Addiction: Substance Abuse Community
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Avatar universal

Ritalin: saving me or setting me up?

I don't know what to do.  I'm either liberated or paralyzed here.
I drank increasingly heavy for 17 years.  Started as a teenager and just never stopped for a day.  Ended up drinking a little over a bottle a day by the end.  Many hospitalizations for acute withdrawal and suicidal tendencies.  Started addressing the issue 6 years ago because I literally couldn't function.  Lost almost everything I had including wife, career, money, trust, etc.  Nothing worked.  Did AA.  Went to rehab SIX times (drank while there several of them).  Many therapists and counsellors.  Multiple psychiatrists.  Group therapy. Psychotherapy.  CBT.  Hypnotherapy.  Meditation/mindfulness.  Prescriptions that were supposed to help but didn't: SSRIs Campral, Naltrexone, Topamax, Carbamazepine, Buspar, benzos, supplements, everything.  FINALLY ended up in jail a year ago which at least got me sober for the first time in a long time.  Struggled to stay sober for 3 months, relapsed for 7 days I can't recall, and ended up in jail a second time.  Barely made bail the second time.  Have had routine small relapses since.  It's a daily struggle and not a comfortable one.
Tried most drugs once or twice in my life, but nothing ever really interested me.  Especially pot, GHB, benzos - downers in general did nothing for me.  Weird for an alcoholic eh?  But there was one, and only one exception.  I did crystal meth one night, and it was the most mind-blowingly amazing experience of my life.  I literally couldn't believe how amazing I felt for about 8 hours so I never touched it again.
Last week I was complaining to my psychiatrist that I'm just never comfortable.  It's that simple.  I'm uncomfortable, so I drink until I get comfortable, and then I can't stop chasing the feeling.  Ever.  He asked if I had ever been tested for ADHD and gave me a test.  I scored 6/6 for attention deficit and 3/6 for hyperactivity.  He prescribed me 10 mg methylphenidate (rapid release) twice daily.  On the spot.  Never mentioned my history of alcohol abuse or dependence.  No warnings.  Nothing.  The monograph basically says alcoholics and drug addicts should not take methylphenidate.  Internet is FULL of warnings against it.  But I don't care - I just want to feel better and obviously I'm open to anything that will help.
Day 1 was indescribable.  For a few hours, I felt completely normal.  Clear-minded.  Simple.  Comfortable.  And the entire concept of alcohol felt repulsive in a very cerebral way.  Dose wore off so I took another 10 mg.  Few more hours of feeling normal.  Wore off again.  And on day 1, I exceeded my prescription and took a third 10 mg to help me stay sober until bed time.  IT WORKED.
AND - it has been working since.  I'm a week in, and alcohol rarely crosses my mind.  I feel like I can take on the world.  Do all the things I should have done with my life.  I feel totally liberated.
EXCEPT - You probably see where this is going.  I'm taking more than my prescribed amount.  Every day.  I'm taking about 50 mg total instead of prescribed 20 mg total.  Still less than "recommended maximum" of 60 mg.  But I assume I haven't developed a tolerance or resistance yet.  And there's always that memory of how I felt on meth.  This is nothing compared to that, but I'm worried I might try to "chase" the experience someday.
So, kind of looking for suggestions.
a) 1 addiction is better than 2.  Never touch any stimulant again.  Deal with the alcohol dependence and ADHD other ways.
b) Use what works (as my psychiatrist says).  Stay on the Ritalin.  Never touch alcohol again (seems plausible at this point).  Do everything I can to avoid overuse/dependence/addiction to stimulants.  They are easier for me to get on the grey market than alcohol is.
I'm really really torn.  I just want to be free.  And I feel free for the first time in my life right now, but I'm risking setting myself up for a second addiction that could actually turn out worse than alcohol did.
Love to hear your comments.  Please note that I believe in harm reduction over absolute abstinence from any substance just for the sake of abstinence.  Also I'm not in favour of having someone "hold" and "dispense" my Ritalin for me.  My therapists supports me on this.  I have to conquer this from within - not through avoidance.
16 Responses
Avatar universal
Hi, there and welcome. Honesty, that was very upsetting to read. And not for the reasons you make think. It's sad to see someone that is obviously articulate and informed, yet so defeated.

I'm not going to sugarcoat this okay? A few things your wrote are huge red flags:

-you did NOT tell you psychiatrist that you are a hardcore alcoholic and you got ritalin anyway? Did I read that right or am I mistaken?

-you and your therapist believe in "harm reduction"? You, having proven your long standing and debilitating alcoholism, and your therapist believes you should not avoid substances? WHAT?!

-you wrote: "do everything I can to avoid addiction to stimulants" How on earth do you plan on doing that? Is there any addict on earth that can do that?

Your addict thinking is so evident: you just want to "take less", you want to control it, this won't work for you, that won't work for you, might as well be addicted to one thing etc etc etc. You still seem to believe that you have the ability to control a substance. And you proved that you can't after ONE week. You know that you can't.  My question is: why don't you want to do the work? The REAL work to get sober? I know people that have been to rehab 15 times. I know a guy that went 30 times. They got clean. But you have to surrender your thinking completely. Your thinking got you here. We all think we are so unique, that are addiction is unlike anyone elses, that we've been through more, worked harder, tried more. It's all bs. It's all our way to negotiate our addiction and keep playing roulette.

You probably know what to do. Get 100% honest w/ your psych. Get into rehab again and if you can, stay for months. After that, you should be in daily meetings indefinitely.  You need to listen to everyone and anyone that has been successfully clean and sober for a significant period of time and do what they do.  You need to NOT try and come up w/ your own ideas. Your own ideas lead to straight back to using and misery. I'm assuming you're are miserable and tired. I hope so. If you are, that's when the change comes. Real change. Not substituting ritalin and meth for alcohol change.

Stay on this site. Others will be on as well.
Finding a sponsor and going to meetings will help tremendously you can relate to those people you can't relate to your therapist or whoever you're seeing they haven't gone through what you are going through  they just got a piece of paper saying that they can we pick your brain and I don't believe in them  I believe if you going to teach someone to be sober you have to have been there and done that to be able to teach you to someone else the correct way of getting sober and the people at the meetings have bad experience and being able to relate to the problems that you have now with somebody else that had the same problems that's got over it will make a huge difference. You well always be an addict just remember that you just got to learn to control it or manage it but I'm not saying replace it with another drug or another doctor that just write a script need to replace it with something healthy working out something 2 feed that addiction but not with drugs. Or alcohol but once you figure out these few things that I've said your life will be so much better I promise you but it takes time it doesn't happen overnight or by taking a pill.! It takes determination will power and strength in your mind to overcome it's hard but with time it gets better but you have to be willing and ready mindbodysoul just cuz you say you want to get off of it doesn't really mean that you do. Doing the same things everyday that you have been doing 4 years, you have to change the way you live if you really really want to get off whatever you may be on and come to the terms you will always be an addict you just have to fill that need or the drugs with something healthy just as you would if you went from Suboxone to some other kind of pierogi need to go off Suboxone to something healthy run and Jog and work out something I'm recovering now I always will be recovering from my addiction problems it's a never-ending battle but you can can do it and control it do you have to take one day at a time and everything will eventually fall into place but you have to come to terms with yourself first before anything will ever happen that you want. Hope that helps whoever you may be I've heard stories of people that have had a lot worse homeless nowhere to go got off the drugs I'm doing awesome have their own house cars everything so I think you have everything that you have everything is right in front of you that you need to get you where you want to be just just saying look around you and appreciate what you have because there's people out there that have a hell of a lot worse.
7163794 tn?1457366813
Imo....b/c i have to preface everything with that....
You KNOW u are setting yourself for another addiction problem! And no addict, in recovery, is going to tell you otherwise.
That "uncomfortable" feeling that you cant stand, and i hear ya, I thought it SUCKED, is what you have to get through and get to the other side. And there is a "other" side to it. I just dont think you've given yourself enough time to get there.  You have to be ok with NOT being ok for a while! There is a turning point in it....but 3/4 weeks is just too soon.
Imo...put the ritalin down and get into some form if recovery. I personally use N/A...not pushing it, just telling u whats working for me.
Avatar universal
Of course my psychiatrist known about my alcohol addiction.  That's why I got him in the first place.  Sorry my post was unclear about that.  He's completely aware.
I never said that my therapist "believes in harm reduction".  I don't know what he believes in.  He's a therapist.  His job is to help me figure myself out not to tell me what to do.
How do I plan to avoid getting addicted to stimulants?  I'm not sure.  That's one of the questions I'm struggling with.  Not exceeding the prescribed amount might help.
And I'm certainly not miserable and tired.  I've been sober for 9 months minus a week, for the first time in 17 years.  That felt pretty great on it's own.  
Now I'm being offered freedom from alcohol AND being comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life.  By a professional.  It's hard not to at least consider it.
Avatar universal
I am "in a recovery program".  I made the decision to quit drinking 6 years ago.  Been to 12-step rehab, evidence based rehab, and Native healing based rehab. I've been sober for 9 months minus a week.
Every week I go to:
- rehab aftercare group meeting (12-step based)
- men's relapse prevention group (evidence based)
- AA
Every two weeks I see my addictions counsellor/therapist.
Every month I see my mental health worker.
Every 3 months I see my family doctor and my psychiatrist.
I practice mindfulness and CBT every day.
Not sure what else you'd have me do.
Jesus Christ thats alot???  And NOTHING works??? Almost seems like overkill?  
From your 2nd to last post, this is what I see....you're debating, in your head, the fact that a DR has offered you a medicine that actually makes you feel liberated and good. And b/c it's coming from a dr that is making you think perhaps he's right?  If I'm understanding correctly you were sober for 9 months but then this dr offered you the Ritalin (which, btw, anyone can get with or without ADD).  You had the freedom from alcohol already, before you went to the dr....the question is why are you so uncomfortable in your own skin???  This is where, to me, actually working ALL 12 STEPS would help you figure this out!  Again, no judgement AT ALL, b/c as an addict, I can see your dilema....I got my suboxone from a dr that ensured me it would get me off those horrible pills called hydrocodone.  7 years of pills, then 7 years of subs.....but I technically WAS getting them from a dr that ensured me I could be on these for the rest of my life and that was o.k.?????  Big giant DUH ME!!!!
Avatar universal
Okay your posts are a tad confusing. You didn't say that you were 9 mos sober or in any recovery. So wrote that you tried everything in the past.
Avatar universal
Oops clicked send too soon. So, according to your last post. You go to one meeting per week? And aftercare once a week? That's not enough. Do you have a sponsor? Do you have commitments in meetings? Started the steps? You need to IMMERSE yourself in recovery like a drowing man. I actually used to go about once a week a long time ago, I felt no change and went back to using. Finally, I had to do what people said and I started to feel better.I still don't know why your shrink gave you Ritalin knowing you are an alcoholic. But I think you know where this is leading. I can tell you want affirmation to continue the Ritalin and "try to control it" If any of us could do that, there would be no addicts.  
4522800 tn?1470325834
Do you got to Church?
I really do hear you loud and clear. Man do YOU get alot of Support. It just goes to show, that it is inside US that must change and NO one can do it for us. I too started to drink and dabble in drugs in my teens. I could drink once in awhile and could NOT stop once I had that "ONE". Drug use was whatever everybody else was trying and most of the time I could walk away. This was in the later 60-70s. This went on & on for yrs & yrs, until I got my first taste of Opiates..(well not the first time, but on down the line..Progressive Disease). I was dealing with pain and went on up to getting Methadone prescribed. Doing a bit better but when I had my surgery, and the pain was gone, the Dones where cut down a bit..NOW this is when I got really, really hooked for yrs, was when I started to add the Adderral to my Dones and Snort them together. I got the Adderral from the streets, as I do not have ADHD and these 2 together would wire me up like my crank days..(Meth). Got clean back in 2012 and been working HARD every day to stay clean & sober. Even if those meds help me to STOP DRINKING, (over 12-13 yrs now), I still got SO addicted to these pills.
I have been on a mission and been studying the map of the brain and what drugs or substance do to our Brain Chems. I do believe we have a DOC that brings us that pleasure which indeed rises the Dopamine to the Mid-brain (survival). Now I do not have a shopping, gambling, chocolate etc., addiction but I still know that I am wired different now because of all my drinking and doing drugs. NOW to me this is the part that takes time to balance out, those neurotransmitters & receptors and so forth. It takes a long time for us that have used for yrs &yrs. This is the part that will Make you or Break you. Learning to live in our own Skin again is a challenge. LOTS of bad behaviors have to be addressed and changed. ALL of this takes TIME & PATIENCE. I can only speak for myself, but i bet others feel the same, that it is HARD to adjust and get more control over your thinking pattern after we have removed these stims. We reach out when times our hard, or throw them curve balls, for Something to give us that "instant gratification" at the time.
This has been the hardest job for me, but has brought many rewards and blessing along the way.
I was told by my Heart Dr yesterday, that it is all in my Ballpark. Meaning that I must Stop the Cigs NOW and up the diet & exercise. I did not even start smoking until my way late 30s and now it is the hardest one out of all to stop at this time, but I have to Woman Up and take care of my Brain & Body parts, or I am going to go sooner then later. God has given me more second chances, and now it is time to move on. Being a Addict succkkks BIG Time, but it is not all the way our fault. WE have a Brain Disease or Disorder that has to be taken care of.
SO anyhow, I would really, really be careful with that drug, that was one of the main ones that got me so hooked. I sure do Pray that YOU will find your way and really WORK on YOU!!!
Changing Bad Behavior for Good ones!!!
Bless U
Avatar universal
P.s- you aren't being offered freedom from booze AND comfort in your own skin: you are already not comfortable, one week into ritalin because you are starting to abuse it. Sounds like you are glamorizing it, same way we do any drug before the problems start. And the problems are already starting! Just pointing out that it's already not working. If it was, you wouldn't be on here asking about, right? Bottom line, we addicts abuse mind altering meds. How I wish that wasn't true.
A friend of mine used to tell me all the time..."I'm an addict...if the bottle says take 2 every 4 hours I take 4, every 2 hours" lol....I remember thinking...damn, so do I!
Avatar universal
I have used (or at least tried) the following mind-altering substances responsibly with zero temptation for "abuse": pot, coffee, cigarettes, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, certain cough syrups, certain antihistamines, psychedelics, extacy, etc. etc.  (Use nothing currently other than one SSRI per day.  It saved my life once.  I'm happy to take it for life.)
Word on the street is that the initial "magic" feeling of Ritalin lasts less than a week.  Then just ho-hum everyday freedom from a crippling illness.  Hopefully once that happens I won't be tempted to "play" with the dose myself.  Until then, the most sensible advice I've got is sticking to the script, being honest with my psych, and giving the meds at least a one month trial.
So, here goes...
Avatar universal
You are just doing what you were going to do anyway. But good luck
Avatar universal
Btw, all the meds you listed, I never abused either. And I am on wellbutrin. You didn't mention anything about the program or how you are working it. Not sure why you came on here as your mind was made up from the get go. Wish you well.
3197167 tn?1348968606
Perhaps the reason it wasn't understood that you actually are working a recovery program is because you used "past tense" in your initial post and have told us what HASN'T worked for you.
Here's part of what you said:

"Nothing worked.  Did AA.  Went to rehab SIX times (drank while there several of them).  Many therapists and counsellors.  Multiple psychiatrists.  Group therapy. Psychotherapy.  CBT.  Hypnotherapy.  Meditation/mindfulness.  Prescriptions that were supposed to help but didn't: SSRIs Campral, Naltrexone, Topamax, Carbamazepine, Buspar, benzos, supplements, everything.  FINALLY ended up in jail a year ago which at least got me sober for the first time in a long time.  Struggled to stay sober for 3 months, relapsed for 7 days I can't recall, and ended up in jail a second time.  Barely made bail the second time.  Have had routine small relapses since.  It's a daily struggle and not a comfortable one."

So the way it sounds, you stayed sober only while incarcerated; and once you were released you stayed sober 3 months, relapsed again, having routine small relapses ever since.  By your admission, the only time you do not think of alcohol is when you are taking yet another mind altering, addictive medication.

However, the VERY FIRST day you were prescribed Ritalin....you exceeded the prescribed dose.  That's what addicts do.  Yet you are telling yourself this:

"Until then, the most sensible advice I've got is sticking to the script, being honest with my psych, and giving the meds at least a one month trial.
So, here goes..."

How are you going to stick to the prescribed amount on the script?  You aren't in favor of having someone help by dispensing them to you.  You have told us all the things you aren't willing to do.....what ARE you willing to do?  Are you willing to look for natural, non-medicinal ways of treating your ADHD?  Chasing that "feeling" is still happening to you...regardless of all the addictive substances you are naming that you CAN control.  

There are many things you have tried, but you were drinking during the majority of those experiences or you were incarcerated.  Now that you are not incarcerated, how about formulating a SIMPLE recovery plan that doesn't involve mind altering substances?  After 17 years, you won't feel "comfortable in your own skin" for awhile.  It will take staying clean and sober and living thru those uncomfortable moments.  That's what makes us stronger and reinforces our sobriety.

Hopefully, you will become willing to try this life w/o an addictive med of any kind...and discover you are more than the man you ever thought you'd be☼  
Avatar universal
Yep, toyed with the dosage for the first two days until the novelty wore off.  I guess I have childhood curiosity.  Taking as directed since.  It has only been a week, but the difference is like day and night.  I'm calmer, more focused, more confident, and way more logical - less impulsive.  And this goes against everything that I've been taught, but I haven't even felt like drinking.  It just suddenly seems like a crazy idea to drink alcohol.  It was gradually killing me and yet I felt a compulsion to keep drinking.  Incidentally, I've also stopped a few other compulsive behaviours that I had.  Things just seem much clearer now.

None of what you're saying makes any sense.  I should purposely choose to ignore my doctor's advice and go back to suffering daily, barely holding on to my sobriety, instead of giving this a fair shot?  Because going to meetings for the rest of my life and reading books daily and praying and meditating and finding a sponsor and calling my sponsor and donating to my home group and volunteering and working the steps and then working the steps multiple more times and then sponsoring others and then helping those who are still suffering (while I'm still suffering inside) is simpler, SIMPLER than taking two pills a day?  That doesn't make any sense.

I've tried AA for 6 years and it didn't affect my drinking in any way.  In fact I drank more.  I've tried treating my ADHD for a week, and for the first time in my life, I feel free of not one debilitating condition, but two?  I'm trying to keep my hopes in check here, but sticking to my plan and giving this a try for one month and then reporting back to my doctor sounds reasonable.
It sounds like you're super excited that you've found a medication in which you're feeling  no desire to drink,I never tried adderall or Ritalin,but when I smoked meth I never felt like drinking either,you've already decided that this drug is right for you,deep down you know the outcome of this,you're clearly trying to justify this in your head,
You feel secure because your name is on the bottle,you've already began taking more than you're supposed to daily,that's beside the point ,that's to be expected,you know this ,you didn't come on here seeking advise,perhaps you were hoping for validation,right now you're in your honeymoon Ritalin period,I'm getting through the worst detox ever,somedays I can't even get comfortable in my own skin,I don't know what to do with myself,I get cravings,I'm pretty sure if I took a Ritalin ,my desire to drink or use would evaporate also,you're a rolling stone right now,I know you know where your headed,what happens when you swallow your whole script within days of getting it?where do you go then? The street ?,then it's easier to get shards than it is pills on the street,you seem so aware,so,smart,but that beast within is taking over,you know exactly what you need to do,nobody here can tell you,take back your life bro,I'm desperately trying to regain mine,
Almost.hopeless...this was a great post!  
Avatar universal
None of what you're saying makes any sense either.  I just googled "Wellbutrin abuse" and the top three articles were "poor man's cocaine", "Wellbutrin as a drug of abuse" and "Doctors warn of potentially fatal abuse of Wellbutrin".

I also tried to find some evidence of your claim that no addict in recovery can ever use another potentially addictive substance responsibly.  One of the first things that came up was a 2014 study of 34,653 addicts over the course of three years, and found that those in recovery were LESS likely to develop an addiction to a new substance.  In the Journal of the American Medical Association no less.

So why did I come here?  Because it says "MedHelp" at the top of the page and "trustworthy health information" at the bottom of the page.  I guess I was subconsciously looking for someone to say: "Quit playing around with the dosage and do what your doctor told you to do. Self-medicating is what almost ruined your life in the first place!"
Avatar universal
I'm hesitant to write back at all because obviously, nothing is helping. You've told myself and someone else that "nothing we say makes any sense." That is quite offensive. We all told you that in our experience, if we could regulate our usage, we would have. You keep fighting that. That's your choice. No one in recovery is going to tell you to NOT work a program and yeah, go ahead and take a pill instead. Absolutely no one. Every single person on here responds out of the goodness of our hearts. None of us has to and none of us gets paid. We are just trying to pass on what we've learned. If you want to keep bucking us and/or debate this, nothing will come of it. Again, if you want help, don't tell people they don't know what they are talking about. We do know what we're talking about.. We're sober.
Avatar universal
Btw, you wrote:

Because going to meetings for the rest of my life and reading books daily and praying and meditating and finding a sponsor and calling my sponsor and donating to my home group and volunteering and working the steps and then working the steps multiple more times and then sponsoring others and then helping those who are still suffering (while I'm still suffering inside) is simpler, SIMPLER than taking two pills a day?  

The answer is yes.
I don't think you could've said it any better jifmoc...
Unfortunatly, this person is just not ready....and I have to just accept that that's the way it is.  I think "Why Are We Here" reads "many of us sought help through medicine, religion, and physciatry, none of these methods were sufficient for us".....
He's just not there yet.  
What ***** is that the initial question to this post tells me he knows exactly where this is going...he just doesn't want to put the ritalin down and that's o.k.  My sister in law is now in jail for 5 years for her Aderall addiction...it's only going to go bad.... just how bad does it have to go before you see?  
But I truly think we ALL did the right thing by NOT VALIDATING!
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