By Ruby Biggs – The Collegiate Staff
I can’t really pinpoint the moment the addiction began. I mean, I guess I could tell you the moment it became a real problem. If you really want to know, it was about three and a half years ago. Sometime in March of 2014. I remember the cold – the kind that bleaches everything and you can’t hold a cigarette because your fingers become twigs with snowflakes frozen on them.
Anyway, I was hanging out with a few friends. We weren’t into anything too bad at the time. It started with this kid, I’ll call him Cale for the sake of anonymity. I never knew his last name but it wasn’t relevant anyway. Roland was one of the only other white kids at my school, and I’m honestly not even sure where he came from. He just showed up at school one day and we were smoking with him not long after.
It was gross in his bedroom, gross in his entire house at that. Like cat pee and stale cigarettes. His bedroom floor was a mess of dirty clothes and knocked over bottles and pillows we ended up sitting on. I didn’t spend much time over there after March which is where this story begins.
There were four of us: Cale, Kyle, Kiera (names changed to protect identities) and myself, all holed up in Cale’s cat-piss room. I remember the blankets shoved under the door and the stagnancy of the air. Smoke filled the room, transforming the space from a bedroom into the worn lungs of a chain-smoker. The house seemed to breathe along with us; what was once stationary was given new life, a pair of lungs and a heart that beat irregularly just like mine.
Eventually, this new life turned still and silent once again. Awakened from my newfound state of enlightenment, I felt only bitter as Kierra and I stood at the bus stop. I felt the magic fade and the breathing begin to fade.
Had I been offered something else that could make me feel such fascination with the world, I wouldn’t have refused. There are, of course, thousands of pills, both generic and brand-name, to numb the pain of having a tooth pulled, the depression of losing a loved one.
I hadn’t lost a loved one, hadn’t had a tooth pulled, hadn’t been diagnosed with anything excluding depression at that point. But when Cale told me he had a “connection” for some pills I hadn’t heard of. “But hey,” he offered. “The first two are in the house, and let me know if – when – you need more.”
To clarify, I don’t intend to imply that marijuana is a gateway drug. I was searching for some feeling of detachment, or maybe attachment, but mainly self-acceptance- years before I began smoking. My face must have given away my interest when Cale asked me if I wanted to try Adderall. I think he had a few 30-milligram extended release (XR) capsules in his pocket or something. I was immediately captivated by the beads and the tiny rattle they made when shaken.
After countless hours googling the effects and reviews of Adderall, I concluded that this was not the magic pill for which I’d been searching. It would likely bring no sense of relaxation or inner peace and it definitely wouldn’t make my friends’ faces blend together. I did learn, however, the incredible focus and inspiration that users described, even on a low dose. While it wasn’t my happy, post-op prescription, I reasoned that I was falling behind in school and my motivation was essentially nonexistent. What’s the worst that could happen?
On Monday morning, in some twisted act of pride, I swallowed 60 milligrams before my first class that day. Incidentally, any dose higher than 30 milligrams is mainly reserved for severe narcoleptics.
In short, I felt a confidence I’d never known. I raised my hand. I finished paper after paper with speed and vigor I never knew I possessed. I walked the four miles home, my hands warm despite the chill in the air as if God himself was holding a flame to them.
While I took pride in seeing my name on the Dean’s List semester after semester, my biggest mistake was born out of a strange desire to prove myself, to exclaim “Guess what? I’ve tried uppers! I’m basically a junkie and my blood is pure amphetamine! Yes, I’ve been through some sh*t!”
That sh*t was only the beginning.
My seemingly insignificant decision grew into an obsession, as is so often the case in instances of prescription drug abuse. I found myself texting my connection more and more often, crossing my fingers that I would have enough money, that enough pills would be available, and sometimes desperately offering to pay extra tomorrow for just one pill today. Fearful of returning to my normal, uninspired and unintelligent self, I was pleading with someone I barely knew, for something that I knew wouldn’t last me longer than seven hours.
Within a year, I met the criteria for severe substance abuse. All the promises of Adderall as a “miracle pill” were nullified. I was eventually diagnosed with acute dermatillomania brought on by substance abuse mixed with genetic obsessive tendencies.
I was too naive to anticipate these effects. The sleepless nights and, once I had bought all the Adderall my connections had to sell, the semesters I slept through due to abuse of a stimulant originally meant to improve my academic performance.
The Dermatillomania caused me to pick at my skin obsessively, to the point where I was bleeding almost constantly. I was not comfortable wearing anything other than long sleeves and pants, even during the hottest days of the summer, for fear of being questioned by friends or loved ones.
To this day, my decision to quit taking Adderall cold turkey was undoubtedly one of the most difficult choices I’ve made. I gained weight, slept for weeks at a time, and failed nearly all my classes. The pros of this decision, however, vastly outweighed the cons. Though I still have scars on my hands and my arms, I no longer obsess over what I once considered imperfections. While I can no longer stay up several nights in a row for the sake of finishing a week’s worth of homework, my mental health has improved drastically, and I feel more comfortable with myself now that I don’t need to rely on a pill to be a functioning member of society.
While I’ll likely always struggle with addiction in some form, this experience has taught me that I have the ability to overcome it. I’m sure there are dozens of people facing some similar struggle- be it with alcohol, drugs, anything.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to admit you have a problem or that you’re stuck in a rut because chances are, you aren’t the only one struggling.
Lastly, if you’re going to make the decision to use Adderall or any other type of “study drug” without a prescription, be careful, know yourself and your potential for addiction, and above all, do not take this decision lightly.
S T A T I S T I C S
According to a recent study conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
- 1 in 5 college students admit to abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetimes
- At least half of the students participating in the study abused stimulants to improve their academic performance
- The most commonly abused prescription stimulant is Adderall, followed closely by Ritalin and Vyvanse
O N – C A M P U S M E N T A L
H E A L T H R E S O U R C E S
GRCC Counseling Center
The counseling center offers free anonymous mental health screenings for students ages 17 and above and will provide immediate results and further resources if necessary.
Location: Room 324, main building
Phone: (616) 234-3900
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255