ADHD medications impact every patient differently. Here is how two popular meds converted me into an 'alternative therapy' guy.
by Bill Mehlman
Most of my postings here at Spinning My Wheels are, to borrow a term from my days as a chef, panaché. In other words, a little fact, a little opinion, a little whimsy, a little cynicism. Or, as we used to say in the Italian kitchens, a giambotta. Whatever. The following material, however, is based on my own experience, and I present it as objectively as I can.
About three years ago, my life was even more chaotic than usual, and I was scrambling. One of the things I could do to make money was freelance proofreading for the major law firms in New York. These firms, especially two of the giants that most regularly desired my services, are multi-national enterprises. They tend to have their largest proofreading and typesetting operations here in the city, so they never shut them down. If there's no emergency here, there's stuff coming in from Singapore, or Moscow, or London, or Buenos Aires. Hence, there are three shifts. Because I'd been off "the circuit" for a while, I'd lost my seniority, and had to take a lot of third-shift work.
Third shift is midnight to 8 am. It sucks.
I was taking Ritalin in those days. As needed. Which meant that if Dewey Fleecem and Howe, LLC, called at 11 pm and said there'd be a car service waiting downstairs in 20 minutes and would I please shake my butt because a 300-page debenture had just been emailed over from Frankfurt and it had to get proofed by sun-up.
So I'd jump, and take a Ritalin on the way downtown. And lots of coffee all night long (do you have any idea how boring debentures are?) to keep going. By the time I'd finished, and walked out into the flinty glare of a Wall Street morning, I was quivering like a tuning fork. F sharp, usually. And many was the day I stopped in the sleazy ginmill across the street and shouldered my way between two desperate white-collar alcoholics to toss down a couple of drafts in the hope that by the time I got home I'd be able to get a couple of hours sleep.
The astute among you will have realized by now that this modus vivendi was a nightmare. So you'll understand that when I read about Strattera, a new, non-stimulant drug developed by Lilly to help those of us with ADHD, I was enthralled. I called my therapist and got a prescription. Focus, concentration, clarity, with none of the jangling nerves. Too good to be true.
I started to take the Strattera, in slowly increasing doses, as suggested by the manufacturer. Didn't feel much for the first week. Midway through the second week I thought I was a little sharper, and sleeping a little better. I also realized, however, that... well, not to be indelicate, but my plumbing was steadily slowing down. All of it. I checked the website and noticed that "urinary retention" was a possible side effect, as was constipation. You betcha. A few more days and I felt toxic. None of the substances that were supposed to be leaving my body were doing so. My bladder was killing me, and I started to wonder how long it would be before my kidneys failed. Ditto my intestinal tract.
I didn't even bother calling my doctor. I just started to taper off, at the same rate that I'd built up my dosage. Some ugly days passed, but within a week I was back to normal.
That's the whole story. I make no claims for this being a universal reaction. It's just not a drug I tolerate well. I'm sure others find it a blessing. I found it a horrible, ineffective course of treatment. For me.