The Temple of Amphetamine

Let me state forthright that I do not, in any way, endorse the use of illegal drugs.  This article primarily addresses the legal use of a criminalized substance by way of doctor’s prescription.

ADHD sufferers*, unequivocally, have a hard time in school and in any work environment; it is often what defines their lives.  Some cases go undiagnosed until adulthood, at which point stimulants are usually prescribed.  As the ladder often goes, Ritalin, Adderall, Desoxyn.  Or more plainly, methylphenidate, amphetamine, and then as a last resort, methamphetamine.  Adderall mostly consists of d-amphetamine, which is commonly referred to as the “benchmark” by which all other stimulants are judged.  I haven’t met anyone who has tried or been prescribed methamphetamine. Much of this is probably due to the hellish stigma attached to it; simply mentioning “meth” or “crystal meth” in any interaction is bound to be followed by an awkward silence.

Through the media we’re fed before-and-after images of meth addicts, as a blunt (and deservedly so) depiction of the havoc that it can wreak on one’s body and mind.  Yet it only takes a bit of digging to realize that it is legal to prescribe in the U.S., albeit under strict regulation.

The Japanese invented the drug around the early 1900s and only in World War II did it find a use; Kamikaze Pilots used it; Hitler used it; Allied forces dabbled in it as well.  More than any other substance it made people “brave” with an inflated sense of power and self-assurance, enough to run headfirst into machine gun fire (and presumably through the bullets themselves, if that end scene in “Scarface” has any basis in reality).

But this article isn’t about methamphetamine; it’s about the class of stimulants that it belongs to.  Cocaine and Amphetamine are closely related in their effects, with the latter tending to be safer and longer-acting.  When most people think of Adderall, though, they probably don’t think of it as basically pure amphetamine – “speed” by street parlance. College students who use it to get good grades probably prefer that little factoid be kept under wraps.  Just as valium and the benzodiazepines became “mother’s little helper” in the 60s, it seems Adderall is fast becoming this generation’s “study drug”.

I never used it in college, nor did any of my friends.  Long after graduating, a friend of mine was diagnosed with ADHD for the second time, and cautiously put on stimulants.  He began on Ritalin, which had a very minor effect, and eventually moved to taking 30-45 mg of Adderall per day.  This is a slightly above-average dose for an ADHD-afflicted adult; some take 60 mg or more.  The effect was dramatic for him; it turned chaos into order; anarchy into serenity. For once he was able to maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle as well as maintain a level of productivity throughout the day. Whereas before the only thing that held his attention was MMORPGs (e.g. World of Warcraft), now he could pursue his dreams rather than be forced into being content with them as they always were, un-realizable and unreachable fantasies.

Just as all this happened, he reached the brink of financial ruin and the inevitable breakup with his long-term girlfriend.  “Starting life in my late 20s” is how he puts it.  There remained a fair amount of bitterness over having to swim upstream for most of his life whilst others cruised, knowing there was something wrong but never being able to articulate it.  The anger over being ripped out of bed every morning on 6 hours sleep (at best) and thrown into the extreme social sphere that was middle and high school, lingered. To him it was a 10-year, excruciating haze, if anything worsening his preparedness for the “real world” after college (a 5-year, less-excruciating haze).

And so it goes, a brutally simple, elegantly efficient drug can become the secular messiah of one’s life.  Suddenly one can see oneself and the world around it with clear eyes.  But nothing can hide the creases and the dark lines around them, the scarred soul that lies beneath.  I would infer that no drug will ever be a panacea for mental illness, much the same way that mental illness always is unique to the individual.  “I may or may not have ADHD,” he says, “but I do have trouble concentrating.”

*The existence of Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder is still a topic of contention; most doctors accept that it exists, yet it remains poorly understood. Source information for this article comes from various articles and videos as well as first- and second-hand experience. 

Out Through the In Door and Up the Stairway from Hell.

There is nothing in nature, that I know of, that does the opposite of a whirlpool.  A vacuum sucks everything into it.  A tornado pulls things upward and then flings them about.  Everything that I can think of involves either a downward motion, a straight motion, or a generally random motion.  Nothing swirls upward infinitely towards a definite point, like a never-ending ice cream cone turned upside down.

And yet that is precisely what every human strives for; to find a reverse tornado; to get absorbed in something that leads to better things.  A lot of us find a solution in the work we do.  But everyone will at some time or another find themselves without a reliable outlet. The result? Boredom.

Trivialized as it is, boredom can lead to ugly things.  I’d rather keep the tone light so I won’t be specific, but anyone can name one at will.

I did my psychology thesis on the flow state – the state of mind when we are so engaged in an activity that our mind merges with the world around us.  The result, naturally, is that time flies by very quickly.  Flow is a psychologist’s word for fun, something we often take for granted and find difficult to define. We find different ways to achieve flow, but 100% of our life is oriented towards it.  In other words, no one wants to suffer.

This is why I find it puzzling that any mature adult would willfully inflict pain on another.  People need to be disciplined sometimes, but problems arise when you see people as less than what they are – sentient beings, capable of experiencing pain.  Religious fundamentalists, regardless of the faith they adhere to, are walking a fine line if they assign a greater value to themselves than others.

Anyway, let us all find our upward moving whirlpools, and when there are none in sight, have patience and strength and keep searching.

Keep on Keepin’ On.


Step 1. Believe in something

I’ll keep this one short, sweet, and terse. I’m venturing into the blogger’s universe for the first time, with my criticism armor at 100%.  Welcome to the internet age, everybody.  It bears repeating because for the first time in human history someone in Irktusk can see your Youtube video and start hitting on you right away (think nothing of it, by the way – I was flattered :))

The volatile movie “Fight Club” calls generation X the ‘middle children of history.’  I’m not from generation X, or Y… in fact, I don’t really know for sure what both of them are, only that they came after the baby boomers.  I was born somewhere in the 80s, young and impressionable enough to absorb the impact of 90s alternative culture.  You can see it in my music, art, and the way I look; the way I seem to go about with an almost repulsive insouciance, disaffected and slackerly a la Cobain.

Beneath that facade is someone who cares a great deal about things – who takes things way too seriously sometimes – but who learned to keep a cool exterior.  Because when I was in school, “cool” was all I could be, sandwiched singly between the nerds and the jocks, “normal” from all vantage points save for a select few.  Brace yourself, and think of the intro to “The Twilight Zone.” If that doesn’t come to mind, think of imagination as a dimension, and think of thinking itself as being an actual act.

That, aside from an odd job here and there, has been my career.  Professional thinker, worrier, and dreamer supreme.  The art, music, and writing is an expression of angst.  I’m not gliding through life, though it may seem I would be.  I’m simply following my dreams while behaving by my own moral code.  I think we all do it.  This is just my experience, in words, for the world to see.