It’s no secret that the full regiment of drugs prescribed for ADD and ADHD have permeated university campus’ across North America. The brand names Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin and my personal stimulant of choice - Dexedrine - have become part of common conjecture. All modern students speak the language of study-aids, whether they choose to partake or not. Lots of students have very strong opinions for or against the use of these psycho-chemicals, either asserting that they work in as competitive environment as any other and should avail themselves of every advantage available, or contrarily that taking drugs to study more efficiently is academically dishonest and that pride in one’s work can only be derived from the success of sober creations.
This discussion does not pose to support one side of this argument or the other, but instead to lay out some of the facts accrued to this user through lots of experience and experiment. First of all, let’s talk about the differences between those compositions that a readily available on the underground market. Concerta and Ritalin are Methylphenidates, which function primarily by preventing your brain from re-uptaking neurotransmitters that stimulate dopamine production. Dopamine is one of the neurotransmiters we know the most about, and are fairly certain it is integral in regulating mood and wakefulness. Re-written in simple english, Concerta and Ritalin keep your brain flooded with the things that make you feel awake and content, the “feel-good” chemicals.
These two are almost always described as useless in anecdotal reports by casual users. Even at high doses Concerta and Ritalin give mostly backround results, meaning that a user will probably work harder than they would otherwise but won’t be conscious of the fact that they are on drugs - arguably an effect largely similar to the expected placebo effect after taking any pill which is expected to deliver focus. The real gold exists in Dexedrine and it’s super cousin Adderall.
Dextroamphetamine, commonly known by it’s brand name Dexedrine, is the most classic stimulant prescribed by doctors for decades for a range of different symptoms, most recently and popularly for those related to ADHD. Closely related to Methylphenidates, Dextroamphetamine works by almost the same mechanism as Concerta and Ritalin, however it does so much more acutely. It primarily will prevent the re-uptake of dopamine, however at higher doses it also directly causes an increased release of dopamine and serotonin, leading to much more pronounced effects in the user and a greater euphoric response - the shit makes you feel great while the crank in your head turns 10X faster than usual. Perhaps the most intriguing, and frightening, effect of this drug is that a person who is suffering from extended sleep deprivation, or the similar feeling produced by being extremely hungover, will feel for 5-6 hours after taking a significant dose as if they are operating on a great night’s sleep and be fully functional. Amphetamine = speed, except when you get it in the form of prescribed dextroamphetamine rather than regular street speed you can be assured of the purity of your dose. The US military issues dexedrine to air force pilots and special forces soldiers when they need to remain high-functioning during extended periods of active alertness. This shit is no fucking joke.
Adderall is perhaps the most interesting of all the available compositions. Perhaps the best summary I’ve heard of the difference is that dexedrine is all about being made alert and focused, while Adderall does this as well as making the user feel distinctly euphoric. The medical difference here is that dexedrine is prescribed to youth who are already academically inclined but struggle with attention, while Adderall is prescribed to kids who hate school in order to make them feel fucking great while they power through math homework. It’s chemical composition is essentially 3/4 dexedrine (different amphetamine salts all based in dextroamphetamine) and 1/4 mystery amphetamine salt. That 1/4 is the primary difference between the two and is responsible for the significantly mood-elevating effect of Adderall. Arguably this is the holy grail of study-aids, however I’ve decided I prefer Dexedrine because it is easier to choose not to take after periods of extended excessive use.
The medical jargon can make all these drugs sound pretty innocuous. Additionally the common knowledge that so many of our fellow students are taking them on and off to help get through their workload makes them seem very casual indeed. There is some truth to this, as any user who does not acquire a prescription is unlikely to hurt themselves too greatly because their supply is limited by cost and availability - they will likely only take these drugs to help finish a specific product, and are less likely to use for many consecutive days. Those who get their hands on the ever-elusive prescription are placed in a different set of circumstances however, and it is here that the confessions which give this discussion it’s weight are found.
It’s 5AM on Wednesday morning, and I’ve become tangentially aware that the sun will be coming up shortly. This does not bother me in the least, there will be time for sleep somewhere in the unforeseeable future. Everything that happened between midnight and now is a homogeneous blur of research on the topic I’m writing about, research about the million other things which are occupying compartments of interest in my head, writing about my assigned topic, facebook chat with friends in other time zones about all those other topics of interest, and many, many cigarettes. Itunes has been playing constantly, and I’ve obsessively constructed 3 different playlists with similar but meticulously distinct vibes to guide different phases of this creative process. All I want to do is share the wealth of knowledge at my fingertips with someone else who is as jacked up as I am, but given the rest of the world is fast asleep while I’m being more productive than I’ve ever been I’ll have to settle for the satisfaction gleaned from typing as fast as I can. I took 20mg at 10AM Tuesday, another 20 around 3PM, another 10 at 5, another 30 at midnight and 20 more just an hour ago for a total of 100mg consumed in less than 24 hours. I am prescribed only 20mg every 24 hours, but have rationalized that I should divide my generous allotment into short periods of excessive use buffered by extended periods of abstinence. I have consumed such a massive dose not because I feel so much pressure to complete my academic tasks that I would be unable to do so without, but instead because THIS SHIT IS FUCKING AMAZING. I’ve been chain smoking both cigarettes and pot, self-medicating to try and cut down on the visible shakes and my tendency to massacre the inside of my cheeks while I’m on amphetamine. I’m getting more work done than I have in the entire semester, and I feel like the smartest person awake at 5AM. I’ve never felt as capable or confident in the accuracy and importance of my work. At 9AM I finally change gears, stand up from my den of intellectualism and take a shower. I have a midterm at 2PM today, and I’ve spent most of my time studying for it. I pack up, and head outside for what feels like a re-introduction to reality. I force a muffin down my throat, not because I’m hungry but because there is a voice somewhere far in the back of my head reminding me that I haven’t eaten since I took the first dose and that my brain is fueled primarily by caloric energy and secondarily by amphetamine, not the other way around. Light is crisp, sounds are sharp and I feel like I can sense the activity of bugs underneath the ground I walk across, mentally organize and manage all of the traffic I encounter, and speed walk all the way to campus. Head down, headphones on, furiously texting all those who are just starting this new day. For all my heightened alertness, I don’t recognize a single person I pass on the way to school as a sentient being, rather they appear more as objects passing through my perception. I get to campus, set up camp outside the room where my midterm will be held, pop another 20mg and settle in to review the 100+ pages of notes I created last night. Time flys on study drugs, I quickly find myself finishing the midterm almost as soon as it was handed to me. I walk out feeling like I absolutely crushed it, and walk across campus to participate in a debate in front of an audience on one of my favorite topics - drug legalization. An hour before the round is due to start I take my final dose, a whopping 50mg all at once, in order to power through this public speaking experience on 30hrs+ no sleep. The irony here is palpable. I stand at the podium, sweating buckets, speaking faster than any person could reasonably be expected to follow about the value of drug use and the injustice of prohibition. I shake like a junkie who hasn’t fixed-up in days for the entirety of the speech, and perhaps too flippantly ignore the views proposed by the team I’m supposed to be engaging with in preference of my own, clearly superior views. We lose this round.
Here’s the problem with stimulants of every variety, and study-drugs in particular. They feel great while you’re on them, and then at some point you have to decide not to take them for awhile. On the busride home I embrace the feeling of being a shell of my former self. I’m drenched in sweat, stink of cigarettes, and the energy required to fully process a single thought is enough to make it hard to stand up and make plans for what I’ll do in the next 20 minutes at the same time. Finally I find myself back where I started this adventure, on my couch surrounded by butts and binders. I put my head down and close my eyes, but big block letters appear in the darkness that read “YOU SHALL NOT SLEEP YET”. Because I can’t do anything else, I turn on a television series I’ve downloaded, figuring I’ll fall asleep with it on. 10 episodes later I’ve fully embraced this insomia-ish state. I’m not asleep but I’m certainly not awake either, just present. Moving from couch to bed cements my position on being bound for unconsciousness. After 2 full hours of fruitless masturbation it’s dark outside again, and I have no idea how long I’ve been awake. Eventually sleep finally washes over me, and I have disturbing dreams for a full 24 hours. When I emerge from my bedroom, the look on my roommates faces is all it takes to frighten me into abstinence - at least until I have a solid footing in reality again and I can abandon it all for another intellectual bender.
Study-drugs, the right ones, they work. Better than you would ever expect them to, they are absolutely the generic “go-pills” that should be the stuff of science fiction. Whatever you do, you’ll do it better with legal speed. Taken responsibly they give the user a gentle mental boost as well as much greater confidence in one’s own ability to accomplish any task. Taken recklessly they can set an active thinker on fire and allow them to burn hotter than the sun, harvesting and smashing and grinding divergent ideas together much like the elements of life at the heart of our most important star. I’ve had 3 experiences in line with the one outlined above, where 2 or 3 days are run together by extended amphetamine abuse. I walk away from each better off academically, intellectually, and spiritually, but not without great consequence. You don’t have to crash until you either run out of pills or choose to stop taking them. You do have to come-down eventually, and the longer you wait the more likely you are to find yourself eviscerated (or worse, dependent). Use with caution.
Dr. Gonzo, signing off before embarking on another journey to the heart of the psyche.