Speeding into the Night
Editor's note: This is the second column in a two-part series exploring the use and ramifications of Adderall in Richmond's nightlife scene. Click here to read Part 1.
You're jolted awake by an involuntary muscle twitch. Foggy and confused, you reach over and grab your cell phone to find that it's 5 a.m. Your eyelids are heavy even while your body seems strangely refreshed from a mere four hours of sweaty, dreamless sleep. Your heart rate is up and the blankets are crumpled by the foot of the bed. The mind races. Images from the night before mingle with nagging responsibilities you face with the forthcoming sunrise. An unclear mixture of exhilaration and trepidation, the result of a depressant — alcohol — blurring the sharp edges of a stimulant — Adderall.
This is the Adderall XR that you took at 8 p.m. coming back to life. Its extended release technology has jerked you out of your slumber, and click-click-click, you're back at the top of the roller coaster. This can't be good for your body.
When not used under the guidance of a physician — or when it's been misprescribed or abused — the side effects can be extreme, including but not limited to stroke, heart attack, and the ominous sounding amphetamine psychosis.
"For patients who have a pre-existing heart structural problem, it can be very dangerous," says Dr. Martin Buxton, chief of psychiatry at CJW Medical Center and medical director of the Family Counseling Center of Richmond.
That's where the people who take Adderall without the consent of a doctor can get in trouble. And come on, most of the 20-somethings who've mixed Adderall with a few drinks likely have no clue about their heart structure. Do you?
Even if those heart afflictions are rare, there are many more common side effects from Adderall usage, especially when the drug is mixed with alcohol, as it's done across the Richmond bar scene.
Periods of extreme lethargy and depression after the high has worn off? Check. Changes in bowel habits? Check. Unexplainable heart palpitations, dehydration, the shakes? Check, check and check.
Dr. Buxton also notes there's slight evidence that because Adderall speeds up your metabolism, your ability to imbibe more increases.
I'm thinking "duh!" here but don't say it.
He also says of the alcohol-Adderall combo: "Mixing uppers and downers confuses your cardiovascular system and it's very risky."
This bears repeating. You're telling your heart to race the Indy 500 and then putting snow chains on its tires. It's like running the 100-meter dash with cinder blocks for shoes.
So, should the Drug Enforcement Administration do more to crack down on the little orange pill — or as it's commonly known, the little basketball?
Playing the good doctor, Buxton seems less concerned about the abuser and worries more about the patients who need Adderall for real problems, underlying the complexity of the issue. "One thing we worry about is that the drug's abuse will put more restraints on the drug," he says, "so people who really need it can't get it."
He shouldn't be too concerned for the foreseeable future. Anyone who wants, needs, craves Adderall, seems to be getting it — with ease and in bulk.
Well, here's to hoping for a finely structured heart. Cheers.