphetamines; she prescribes them for her patients who need them. That includes those of us who don’t see much improvement with Ritalin-family meds (like Tracy’s own husband!).
The fact that I stopped taking my Adderall was more about looking at the factors that were causing me to feel out of control and a bit crazed. Sure there is a lot going on in my life. There is ALWAYS a lot going on in my life. And changing one thing at a time, to see the effects, is the way I can narrow down the cause of the problem, and then find my way back to a solution.
I don’t know about you, but I want to feel alive every day. I want to feel good about myself and productive. I want to feel proud of myself and I’d like the people I love to be proud of me, too. It’s not too much to ask of an ADD life. I know. I’ve lived it. And I’m going back there.
That means I will probably go back to Adderall. Not sure yet. Working on it. But if I do return to amphetamine medication, it will be MY truth about stimulants. Not Tracy’s. Not Maggie’s (Vyvanse is awful for me, BTW). Not Susan’s or Ellen’s or Mary’s. Mine.
You need to find YOUR truth about stimulant medication. Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes. Alternatives. Rotating. It’s all part of the mix. If there is one thing I have learned about ADHD it’s that it is literally a different experience for everyone. Personalized treatment..that’s where we’re headed, according to another psychiatrist who visited our Meetup group last night.
Work with your doctor, monitor your symptoms, get reaction from your loved ones. Find your OWN truth and then, make peace with it. None of us are gonna get out of this alive. Something, somewhere, sometime when we least expect it and probably don’t want it, will cause our bodies to shut down and we’ll bid farewell to the mortal coil.
So how do you want to live your life in the meantime? At my retreats I always read a poem by Mary Oliver that ends with this line: “Tell me, what is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
You alone have the answer. For all of it.