There and back again, the tale of a Ritalin junkie

By Stuart

I am a 33 year old Entrepreneur with ADHD and I use cannabis to manage my condition. I have spent the last decade running international businesses on 2 continents, and have a seven year old daughter from a nine year long-term relationship for whom I care jointly.

Ritalin, why let the government drug children.I was diagnosed at the age of 2 with ADHD and spent the next 3 years on a series of diets that effected my eating habits to this day. I did not have chocolate, sugar, wheat or cow’s milk until I was 5. From the age of 5, I was medicated with amphetamine-derived drugs for over 20 years. First Ritalin, then in my 20s, I was prescribed Concerta. By age 10, I was prescribed double the maximum daily dose (6 tablets, or 60 mg), and took 12 tablets or 120mg methylphenidate per day. By age 15, I was on 4.5 x the maximum daily dose at 25 tablets and 250mg per day).

I had unknowingly become addicted to these drugs by my 10th birthday. They caused my personality to swing one way, then the other when the drugs were wearing off. Due to the addiction and the high doses I was taking, as well as the rapid on- and offset of the drugs, I was essentially undergoing withdrawal on a daily basis. That didn’t affect me so much until I was older, but alongside this I also suffered from an inability to eat, especially at regular times. I suffered from daily bouts of morning nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps and symptoms of an irritable bowel.

At age 15, I was already smoking tobacco. My doctor, who had admitted to taking methylphenidate as a study aid in medical school, recommended that I try a cannabis joint in the morning to help my nausea. I was amazed. With no sickness, no cramps, I could eat breakfast for the first time that I could remember in my life. After starting smoking cannabis, I noticed a lot of changes. I started making friends, something I had always found very difficult, I gained excellent grades in school and earned a university place. I also found I was able to decrease the amount of Ritalin I needed to take, and found it easy to stop smoking tobacco cigarettes.

After finishing university and starting work, I found the mood-swings caused by the Ritalin were causing me difficulties in the workplace and my relationships. In my mid-twenties, I was switched to Concerta, a slow release version, to try to stop these fluctuations. At the same time, I continued medicating with cannabis and spent several years managing an international development company which primarily engaged in the health sector.

At the end of my relationship, like many others I found myself in a custody battle. As my condition and medication was being used against me, I chose to cease all prescription medication, including cannabis, under my lawyer’s advice and my psychologist’s monitoring. I promptly spent the next 18 months unemployed and, after losing both of my houses, found myself homeless as well. I found myself in receipt of benefits for the first time in my life. Eventually, feeling so much better in myself after ceasing the methylphenidate, but realizing that I could not work without medication, I chose to take what some may call a drastic step. I knew cannabis helped me keep calm and focused, so I researched online new therapies with types of cannabis. Eventually, I used my job seeker’s allowance to purchase an ounce of the correct strain of cannabis. I used this to settle my mind for a long enough period to re-incorporate, gain several new clients, launch a new company and start to become a part of society again.

I now use only cannabis to treat my condition: I have no more stomach cramps, I have no more mood-swings, and I have no more need of a stimulant medication that has a host of side effects. The use of cannabis to treat ADHD was, like Ritalin, started in the USA, but it amazes me how many people find their way to it without even knowing it. A lot of undiagnosed ADHD people end up treating themselves with either cannabis or cocaine without knowing why.

ADHD affects the mind: I often liken it to having several TVs on full blast around you, each catching your attention for a few seconds before the next pulls you in, coupled with an innate, almost childlike excitability. Essentially, this gives the sufferer a continuous inability to concentrate correctly. This is made worse in high stress or busy situations and can lead to impulsivity, silly mistakes and aggression. Often people with ADHD tend to have lower academic attainment due to poor attention or attendance at school and the difficulties we have learning on our own. Cannabis changes this. It allows ideas to be held in the mind and pursued. It stops the fidgeting and inability to form cognitive, consecutive thoughts. It even slows down our often rapid speech. It aids our ability to learn, concentrate and function better.

As another interesting example of what cannabis does for me that other drugs cannot do is that, as a side effect of my condition, I had at least 3 fault road accidents a year, every year, for well over a decade. I have written off more than 15 cars, often damaging the courtesy car I had while mine was in repair. After I had stopped the methylphenidate and switched solely to cannabis, I had no further accidents, and for the first time in my life, I have a no claims bonus (5 years now). This behaviour, of ADHD people whilst driving and cannabis’ effect on ADHD, has been shown in a number of medical papers from Germany. It’s also worth noting that methylphenidate is both far more toxic and addictive than cannabis, and I was prescribed that from the age of 5.

After realizing that I had finally found an answer, and that other European countries prescribed cannabis for my condition, I then sought permission to import cannabis. Later, I sought permission to grow cannabis and to bring my prescription across from Holland, from my Dutch doctor. I was refused every time. After 18 months of trying to make the Home Office stick to its part of the Schengen agreement – they would only allow, for example, an Irish national (or even British national if they have access to a non-UK European address or reside abroad) to obtain a Dutch or German prescription to smoke their medicinal cannabis in the UK – they held to their belief that this doesn’t apply to a British national residing in the UK.

I chose to grow my own.

I used seeds and equipment specifically sold for cannabis cultivation in the UK using cannabis products specifically designed for UK water. I grew a plant called ADHD, a special variant of cannabis which is the best medically for my condition and involved no organised crime nor had any victim.

Eventually (and unluckily) I was caught growing my medicine, in a secure shed, padlocked and in accordance with the strictest European guidelines for growing. I was given a caution and told not to grow anymore. The cost to the state was:

  • 3 arresting officers – 12 hrs
  • 4 detectives – 6 hours
  • 3 patrol cars
  • 2 photography unit vans
  • 1 police van to arrest me
  • 1 interviewing special sergeant – 2 hours

And the processing and paper work on top. For 15 plants, enough to give me a 3 month supply of my medication. Currently I have to purchase my cannabis from criminals; it is often not quite the right sort or strength. It costs me around £500 per month to buy. It cost me about £35 per month in electric to grow them.

My condition is genetic; it will not go away or lessen with time. I believe I have the right to medical help with my genetic condition. I believe I have a right to use the medication safest and most effective for my needs. I believe I have a right not to be poisoned by the medicine recommended by the state. I believe I have to be a productive and high-functioning member of society.

I have no wish to be a criminal, though the status doesn’t bother me, I will carry on regardless. I can only hope that over time, the law changes to allow both medicinal and recreational use.

NORML UK would like to thank Stuart for sharing his story. If you are a medical cannabis consumer and would like to share your story, please click on the link below to fill in our online medical cannabis survey, and one of our team will contact you.

This story originally appeared in the Cannabis Geek, a blog dedicated to science, fact and politics surrounding cannabis.

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  1. Wow! Thanks for the read, this is something I’ve been dealing with my entire life. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 and was on Ritalin until I was 13 then moved to Adderall until I was 17. On top of a slew of sleeping pills in the evening and nausea pills in the morning. I started smoking cannabis when I was 17 and noticed immediately that I was more focused. I stopped taking all my meds and have been off them since. I am now 31 and have control of myself more now than I ever did doped up on pills as a child. Great read!

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