I tried Adderall for the first time recently. Today, actually. To write this column.
For anyone who doesn't know, Adderall is one of the many prescription medications on the market for A.D.D. I can't say that I tried it "recreationally" because the purpose of Adderall seems precisely antithetical to recreation, but I did acquire it illegally, so maybe I can still chalk it up as a "funsie."
If you're going to take my criminality as an affront, I should tell you that I've tried and abandoned illegal drugs before, not out of maturation really, but because because it's hard to find a good dealer when you spend most of your time outside the house at Chik-Fil-A.
I'm late to this party. As far back as my college days, some of my most functional and intelligent friends were using these "neuroenhancers" on a daily basis. Many of them still do. It's something they would happily get illicitly, but the consensus is that you just have to go to your doctor and say, "I'm having trouble focus — " and before you get the gerund out, there's a prescription in your hand.
The fact that these stimulants and "focus-meds" are surpassing marijuana as the most popular illegal drug on college campuses, I believe, is a sign of something larger. After all, marijuana is the drug of our parents; Adderall matches the tenor of our times.
It does bring focus, but if you truly have an attention deficit, it's just as likely to make you focus on something you don't need to be doing as much as something you do. (For instance, before I wrote this paragraph, I stopped and read three chapters of a book that I had no business reading in the middle of a workday.)
I have managed to plow through more than usual today, but writing is in some ways harder on Adderall. It's focused, yes, but harder-won, clunky. Words seem to rattle from my brain rather than flow, and nice allusion or sharp metaphor doesn't land at all gracefully, but has to be clawed at, fumbled and groped for.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing about the experience that's unpleasant. On the contrary, there's a nice equanimity akin to a good night's sleep and that mysterious perimeter just before the right amount of coffee becomes too much.
The problem comes when I try to engage with the real world. Whether or not one of the drug's listed side effects is a sense of superiority and annoyance that everyone else isn't dealing with things as deftly as I am, I can attest that it's present. The good news is that I feel more capable; the bad news is that it's enhanced my road-rage, my condescension, and my general agitation at others.
It's a drug that, later tonight, will require me to drink three beers in order to get to sleep at 1 a.m., only to wake up wide-eyed three hours later. It's a drug that leads me swiftly to volatility, past thought and well beyond reflection.
It's a drug, finally, that makes me better in terms of productivity, but worse in terms of human interaction. It's all flashing neon and stock tickers and the recorded image, and it blunts out the embers and it deadens the stars.
A few days after I wrote this, I ran into a friend from college who I know takes Adderall. He was his always-edgy self, a funny, kooky guy, enraged at the "jackass" that didn't know how to parallel park, and the barista who asked him if he wanted a pastry after he'd already said, "Just the coffee." Not long into the conversation, he grew irritated with me because I was misremembering the names and faces of people we had in a class together a decade ago.
Because of my experiment, I knew how he was feeling. Here he was, tackling all life threw at him and asking for more, vexed only by the world's lack of pluck, indignant that the rest of us seemed to be moving at half-speed.
We were, after all. And on most days, the rest of us prefer it that way.