What Does Addiction Look Like?
In 2013, the New York Times published a story about a young man named Richard. He was class president at Greensboro College, and on track to get into medical school. He came from a good home and was a star baseball player in college.
Richard started buying Adderall from friends during his second year of college, to cram for tests. At first, it was effective for staying focused during finals week, but by the end of his college career, Richard was beginning to need Adderall just to concentrate in class. He went to a doctor and got a prescription for Vyvanse, an amphetamine similar to Adderall.
After college, he moved back in with his parents but did not score high enough on the MCAT to get into any of the top medical schools he wanted to attend. Rather than attend a different school, Richard decided to spend a year studying and began taking Adderall more often to help him concentrate. Soon, he needed more of the drug than his doctor would prescribe, and he ended up going to other doctors to get more prescriptions.
His parents began to notice that he was talking to himself, and spoke to one of his psychologists, but by this point, Richard was becoming paranoid. He physically shoved his father in an argument. When he got kicked out of his parents’ house, he threatened to kill himself, and the police took him to a treatment center.
But Richard’s addiction had already gotten too far out of hand. He went back to his other psychologist and got more Adderall. Soon, he had also convinced his first psychologist to begin prescribing to him again. Eventually, his parents found out and talked to both psychologists. While both doctors were hesitant to get involved at first due to the possibility that they were breaking HIPPA regulations, they soon discovered how bad Richard’s addiction had become, and both refused to prescribe him any more Adderall.
When Richard’s prescription ran out, rather than face life without Adderall, he killed himself. At his funeral, several of his college classmates told his mom that they had also taken Adderall to help with tests, and wondered if they had just dodged a bullet. In fact, according to the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 10 percent of those who use prescription amphetamines without a prescription become addicted.