I awoke yesterday morning to an urgent email from a friend who I’ll call Charlotte, asking me to read an essay she’d written. She included a postscript on the bottom: “FYI: I stayed up all night. ALL NIGHT. Instead of taking [my medication], I accidentally took 3 of [my kid's] 20 mg Adderalls! The prescription calls for one! Not technically an overdose, but I worked all night without so much as a yawn.”
I expected her piece to be lousy, but it wasn’t. It was focused and incisive. And she was alert and cheerful on the phone, just back from a five-mile run. “I think I’ve found a new work aid,” she wrote a little while later. “I sat in front of that computer for six hours without moving.”
To a master procrastinator like me, it sounded mighty appealing. Wouldn’t we all be a little more focused and productive with the help of a stimulant? Maybe not every day, but just when the deadline was looming? It reminded me of a piece a former TA of mine, then a college senior, wrote last year about Columbia students using Adderall to study for finals. It made me wonder if the younger generations are so accomplished–especially compared to us slacker Boomers at their age–in part because their drugs of choice tend toward Red Bull and Ritalin rather than those standard old depressants, booze and pot.
Charlotte’s Adderall buzz certainly made her a delightful correspondent. I sat by the computer, enthralled, waiting for her email updates. “It’s a miracle drug!” she wrote later. “No appetite, complete concentration, no distractions, either, during the night hours. I’m thinking of becoming nocturnal. If I don’t go psychotic first, of course.” She had called her doctor, who insisted that the sleep deprivation made it unsafe for her to drive. But when her son came home from school, he wanted her to take him fishing. She told him of her predicament. “Just take an Adderall booster!” he suggested, in the wise ways of a child at home with pharmaceuticals. Then her daughter texted from Six Flags, where she was celebrating the end of school with three friends. “Guess what? I passed out!” she wrote from the First Aid station. It was nearly 100 degrees. “Can you come pick us up?”
Charlotte, now in bed with the jitters and the sheets over her head, was in a bind. So she did what any loving mother jacked up on Adderall would do: called a driver to go get the kids.
In the end, everyone got home safely. But Charlotte never did come down. Last I heard, she was still awake and energized, contemplating the closets and the junk drawer. “It’s 7:45, and I’m back at my computer,” she wrote. “I feel GREAT!” Then: “Will I ever sleep again? The vodka ain’t cutting it.”There’s always the Adderall booster.
P.S. For anyone facing a deadline and tempted by Charlotte’s tale, this just in: “I had to make a trip to CVS at 8:00 to pick up some Tylenol PM, as I could tell I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep without assistance. Finally, sometime after 9, I did conk out. But about an hour later I woke up with a terrible case of restless legs. I started scratching myself to make it stop. I felt just like I do on long overnight cramped flights: uncomfortable and annoyed and exhausted. At some point, the Tylenol beat the Adderall, thankfully, and I slept. My brain today is pure mush.”