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On a given day, I might take 70 mg of Adderall to stay alert, focused, and energized for the duration of the time I spend researching and writing a brief.

I have slept through five unanswered calls and the sixth one, received at 5:23 pm EST, finally breaks me out of my deep summer slumber.

“Hello,” I answered sleepily, wiping the crust from my eyes.

“Hello,” I said again. Too late. They already hung up. The call log showed I missed three calls each from my mother and dad. I’ll check in with them.

I am laying on my couch, affectionately dubbed the big green monster, which dominates the living room space of the basement apartment I am leasing in what is known as the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh.

I am 24 years old and single. It is the summer after my 2nd year of law school. I’m about to start my typical ritual of preparing for a 30 hour work bender followed by a night of drinking

I groan and slide myself off the coach. I get into the shower and turn it on as hot as it will go.

The Gym

After the shower, I chug a glass of fruity NOXplode, my pre-workout supplement. I change into gym shorts and a t-shirt.

My iPhone reads 6:14pm as I leave the apartment. Twilight is descending on Pittsburgh as I begin the 15 minute trek to my gym through Shadyside, walking past beautiful tall, leafy trees and cobblestone buildings.

I throw on “Rich” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs as I begin my workout in the dungeon-like fitness center. Am I rich? Hardly. In fact, I am approaching $150,000 in student loan debt to obtain a degree that – unbeknownst to me at the time – I will never use.

I hit the gym for a solid hour. I vainly concentrate only on my upper body and don’t care about my legs.

The workout leaves me feeling good. Sweaty. Strong. I make the walk home, where I continue my ritual and pop my first 20mg Adderall.


Time for a run. I stretch lightly and hit the streets of Shadyside at a brisk pace, bumping Deerhunter and Titus Andronicus as I fly through upscale neighborhoods with million dollar houses.

I breathe in the warm Pittsburgh air. The Steel City can be a bitch to live in during the winter months, but during the summer, it’s utterly perfect.

The Adderall has kicked in, giving me a euphoric high and sense of endless endurance. I reach the halfway point and begin up a steep right turn that’s known as Cardiac Hill on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

To my right is the Western Psychiatric Hospital of Pittsburgh. Seven years from the night of this run, I’ll be entering the hospital deep in the throes of amphetamine psychosis. But I have no knowledge of that yet.

All I knew right now is I’m getting in shape, performing at my job, and keeping up appearances as a “successful” law school student thanks to the pink little pills I am taking.

I sprint up Cardiac Hill to the tune of “Nothing Ever Happened” by Deerhunter, considered one of the greatest rock songs of the 2000s. It features a seismic bassline courtesy of Josh Fauver. Fauver will pass away from a drug overdose 2 months after I enter rehab in 2018.

I’m panting by the time I make it up Cardiac Hill. The top of Cardiac offers a gorgeous view of the City of Pittsburgh. After I make it up the insane incline, I breathe in and grip my sides and gasp for breath.

Slowly, I make my way back down the hill, preparing for the back half of the run. Once I return to the bottom, I take a straight shot down 5th Avenue, through Oakland and Shadyside back to my apartment.

Is This Hell?

By the time I finish my run, night has descended upon the city in all its glory. The time is 9:30pm. My work is about to begin. I down a 20 oz. Dasani bottle in its entirety. Toss the empty plastic vessel into my trash can. Then plop down, sweaty as all can be, at the desk in my living room.

As part of my work ritual, I flip on ESPN in the background. There is something comforting about the familiar sights and sounds of sports and Bristol crew when I am working.

I sit at my desk and pull up the assignment from my attorney. I am to write a Response to a Motion for Summary Judgment in our case. This should be cake, with the help of my friend Adderall.

I pull up my email account and Westlaw, crack my knuckles, and prepare to dig in.

I hate law school, mind you. The snooty classmates. The overpriced books. The know-it-all professors. The C’s that blanket my transcript.

I’m not used to failure or mediocrity. But my law school experience has been characterized by a terrifying brush with the former (nearly failing out my first semester) that’s settled into a close relationship with the latter (2.5 GPA but on track to graduate).

This is what drove me to the psychiatrist’s office in the spring of my 2nd year of law school. He heard me out and prescribed me what I’d been looking for.

I pop another half tablet and begin reading the Motion for Summary Judgment. Once I finish, I stand up and make a pot of coffee. Amphetamines, caffeine, and nicotine are the unholy trinity that powers me through nights like these.

I take a sip of brew and return to my desk, whipping out a can of Grizzly Wintergreen, packing it, and throwing in a massive dip. Adderall makes me fiend for tobacco like it was the very oxygen I needed to breathe.

The time on my computer reads 10:14pm. It’s time to rock and roll.


Six hours later, I rub my bleary eyes It’s 5:30am, and I’ve spent this whole time researching court precedent for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on the subject of gender discrimination. A delightful enterprise.

Although I’m not particularly sold on the facts of our case warranting a decision in our favor, I’m not prepared to go down without a fight. Adderall really brings out a very contentious intellectual stubborn streak in me.

The initial caselaw bears no fruit to support our argument, but I’m used to that. After six months working for my attorney, a solo practitioner who has been hit with more than her fair share of sanctions, I’ve come to expect these sorts of suicide missions.

Hell, I’m only making $11 per hour. But I need the money. And I can bill as much as I want, provided I meet the deadlines my attorney places in front of me, which I always do thanks to the little pink pills I keep slipping into my mouth.

On a given day, I might take 70 mg of Adderall to stay alert, focused, and energized for the duration of the time I spend researching and writing a brief.

It will take another seven years for me to reach the 140 mg mark that propels me into amphetamine psychosis. But at this point in my life, I’m able to use and abuse the drug with impunity.

Finally I decide to take a break. I scope out a few ex-girlfriends on Facebook. Check the latest music writeups on Pitchfork. Read the latest articles on Deadspin.


A disturbing thought is beginning to weigh on me more and more lately. There is no one to talk to – except for myself. I have no friends and am not involved in any relationships. I don’t even own a plant. The concept of God – or talking to God – has a scarce presence in my mind. I am at the height of my religious skepticism at this point of my life.

The only thing I have to look forward to is the fact that tonight is Friday, which means my law school buddies with traditional summer internships and 9-5 schedules will be grabbing a few beers somewhere. Girls will be out. I may even attempt to talk to one.

I have been up for 12 hours. Another 12 hours to go before I can relax. And another 7 years before Adderall fully breaks me as a human being.

On a given day, I might take