Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Day Fourteen (but who's counting?) - ADHD: Disorder or Dimension?

Yep, I'll admit it - I like me some pot.  The giggles, the munchies, the amazingly intelligent high-level ideas it helps to generate (heh-heh). . .good, clean fun, notwithstanding the irrational illegality of it.  But I won't digress into a soapbox rant here. (Legalize it!!! Okay, I'm done now.) 

One of the things I've always enjoyed most about weed is its magical power to slow time.  Alright, it's not really magic (or is it?); and it's not really slowing time, per se (or is it?), but who really knows what "time" is anyway?  (I'm sure if you ask a bunch of stoners, however, they'll be happy to tell you what "time" is - and it will be brilliant!)

What I'm talking about here is, of course, subjective time deceleration - the perception or feeling that time is passing more slowly than usual. 

The subjective acceleration and deceleration of time is a phenomenon that everyone experiences.  In our culture, this notion is reflected in quaint sayings such as "time flies when you're having fun," and conversely, "a watched pot never boils."  Well, for me, time has always flown, whether or not I was having fun.  Watched pots would boil over in nanoseconds, with no time to even think about preparing to add the spaghetti. 

For as long as I can remember, I'd been in a constant race against the clock, always with the sense that there wasn't enough time, and everything that had to be done took too long.  I was a pathological clock watcher who would peek at the clock seemingly every couple of seconds.  But miraculously every second that I looked at the clock, ten minutes would have passed.  Or a half hour. Or a day. 

As early as my young childhood, I was acutely aware - and scared  - of my mortality because even if I would live to be 120 years old, in my mind (and experience), that century plus would pass in a flash.  And if I didn't proactively race against that passage of time, I would miss it all.

In every aspect of my life, I rushed through tasks and activities to avoid consuming too much time; or, conversely, I neglected to complete projects or engage in activities under the premise that there just wasn't enough time for it. 

As I reflect back, I am aware of the tragic irony of all the hours, months, and probably years that I spent doing nothing but staring, ruminating, and agonizing over how little time I had.  My dad, I recall, lived his life the same way.  And when he died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 65, what he feared most happened:  he ran out of time and had very little to show for it.

I discovered marijuana during grad school.  (Isn't that amazing - how I, of all people, discovered marijuana??  I know - who would have thought!  You're welcome!!)  I remember the evening well.  A neighbor in my apartment building called me to tell me about the "present" her brother had mailed her from out of state, and would I like to come over and part take.  I was feeling adventurous, so I went.  I'd been drunk before - I thought it would be like that.  Much to my pleasant surprise and delight, it wasn't anything like being drunk.  It was awesome.  I had a great time watching "Dracula" and chatting with my neighbor.  I was relaxed and cheerful, and I felt like I didn't want the evening to end.  Well, the evening of course did eventually end, as all evenings do.  But not for a really long time!  Although I was having fun, time actually didn't fly for a change.  It slowed down so much there were points where I thought it had stopped, which was perfectly fine by me. 

The effect of enabling me to actually slow down and savor a pleasant experience became one of the main reasons I would return to my. . .er. . .discovery again and again after that.  Eventually, I learned to take practical advantage of this effect by using it to help me study.  The only semester during which I actually sat down and studied for any length of objectively-measurable time, I did it stoned.  And I did really well that semester, come to think of it.

Despite that, I recognized that walking around high all the time would certainly have its drawbacks, so I didn't. . .and I don't.  Time would continue to race ahead, and I would just have to do my damnedest to beat it there. . .wherever "there" might be. 

As it turns out, "there" ended up being the Shopko pharmacy where I consumed my very first Adderall capsule.  I took it at one in the afternoon.  I would know this, of course, because there was a clock on the wall.  And if there was a clock on the wall, I was staring at it.

As I have already shared, the medication took effect quickly and profoundly, creating noticeable changes right away.  I had a great afternoon.  By bed time that evening, I was so happy and hopeful that it felt like being out in beautiful bright sunshine.  Wait.  Whoa, what's going on here?  That's actually sunshine.  Have we catapulted out of orbit?!  Why is the sun shining at 10:30 at night?  What?!  It's only 5:30 in the afternoon???  How can that be?

Oh, it be.  If I had to rank all the wonderful changes medication has brought about, by far the most significant  and far-reaching one has been a complete alteration of my perception of time.  Time has slowed down.  And not just for a few precious hours until the THC wears off.  But all day, every day that I take my pill.  The hours don't just vanish as though they never were.  And I wouldn't really even know if they did because, strangely, I don't have the urge to watch the clock.  When I do peek at the clock, I'm amazed to discover that I still have time.

On the flip side, tasks that used to feel like they would take forever have become remarkably manageable. . .and quickly taken care of.  That phenomenon remains a bit of a mystery to me, leading me to question whether I really have a neurological problem or whether I simply reside alone in some quantim plane, apart from everyone else. 

But perhaps I'm not alone.  In my casual Internet research of ADHD, I came across a little article that proposes that a faulty perception of time may lie at the heart of the hyperactivity component of ADHD.  Although this suggestion makes a great deal of sense, given my personal experience, it's not nearly as sexy as the thought of occupying my own dimension.  But I'll take sanity over sexy at this point and keep taking my pills so I can live in this world with everyone else.

As an aside, I was also interested to learn recently that there are some folks out there who support the use of medical marijuana as an alternative treatment for ADHD.  Personally, I wouldn't be interested in going that route; but given my own experience, I'm curious if it isn't the alteration of time perception that makes the treatment effective, if in fact, it is an effective treatment. 

In any event, I find the whole thing captivating.  I've always been interested in time - what it is, even if it is.  When I was in college, I started reading what I'm sure was a fascinating book on the topic of time.  But the chapters were very long and the font was so tiny, that I couldn't get through more than a few pages.  I'm thinking that perhaps I'll try to track that book down and take another look at it. . .now that I have all this extra time on my hands.


  1. Wow, I'm loving your blog :) I'll try make this short (as short as an ADHDer can ;)

    I was cogitating on the use of marijuana as a way to treat ADHD the other day as I believe my father, too, has ADHD and that he treated his for over a decade by being a habitual marijuana smoker. This blog post answered my question on how it affects someone with ADHD (I have never used as I have always been determined to not be like him! Ironic!)

    Thank you for writing :) I love your style

  2. Thanks, Briar! I appreciate your kind feedback! In my experience, marijuana very effectively addresses the "hyperactivity" component of ADHD. In my case, it helped me relax when nothing else did. It also helped my focus because I was able to shut out a lot of stimuli that would ordinarily be completely distracting. But unfortunately, I don't think it makes attention better, and it always made me very sleepy, which makes sense when one's brain is already "sleepy" due to its neurochemical make up. Plus, it's illegal here. So even if one is helped by it--which is very possible--you're just trading in one set of problems for another. : ( So I would completely support anyone's desire to avoid it. . .or not : )