Thursday, December 17, 2009

My "Addiction"

I will glare at you if you call it an addiction, but that probably won't stop you. You think it is cute to make fun of it, but it secretly makes me hate you deeply for just a fraction of a second before I forgive you, like so many others before, and move on. If I were diabetic, would you call my insulin an 'addiction'? If I had high blood pressure, would you call my medication an addiction? If I were ADHD, would you call my Ritalin or Adderall an addiction? Well, I AM ADHD and Mountain Dew IS my Ritalin!
You can read about the theories of what in the brain causes ADHD symptoms, and you can read how mild stimulants like Ritalin and Adderol help moderate symptoms. I won't bore you with it. The caffeinne in Mountain Dew is a stimulant. A 12 ounce can has 54 mg., or roughly the same as 1/2 of a NoDoz tablet, which has 100 mg. That 54 mg is about half the effective stimulant as the lowest dose of Ritalin used: Does the sugar boost the stimulant effectiveness somehow?
For me, caffeine does not give me a buzz. It has the opposite effect. One of the main symptoms of ADHD for me is racing thoughts. I have heard others describe this as many movies running simultaneously at different speeds so that you cannot grasp on to any one theme or plot. Sometimes these streaming thoughts are related to a topic I need to think about, such as solving a problem at hand or thinking up new designs, but sometimes, they race in a random uncontrolled sort of way that is mostly useless and a prevention of clear thought in any one direction. Sometimes, I don't NEED anymore new ideas; I just need to settle in and pick one and implement it, and the racing stream of new thoughts gets in the way. If things are going wrong, racing thoughts of worry lead to terror or panic or useless action in the wrong direction. Do something, call someone, make demands, act! In those cases, a dose of caffeine slows then settles the thoughts into a more normal pattern so that I can be reasonable and focused and calm. Keeping a regular steady dose in my body prevents episodes of racing thoughts and means I will be 'stable' if something goes wrong.
So my morning routine includes a cold Dew, first thing. Another with lunch, another mid afternoon, and another at dinner. Maybe one more before bed to calm me into a state where sleep is possible. Yes, caffeine to sleep. I know that seems odd, doesn't it? One doctor believes that caffeine having a calming effect is a marker symptom of ADHD. His diagnostic test first asks if caffeine calms you and if you answer yes, your diagnosis is complete: You have ADHD. If you answer no, you still might have it, as determined by how you answer some 20 other questions. So not all people with ADHD are calmed by caffeine, but all people who are colmed by caffeine have ADHD, he says. And if you are not one of the minority of ADHD people who are calmed by caffeine, it will affect you in the usual way and actually make YOUR symptoms worse, which is why the studies are so varied in their conclusions.
One of the issues with self-treating my ADHD with Mountain Dew is that it isn't always available. Backpacking or camping or staying in a hotel with the wrong brands in the soda machine are all potential problems. Many a time, I have been frantically nearly hysterically searching though my tent or backpack looking for something out there in the wilderness, only to remember my 'meds' and get out a half tablet of NoDoz. The trick is to sit back and wait out the panic, for in ten minutes or so, a calmer me will find the lost thing with no problem. If I don't remember what is missing when I am in one of those 'fits', other people can get hurt. I can snap at them, reject their sincere attempts to help, snarl insults, and feelings are bruised. "Jeeze, are you off your meds?" is not a good way to remind me at that point, but "Oh, look a squirrel . . ", a saying from a t-shirt which denies the wearer is ADHD is a shared joke among my friends and I, so that is a fair way to remind me that I am 'acting out.'
Mountain Dew: It's my 'med' so no cracks about addiction and we'll all be better off.

1 comment:

Sylvie said...

I am glad that you have found something that works for you. And, Mountain Dew is delicious! For backpacking, maybe you could carry some kind of powder -- like crushed No Doz and maybe some powdered lemonade (Mountain Dew is citrusy) -- that you could dissolve in your water bottle and sip from it throughout the day?