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By the 1930s, the drug Benzedrine, a brand-name amphetamine, was being taken to elevate mood, boost energy and increase vigilance.The American military dispensed Benzedrine tablets, also known as “go pills,” to soldiers during World War II. I had never even heard of it until I was 23 and living in London for graduate school. By the mid-2000s, adults were the fastest-growing group receiving the drug.
Never was I more resourceful or unswerving than when I was devising ways to secure more Adderall. By 2013, 3.5 million children were on stimulants, and in many cases, the Ritalin had been replaced by Adderall, officially brought to market in 1996 as the new, upgraded choice for A. In the late 1920s, an American chemist named Gordon Alles, searching for a treatment for asthma, synthesized a substance related to adrenaline, which was known to aid bronchial relaxation.
Adderall is prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a neurobehavioral condition marked by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity that was first included in the D. Alles had created beta-phenyl-isopropylamine, the chemical now known as amphetamine.
Does this mean to say that there’s an epidemic of ADD/ADHD in the States? Alan Zametkin, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Mental Health said the field of adult attention deficit disorder “is just chaos…There has become a cottage industry of adult A. D.” He said that even procrastination is now said to be a sign of attention deficit disorder. Is medicine no longer a cure for illness, but used for the pursuit of happiness?
Viagra at bedtime, Ritalin before an essay deadline and some liposuction when we’re feeling a bit chubby. Here the pharmaceutical industry has thrived and gained power.
I would open other people’s medicine cabinets, root through trash cans where I had previously disposed of pills, write friends’ college essays for barter. D., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; by 2013, that figure was 11 percent. And the increase in diagnoses has been followed by an increase in prescriptions. In a sense, then, we are the walking experiment, those of us around my age who first got involved with this drug in high school or college when it was suddenly everywhere and then did not manage to get off it for years afterward — if we got off it at all.
Once, while living in New Hampshire, I skipped a day of work to drive three hours each way to the health clinic where my prescription was still on file. That condition, which has also been called Attention Deficit Disorder, has been increasingly diagnosed over recent decades: In the 1990s, an estimated 3 to 5 percent of school-age American children were believed to have A. In 1990, 600,000 children were on stimulants, usually Ritalin, an older medication that often had to be taken multiple times a day. We are living out what it might mean, both psychologically and neurologically, to take a powerful drug we do not need over long stretches of time. Adderall as we know it today owes its origins to accident.
Tweaking the formula, he named it Adderall and brought it to market aimed at the millions of children and teenagers who doctors said had A. The world fell away; it was only me, locked in a passionate embrace with the book I was reading and the thoughts I was having about it, which tumbled out of nowhere and built into what seemed an amazing pile of riches. I., I was hunched over in the grubby lounge of my dormitory, typing my last fevered perceptions, vaguely aware that outside the window, the sky was turning pink.
I was alone in my new secret world, and that very aloneness was part of the great intoxication. I would experience this same sensation again and again over the next two years, whenever I could get my hands on Adderall on campus, which was frequently, but not, I began to feel, frequently enough.
But in the early 1970s, with around 10 million adults using amphetamines, the Food and Drug Administration stepped in with strict regulations, and the drug fell out of such common use. A time-release version of Adderall came out a few years later, which prolonged the delivery of the drug to the bloodstream and which was said to be less addictive — and therefore easier to walk away from. The first time I took Adderall, I was a sophomore at Brown University, lamenting to a friend the impossibility of my plight: a five-page paper due the next afternoon on a book I had only just begun reading. My friend pulled two blue pills out of tinfoil and handed them to me.
More than 20 years later, a pharmaceutical executive named Roger Griggs thought to revisit the now largely forgotten Obetrol. An hour later, I was in the basement of the library, hunkered down in the Absolute Quiet Room, in a state of peerless ecstasy.