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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Stimulants and children

Adderall ...

How many of us use Adderall for our children, pushing ADHD? How many young adults start using Adderall to get through college? I personally know 2 young adults who are still taking stimulants by prescription well into their late 20’s?

Adderall made front page headlines on Sunday. Super Bowl Sunday, in the New York Times. Richard Fee, a 24-year-old college graduate, hung himself when his Adderall prescription ran out and he couldn’t procure another one.

“Very few people who misuse stimulants devolve into psychotic or suicidal addicts.” But one of Richard’s own physicians, Dr. Charles Parker, characterized his case as a virtual textbook for ways that ADHD practices can fail patients, particularly young adults. “We have a significant travesty being done in this country with how the diagnosis is being made and the meds are being administered,”said Dr. Parker, a psychiatrist in Virginia Beach. “I think it is an abnegation of trust. The public needs say this is totally unacceptable and walk out.”

Richard’s first experience with ADHD pills, like so many others had come in college, was when he needed to finish a paper or cram for exams. So many fellow students have prescriptions or stashes that guessing where anyone would get theirs was futile. Richard was popular on campus -- he was sophomore class president and played first base on the baseball team.

“He would just procrastinate, wait till the last minute and then take a pill to study for tests,” said a friend, “it got to the point where he’d say he couldn’t get anything done if he didn’t have his Adderall.”

Adderall and its stimulant siblings are classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as schedule 2 drugs, in the same category as cocaine, because of their highly addictive properties.

After graduating with honors in 2008 with a degree in biology, Richard went on an organized hunt to procure Adderall.

Popular questionnaires designed to assist and standardize the gathering of a patient’s symptoms are being used as a short cut to diagnosis and have reinforced a tendency for a quick and dirty practice. Many doctors interviewed said they would not prescribe medications on a patient’s first visit, specifically to deter the faking of symptoms. Instead there should be a detailed life history and other sources of information, such as parent- teacher- or friend.

Richard Fee, after a 47-minute session, was prescribed a common starting dose of Adderall: 30 milligrams daily for 21 days. Eight days later his prescription was renewed for 30 more days at 50 milligrams. From then on for the remainder of the year Richard made periodic 5 minute visits to renew and was offered none of the more conventional talk therapy generally considered an important component of ADHD treatment.

A 2006 study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence claimed that about 10 percent of adolescents and young adults using ADHD stimulants became addicted to them. Even proper, doctor- supervised use of the medications can trigger psychotic behavior or suicidal thoughts. So while a vast majority of stimulant users will not experience psychosis -- and a doctor may never encounter it in decades of careful practice -- the sheer volume of prescriptions leads to thousands of such cases every year.

Indeed, Adderall can cause insomnia, increased blood pressure, and elevated body temperature. Food and Drug Administration warning and packaging also note “high potential for abuse as well as psychiatric side effects such as aggression, hallucinations and paranoia.”

Richard Fee suffered from delusions and mood swings. His parents would lock their bedroom door when they went to sleep because of his unpredictable rages. Richard would blow through his monthly prescriptions in 10 to 15 days and then go through hideous withdrawals.

Richard’s lifelong friend Ryan Sykes was one of the few people in contact with him during his final weeks. He said that despite Richard’s addiction to Adderall and the ease with which it could be obtained on college campuses nearby he had never pursued it outside a doctor’s prescription.

“He had it in his mind that because it came from a doctor it was okay,” Mr. Sykes recalled.

Friends of Richard said that he probably took his last pill sometime in October, that’s when all prescriptions ceased. He stopped without all the delicate reduction of medication that is recommended to minimize major psychological risks, and he crashed harder than ever.

This is the last page of Richard’s file, June 12, 2012:

“Spoke with Richard’s mother, Kathy Fee, today. She reported that Richard took his life last November. Family is devastated and having a difficult time. Offered assistance for family!”
-- Renee Strelitz

Last page of Richard Fee’s file, June 21, 2012:

While many experts feel that Adderall is a valid medicine for ADHD and consideration should be given to the proven benefits of stimulant medication when supervised by a responsible physician, other experts cautioned that Richard Fee’s experience “is instructive, less in its ending than to its evolution- that it underscores aspects of ADHD treatment that we mishandle every day with countless patients -- many of them children.”

De Ansin Parker, a clinical neurophysiologist who specializes in young adults said, “Diagnosis’s are made just this quickly, and medication is filled just this quickly. And the lack of therapy is real sad. Doctors are saying, ‘just take the meds, to see if they help and if they help you, you must have ADHD.”

Or Parker added, “Stimulants will help anyone focus better. And a lot of young people like or value that feeling, especially those that are driven or have ambitions. We have to realize that these are potential addicts -- drug addicts don’t look like they used to.” (Information from Page One on Sunday, February 3, 2013-New York Times Reporter Aaron Schwartz)

My personal knowledge of Adderall is not really personal -- and yet it is. Almost every child who comes to QUEST is using some sort of stimulant and narcotic. Seroquel, etc., to get through life. Abilify is another favorite of young children.

But let’s stick with the stimulants like Adderall for now. According to the powers that be, the majority of children living in ghettos are ADHD and I who deal with them daily can see no real difference that these drugs make in their lives. Uppers and downers, A.M. and P.M. and confused and angry and/ or drugged sleep is what I see.

One young woman, let's call her Ada, has been coming to QUEST for over 15 years. During that time she has been on Adderall continuously. Same drug store and an open-ended prescription. I should know, I have driven her to CVS and Rite Aid to get her scripts filled. I have watched her open that pill bottle and chug a handful down, like a thirsty woman in a desert. I have watched her friends gather around, stretch out their hands “Give me some,” they whine. And being generous, Ada shares.

Where do you go with this information? You tell me. I have been to Child Guidance, Children’s Protective Services, Social Services. I have watched this caucasian middle class teen from Long Island become a permanent SSI recipient. I watched her skirt the perimeters of alcoholism, I watched her steal endless amounts of unwanted and unneeded merchandise, I have watched her cut herself, become pregnant with twins -- both of whom she carried to term, both of whom were born with serious defects and both whom died in a matter of days. They never even left the hospital. Ada’s life was a Yo-Yo. Abusive boyfriends, lap band surgery for obesity, multiple tattoos. Starting/ stopping and finally failing out of countless online colleges. This year she finally finished a medical assistant program and I held my breath waiting and watching.

Now she has been yanked brutally off all narcotics. Left to her own devices, I am seriously fearful for her life. Her clinic, her doctor at the medical facility she has been going to for so very long has told her she will have to get her prescription elsewhere.

At the snap of a finger she has lost her footing, that is if she ever had any, and crashed to the ground. Crying and sleeping through her days. Despairing and loosing touch with reality, this woman is freezing cold and has withdrawn from her world. At least the world as she knew it. There is no clinical cure for Ada, no therapeutic program to ease her through. Just a few worried friends who frankly are not in such great shape themselves.

This is just one person, one lost soul, and I know literally hundreds who are using and probably addicted to stimulants. Legally addicted. I am reminded of what I just wrote, “He thought because they came through a physician, they were fine.”

I suspect the push-away technique being used on Ada is coming about because there is a lawsuit coming up from Richard Fee’s family. A public one, and everyone is very, very busy washing their hands. Remember this drug brings with it a Class 2 Felony charge. A dirty drug indeed, on the same plain as cocaine.

Beyonce speaks out

Beyoncé has been making quite a splash for herself lately, singing at the inauguration, performing at the Super Bowl. Being accused of everything from lip syncing to being so hot she blew the circuits during halftime at the Super Bowl. Be that as it may, no one is talking about her strong words and advocacy for women. When you read her words you will see that she is a self fulfilling prophecy.

“Equality is a myth,” she says, and yes it is. And yes she is right. For who knows Beyoncé was an advocate and a strong speaker? Who knows her as someone who cares? The men know her as “hot” and the women strive to emulate her fabulous face and body. No one seems to care to look beyond that, thus follows her words, her language. Thus follows a Beyoncé we all need to know a little better. Go get em’ Tiger!

“You know equality is a myth and for some reason everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do. I don’t understand that. Why do we have to take a back seat? I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let’s face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men power to define value. They define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.”
-- Beyoncé Knowles

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