In Search of a Miracle Drug

Can prescription medication bring us closer to God?

For a moment, Todd closes his eyes and thinks. Even though two years and 97 days have passed, he still vividly remembers what his life was like before he began taking Adderall, a popular stimulant for children and adults diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to Todd (not his real name), being diagnosed with Adult ADHD changed nearly every aspect of his life—for the better. Now, because of a little orange pill he takes once a day, he’s able to think clearly without becoming overwhelmed by distraction and constant anxiety.

“I call Adderall my wonder drug,” says the Wisconsin native, who began taking Adderall when he was a sophomore in college. “Before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I’d spend six hours working on a research paper and only write a paragraph. Now, I no longer get anxious because I can usually finish a paper in six hours. My ADHD meds changed my life.”

If it seems like nervousness, lack of concentration, poor organizational skills, anxiety and other symptoms of Adult ADD/ADHD have become more popular in the last few years, you might be onto something. You’ve probably seen the cutesy commercials for Strattera, a newer medication to treat Adult ADHD, or perhaps you’ve heard everyone from Dr. Phil to Katie Couric talking about the disorder once thought only to affect children. All this talk might make some believe that Adult ADHD has become en vogue. And perhaps that’s true; increased awareness has seemingly caused an influx of new psychiatric patients in recent years.

According to the Academy of Certified Social Workers, the number of younger adults using drugs to treat Adult ADHD more than doubled from 2000 to 2004. Even more astonishing, according to Medco, a prescription management company, the money young adults spent on treatment of ADHD more than quadrupled within that same time period.

Thirty-four-year old Keri Tryba believes life would have been very different had a psychiatrist not told her she had ADD at age 24. Like millions of Americans, she chose to take meds. “My whole world woke up,” says the Chicago native. “Being on Adderall makes me a better parent, a better wife and better at my job.” Without the little pill, Tryba’s unsure whether her marriage would have lasted. “It would have been a lot harder; let’s just say that.”

It’s just after 9 p.m. on a Wednesday, and Todd’s leaving his church’s young adult Bible study. Walking out to the parking lot, he lights a cigarette and gets a serious look on his face.

“Adderall helps me spiritually,” he says. Knowing he probably doesn’t sound that convincing, he continues. “I’ve probably heard at least 3,000 sermons in that building,” Todd says, pointing his cigarette at the church building. “But I swear, because I’m now able to sit still and concentrate, I feel like I’ve just begun to experience God.”

Todd claims that ADHD kept him from any real profound encounter with God. At times, faith seemed almost impossible for him. “I hated things like Sunday school. And youth group wasn’t much better. If things didn’t engage me or keep my interest, I’d usually zone out. Sometimes I do look back on my past spiritual life and think, ‘what if?’”

Jay Pesek, a 27-year old who began taking Adderall for ADHD while in college, knows too well what Todd experienced; he also understands the spiritual dilemma of ADHD. “You have no idea how cool it is to finally have the ability to sit down and take in the book of Psalms or pray for more than 30 seconds,” Pesek says. “At times, I think Adderall saved my spiritual life. Once in a while I think, ‘Wow, how much spiritual stuff did I miss because I wasn’t able to concentrate?’ That’s a real frustration.”

Even for the most psychologically aware Christians, it’s strange hearing someone suggest that a pill might make it possible—or at least, simpler—to experience God. Besides, if this theory were true, wouldn’t some churches be handing these pills out like candy sometime between the opening song and the preacher’s first point? Let’s face it: ADHD is not an excuse you hear every day in regard to a struggling spiritual life, nor is there any known research available to truly suggest it should be. But does the lack of research prove its illegitimacy? Or should the Church be taking the claims of folks like Todd and Pesek more seriously?

Stephen James, a 33-year-old certified counselor, pastor and author, doesn’t flinch when he hears that some people think Adderall is helping them get closer to God. James says it’s quite normal for some Adult ADHD sufferers to struggle concentrating on Sunday mornings. “ADHD is a mental disorder,” James says. “Just like an individual struggles at school or work, some have trouble paying attention in church situations.”

However, don’t expect this pastor/counselor to begin recommending the average unengaged church attendee visit a local psychiatrist and start popping pills for spiritual nourishment. “Sure, people feel like the meds help them experience God,” James says. “For a person with ADHD, meds like Adderall are helping them quiet the noise. That’s what stimulants do; they help people focus, which in turn stops the disconnect happening in their brains.”

But according to James, the “connection to God” one experiences post-meds is only a perception. “Medications make it possible for our minds to be engaged through prayer, sermons and the like,” James says. “But they’re not helping one’s soul connect with God. True connection to God happens in the heart and soul. Meds can’t do that.”

Regardless of medication, Todd admits that at times he still must work hard to concentrate. His confession begs the question: Is the pill theory a bunch of crap?

“I don’t know,” he says. “I don’t think it is. But sometimes I do wonder if the Church should find alternative ways to present truth, ’cause certainly meds aren’t the answer for everyone.”

Education facilities are constantly looking for alternative methods to teach simple theories. And many businesses spend millions of dollars so they can properly communicate their mission and engage personalities with various learning styles. Maybe the Church should follow suit and begin looking for methods beyond Bible studies, preaching and prayer times to help people with ADHD connect with God without the use of drugs.

Todd’s still staring straight ahead; he’s obviously thinking about his last statement.

“I don’t think I’ll be going off Adderall anytime soon,” he says. “This church ain’t gonna change anytime soon. And I’d still probably need meds to even know a change happened.”

Matthew Paul Turner is an author and a blogger. This article originally appeared in RELEVANT magazine.



Mary West commented…

The greatest cargos of life come in over quiet seas. Be still and know that I am God. I would like to explain this verse. To be still means to have a peaceful heart. We live in a fallen world, we are surrounded by waves of un-belief, fear, doubts, failures, cruelty, anger, sickness, betrayal and uncertainty. In the midst of confusion or any turmoil that we may be faced with, God says be still, and know that I am God. Which means I am the Almighty and unlimited in resources to defend, provide and support you in any circumstance or situation you come in contact with. Fear grips us and destroys our dreams and goals. To walk and talk with God requires a peaceful heart. Example is like a child who just experienced something frightening, in order to calm them down you have to get them focused on you by talking firm yet softly, then when you have their attention (eye contact) your able to talk them through it and reassure them its going to be ok. Thats exactly what God is saying in this scripture. Be still, don't worry, I am going to take care of you. If taking this drug will help you to have a peaceful heart and allow you to focus on God, to hear his still voice, to have a deep peace in the midst of uncertainty and confusion, DO IT! We are saved by grace, that is un-merited divine favor, we dont deserve it we cant work for it, its grace given from God because he loves us, thats all, very simple, man makes things complicated but God keeps it simple. God is interested in your heart, not all the stuff we do, but where is your heart. If you love God and if something like taking this drug can help you to balance things out, sort through life a little easier and able to focus a little longer on all the blessings he showers us with, then do it. Its all by grace. Its your walk, its your heart, its your thoughts. Condemnation is a sin. Sin is not sneaking a smoke behind the barn, sin is being out of fellowship with God. Having your thoughts wrapped up in worry and doubts, is like being in a baseball game and your way out in left field. Well our lives get way out in left field and when we are out there, thats when God says, be still and know that I am God. So, God bless you, walk in grace towards others and mainly yourself, we need to remind ourselves he loves us as is where is. You tell your mind what your going to think, dont let circumstances control you, you control them by controlling your mind and that is getting peaceful with God. Here are a couple of scriptures, food for thought. Isiah 26;3 Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee. John 14;27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid. God either told the truth or he lied. I choose to beleive he told the truth. I also thank God for working with our scientists, chemists, doctors, etc I had gotten cancer and as bad as chemo is, I thank God for it cause it killed the cancer. I thank God that we have medicine today. I think its important to remain thankful for drugs. Theres my two cents.


Theloft3 commented…

That sums it up very well, Stephen. It was what I was going to type, but you said it. I have a son with ADD, and I agree with what you say 100 percent. It is not a lack of faith. If you have a headache, you take Tylenol or Aspirin or Advil. Same thing.


Adderall Abuse commented…

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messiah cometh (he that is called Christ): when he is come, hewilldeclare untousall things. (John 4:25)...Perry was high-spirited in his comparison, using a loud BringIt emphasized with arm motions......for those moving on,Godbless; the rest ofus will closethe ranks without you.....And more than that I've actually given speeches or at least presentations under the influence of both alcohol and (prescription)drugs....


Anonymous commented…

Adderall has also helped my spiritual life as well. I don't think taking medsnecessarilymakes you more spiritual, it just makes it easier to get my thoughts in order.



Stephanie commented…

This makes me actually miss the days when I was able to get an Adderall prescription for my ADHD (which I've dealt with for well over two decades). These days docs push the popular drugs like Strattera (which caused horrid side effects for me) or combos of anti-depressants, which I was already on for anxiety/depression.

However, the legitimate effectiveness of Adderall for ADHD is obvious if you truly have the disorder. In my teens and early 20s, I disliked the idea that I "needed" a drug so that I could be "normal" and function. As a result, I went off and on Adderall a number of times. I can tell from my experiences that it makes a HUGE difference in how I functioned. I have since had to find other ways to manage my ADHD, since most doctors I've seen either can't or won't prescribe the only thing that has ever worked for me.

The cost of ADHD meds has increased a lot over the past decade as well... which may have to do w/ the statistic in the article about more money being spent in that area. It's surprisingly difficult to get proper attention/care for Adult ADHD. Many doctors/psychiatrists are not experienced with Adult ADHD, as it's been seen as a childhood disorder until the past decade.

As for simply getting medication for ADHD, I can more easily get multiple prescriptions for narcotics in a short span of time (I threw out my back and hurt my shoulder w/in a month), even if I don't want them or take them... this just doesn't make sense to me.

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