This article will go more into depth about the process of starting treatment for ADHD which I mentioned in my article about seeking help for Alcohol Addiction.
It explains the whole process of getting treated and what I experienced along the way, in a way which I hope is easy understand.
I am happy to say that this article concludes the introductory “autobiographical” story and brings everything up to the current date with where I am now, both physically and mentally.
From now on I will be able to focus more on what I am learning from my travels and experiences and writing about different things that I pick up along the way and hopefully starting a video log and potentially making a mini documentary in the Amazon.
Again, I would like to make it clear that I am not trying to advocate the use of medication, (necessarily), or claim to be any sort of expert on ADHD or the problems surrounding this. I am simply laying out my personal experiences and what I have learned from myself, from others and from self-therapy.
Starting Treatment for ADHD with Strattera
About 3 months after I first went to the Doctor, and then the Psychiatrist/Addiction Specialist, (I will call her A) to ask for help to overcome my Alcohol Addiction, it was decided to start me on a low dose of Strattera (Atomoxetine).
I am not sure why the delay was so long between stopping drinking and starting the treatment, I think it was partly to see how I managed cold turkey and then partly because it happened to be the Christmas/New Year period.
Either way I trusted A and decided I would do exactly what she said, exactly as she said.
Mistrust / Fear of Doctors
I had always had a sort of arrogance regarding doctors, thinking that they didn’t know what they were talking about and that I knew better, (I think part of this stemmed from experiences in the UK of being shoved into a GP and then churned out as quickly as possible, with no personal connection and no feeling of a patient–doctor bond).
Doctors Know What They Are Talking About!
It was only last year after going on holiday to Berlin with some friends of a friend who were all final year Medical students that I truly grasped what it means to be a doctor. To have studied intensely for 7 years – and then to spend a further X years studying to specialise in something.
I came to realise that its not like just breezing through a normal degree and learning the bare minimum to get your grades. You literally have to know EVERYTHING about the body and the interactions between medications etc. Its not just guesswork and there is very little personal opinion involved – with great power comes great responsibility!
My Experience With the Spanish Health Care System
In my time in Barcelona – Spain , I had been to the doctors more times I think than in my whole life previously, and had had many different tests and issues solved. So overall I would say the healthcare I have experienced has been fantastic, (albeit a little bit slow), but once you get going it really is great.
My only bad experience had been with my personal doctor who I had to see on occasion, and this was only because she saw me for what I was – an Alcoholic complaining about different problems with my body and refusing to accept the fact it was alcohol causing them.
An example of this was that I had chronic back pain – and this was due to having 2 slipped disks. I was having physiotherapy for this but it wasn’t helping.
She told me if I stopped drinking the pain would decrease a lot – due to alcohol causing terrible sleep and also drying out your muscles and joints.
At the time I wrote this off as her being an unhelpful, judgemental cow, but lo and behold, once I stopped drinking the pain and discomfort soon decreased by about 80%.
I also had Cholecystitis, (inflammation of the Gallbladder), and Gastroenteritis several times due to drinking too much.
Finding a Therapist / Psychiatrist That You Trust
I really liked A as she had kind eyes and made me feel comfortable and made me trust her. Because of this, I was ready to launch myself into the treatment and follow her instructions exactly.
I had grown up around girls having 2 older sisters and a lot of girl-friends and a few Girlfriends, and so I felt much more comfortable talking and connecting to a woman. I also had a few sessions with one of the Male Therapists but for whatever reason I didn´t feel any connection with him, and didn´t find the sessions useful.
I am not saying its a case of Male / Female – its just about finding whoever makes you feel comfortable.
The Fear of ADHD Medication
I had always been scared (terrified), of medication for ADHD for many reasons. The common and traditional medications for ADHD have always been stimulants, (such as Ritalin and Adderall), and I was really not keen at all to take these. I had never gone to the doctor to ask for help before because I thought these were the only things available.
Ritalin and Adderall are powerful stimulants which are incredibly addictive and have a whole host of side effects. They are effective in treatment for ADHD as they calm the brain and allow people to focus. As someone who had already been addicted to a stimulant drug, (Mephedrone), I was very against taking this and I really didn’t want to go down this route.
Alternative Non-Stimulant ADHD Medications
To my utter relief, A explained to me that these stimulant medications are not useful for people with addiction problems, not just because they too are addictive, but because they do very little to help the impulsive and obsessive side of ADHD – basically reckless thrill-seeking behaviour.
The Fear of Medication Changing Your Personality
My other big fear about getting treated, (and I think the main fear for a lot of people that are unwilling to start medication for ADHD, depression, anxiety etc.), is that it will completely change your personality and turn you into a sort of drugged up zombie – One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest style.
I think this fear is especially prevalent amongst people with ADHD, as they think that the ADHD is what makes them the person they are, and that if they lose this they will lose their personality.
People with ADHD feel like they have a, “motor”, or, “engine”, inside them which drives them, and I think people are scared to lose this – I certainly was.
It is true that ADHD shapes a lot of the qualities of your personality, and if you are high-functioning then you feel that it gives you the “edge” over other people, however you can sort out all the negative parts that make life difficult, overwhelming, and sometimes unbearable, whilst learning to take control of your life and your brain.
I realised how stupid I had been because at the end of the day – if you start a medication and you don´t like it / it doesnt agree with you, you can just stop that medication and continue along another path, (with the Doctors advice).
Starting Treatment for ADHD with Atomoxetine / Strattera
In January 2018 I began treatment, starting with a daily 20mg dose of Strattera, A told me that it was very important to slowly taper up the dose, so that the body gets used to it, and you avoid the risk of side effects.
I was obviously nervous and sceptical the first day that I took it as I had no idea what would happen to me. I was used to taking hard drugs with semi-instant and psycho-active effects.
Tapering up the Dose
The first day that I took it I noticed a certain clarity or “quietness” in my head that I had never experienced before, but this soon started to disappear as the dose was so low. A told me that the dosage depends on bodyweight and the maximum safe dose is 100mg, (I have seen some studies which extend this to 120mg). I weigh roughly 100kg so she told me we would taper up to the maximum, unless I noticed any severe side effects of Strattera.
After a few weeks of taking the dose I returned and my prescription was raised to 40mg then 60 mg, 80mg and then finally to 100mg, which is what I take now, within the space of maybe 3 or 4 months.
A told me that Atomoxetine / Strattera takes about 1-2 months to start working in your body and so it is a very gradual process.
Strattera Started to Change My Life
I started to notice that for the first time in my life I would get to sleep within a few minutes if I was tired, and sometimes have an uninterrupted nights sleep – for me this was incredible.
When you are used to sleeping only an hour or 2 consecutively, or when you actually get to sleep having sleep paralysis or lucid nightmares from alcohol withdrawal, then to start waking up feeling sober and “refreshed” is one of the most incredible things.
My whole outlook on life and my whole mood and positivity started to change.
Being sober, well rested and mentally calmer, I was able to start channelling my excess energy into positive things, learning how to control myself and thinking of how ADHD had affected almost every aspect of my life up until that point.
I felt like for the first time ever I had time to focus on doing things that make me happy like, read, work out, listen to music, learn languages, and explore the city.
For the first time in my life I was able to actually WATCH a movie, READ a book, LISTEN to music, and the lyrics, and take in and process the information. Before, almost everything that I heard and learned was subliminal.
Before it was all just a blur of sounds and images. I would get to the end of a movie and not even know the characters names, and if you asked me to recall the plot to you I would probably be able to tell you about 2 things that happened.
Although I was still permanently thinking and the “motor” within me was still there, I felt like the “noise” was gone.
The ADHD Noise Was Gone
My first realisation of the, “noise”, being gone was when I went for lunch with S and we sat outside on a busy road to eat, and half way through I realised that I hadn’t even noticed or complained that we were sitting on a busy road.
Before, I would not have wanted to do this and would have been even more fidgety / anxious and completely unable to focus on anything because of the noise from the cars going past and the “hustle and bustle”.
Forgetting to Take Strattera
I also noticed one day in my bedroom that I started to hear the traffic outside again and it was driving me insane, I then realised I hadn’t taken my tablet that morning because, for a reason I cant remember, I had broken my routine and forgotten it.
That would have been about 40 hours since taking the tablet and so roughly 75% of the medication would have been out of my system (according to average half-life).
It showed me quite early on one of the very simple but incredible positive effects of Strattera.
Side Effects of Strattera
Loss of Appetite / Indigestion
The main side effect that I noticed was loss of appetite, which to most people sounds like a blessing but it can be pejorative to my day, because unless I plan what and when I am going to eat, then I forget to eat, sometimes all day. I then start to notice that I feel angry, frustrated, lethargic and weak – and this is when I realise that I haven’t eaten.
I start to get a headache and my mood plummets, and I actually stop talking for a change. Anyone that’s close to me notices that I am quiet and moody, and usually makes a comment which then triggers me to remember I haven’t eaten!
Because of this I like to make sure to always have an exercise routine to structure my day around so that I know when I am eating. At work this was easy because you can create a routine easily, and I usually ended up eating the same things every day at the same times for about a month continuously until I got bored and would switch to something else.
People would always ask me why I ate the same things every day and why I didn’t get bored but to me I couldn’t understand why people would bother wasting time making different food each day. I guess it comes down to eating for pleasure or eating for necessity.
When given the opportunity I like to eat as much as possible to “stockpile” – especially whilst travelling and they have buffets everywhere.
Unpleasant Sick Feeling in Stomach
I also sometimes notice a slightly sicky feeling in my stomach, and sometimes get a bit hot, and a weird kind of yawn/sickness – but this goes away after about 5-10 minutes. Because of this it is not, “pleasant”, to take, and there is no, “come-up”, or “high” from it.
It is not physically addictive either so there are no withdrawals from stopping it. By this I mean there are no physical withdrawal symptoms – there of course can be some side effects from suddenly stopping but I have not experienced this so will not make any comment about it.
Loss of Libido
The other side effect that I noticed was loss of libido or “lust” which at first was something that worried me, but now I realise that it was a blessing in disguise. It was only after about 6 months that I started to realise that something had changed.
It is difficult to explain as all the changes that happened to me mentally were so gradual, and the clarity with which I was able to think led me to constantly discover new things about myself and about other people.
I was also going through a break-up and all of the problems that surround that and so it is impossible to know what was a direct consequence of Atomoxetine, and what were just been realisations or discoveries, due to thinking about things that I had never been able to think about before – but I guess that is not really very important as the two things are intertwined.
As humans we all search for sexual partners and there are varying levels of libido. Some people have uncontrollable urges and end up raping or molesting, whilst others are asexual and have absolutely no desire for any sexual contact.
Wherever you find yourself within this spectrum, there will most probably have been many times where lust or increased libido has clouded your judgement, caused you to make bad decisions, (sleeping with an ex for example), or caused you problems.
A lowered libido gives you clarity and helps you to make the right decisions without letting emotions control you, and so I don’t think it is something to be scared of, especially if you are someone with an especially high libido to start with.
Hypersexuality or Hyposexuality in people with ADHD
People with ADHD are usually at one extreme of the spectrum and either hypersexual or hyposexual which means that they either have extremely high sex-drive or extremely low sex drive. I am not sure where I fell on the scale as I was always drunk or hungover, and was always far more interested in drinking than anything else.
One thing I did start to notice was that I was able to enjoy relationships and sex more, as I was able to concentrate more on the moment instead of being on another planet. This certainly was a direct result of the Strattera.
Alcohol Causing Increased Libido
Being in Spain, Brasil and Argentina for a couple of weeks, and being in clubs sober, I see through sober eyes how the increased libido from alcohol causes people to act like animals, and to be honest it is actually quite disgusting. I am going to write a separate article about this so I wont go further into detail here.
Maintaining a Routine
Whilst I am travelling it is very difficult to maintain any form of routine and each day I need some sort of objective or goal, or something to ground myself and give myself purpose so that my brain is partly occupied by that, and I am free to explore and think without distraction about something else.
Pushing Myself to The Limit
I have been doing a lot of hiking trails and mountain climbing which I absolutely love, as it allows me to push myself to the limit and distract myself so that I don’t get distracted – if that makes sense.
Putting all my physical energy into something, and having to focus in order to not fall over – or fall down a mountain – allows me time to think and explore deeper thoughts – almost like a form of meditation.
I have always loved to push myself to the limit with exercise and sadly because of this I don’t notice the pain and have injured myself on several occasions from over training.
I have been trying to overcome a shoulder injury which I didn’t even realise I had caused myself, as I was in another world in the gym thinking of something else.
I think that an exercise routine is crucial to keep us all sane, allow us to be free with our thoughts, and separate our mind and body in this way. If I don’t do any hard exercise for more than a couple of days then I get miserable, I cant sleep properly and I lose all motivation.
I want to start trying meditation and have spoken to a few people that I have met along my travels about it. I have listened to an audiobook
about meditation called, “Still The Mind” by Alan Watts, and read the theory I just need to actually put it into practice now. It really just comes down to trying to not think of anything – which sounds stupidly easy – but is not.
Like anything it just requires practice, and once I get going with this I will write an update of progress to see if it is as great as we are led to believe!
What Life Would be Like Without Strattera
Sometimes I get a glimpse into what my life would be like, (without Strattera), when I forget to take my tablet. An example of this was when I was visiting my sister in London and we went to Camden Market.
As I was out of routine I forgot to take my tablet and as we walked around the market I ended up spending about 150GBP on effectively bags full of junk and souvenirs.
When we sat down to eat I started laughing as I realised I hadnt taken my tablet, and I looked at my bags of junk and thought, “why did I buy that?!”.
My Sister was used to seeing me do things like that all the time – as she hadnt seen the, “New Conor”, so to her it wasn´t really any different, but I explained that usually I dont do things like that anymore.
My Current State of Mind
This basically brings up to date my story of treatment for ADHD, alcohol addiction, and all of the issues that surround this.
I still take 100mg Strattera (Atomoxetine) every morning and I plan on continuing this for the foreseeable future.
Of course stopping drinking had a huge impact on my mental health and allowed me some more clarity but I honestly couldnt speak more highly of Strattera, (I am not a paid sponsor!).
Obviously not everything works in the same way for everyone, but I really couldnt be happier and I feel like for the first time in my life I am in control of my actions.
When I have an issue or when I am down I am actually able to stop and think about this, think why I feel the way I do and then try and solve it. I am able to think with clarity about things and think rationally.
I am still loud, annoying, energetic, and impulsive but I am now aware of what is going on within me and around me and so I am able to take control of myself and the situation to avoid going too far.
When I started writing this blog I really didn’t know what I was going to write about, and it was just a way for me to keep an online diary – and for people who were interested to follow my journey.
When I started receiving so much feedback from people regarding the issues with alcohol addiction and ADHD I realised that I had to carry along on this road so that I could help people.
Now that the story up to the current date is concluded I can continue with my original intention which was to write about the things I learn and discover on my trip.
I am also planning on starting a video log as well, talking about the different things I discover along my quest, and responding to questions that people ask me, as well as potentially a mini documentary in the jungle.
Please Share This Post
As of today the blog has had nearly 5000 views from 75 countries, which has really blown my mind. I hope that now the series is concluded it will circulate through social media and reach people that feel hopeless and alone.
The amount of people that it has already reached and that have reached out to me has been incredible and has really driven me, but with each share it spreads to more and more people, and appears on more newsfeeds.
We All Know People That Need Help
If you have any questions or want to get in contact then please don’t hesitate. I will always reply as soon as possible and as honestly as possible.
Comments Criticisms, Questions and Suggestions Welcome!
IG CONOR.MONAGHAN5678 if you want to see travel photos