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The B.A.A.A.D. Scale: How I Rose to My Bottom

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When "The Great Adderall Shortage of 2011" hit -- an anarchic phenomenon limited primarily to the confines of clinic waiting rooms and pharmacy counters, propelled by insufficient supply and colossal demand -- I had already switched to Vyvanse. When all over the country, adults and children suffering from ADHD made this collective plea -- "Give me my medicine! I can't function without my medicine! Hey, ice cream sounds delicious right now! Why do I have elbows?" -- I was living at ease. Or so I thought.

You see, luckily, I'd caught wind of the "speed draught" in its earliest stage. When I heard that a new drug was being prescribed to replace Adderall XR (which was allegedly losing its patent), I ran right to my laptop to do some research, typing in: "How long do the effects of Vyvanse last?" and "What is the highest recommended dose of Vyvanse?"

The answers: Depends on a person's tolerance and anywhere from 70 to 210 mg/day.

I was curious about how tolerant I truly was to the effects of my blessed amphetamines. I'd been taking an average of 100 to 150 mg. of Adderall per day (about 60 mg to 110 mg. more than I was prescribed). I'd been doing this for years. I also knew I'd have to factor in the copious amounts of wheat beer I drank to keep from feeling too high, which, in turn, often resulted in the swallowing of another Adderall tab because -- dammit! -- I was starting to feel really drunk.

How was I going to accurately calculate this in order to approach my doctor with a logical argument advocating that I was going to need the highest dose of Vyvanse humanly prescribable?

One evening, after a long stint of pondering over this very question, accompanied by Elvis Costello's song "Every Day I Write the Book" on repeat, repeat, REPEAT, and fervid pacing around the perimeter of my bed frame, I concocted what I'd soon call "The Booze and Alcohol Amalgamation Affectedness Determiner." Or, the B.A.A.A.D. Scale.

The B.A.A.A.D. Scale consisted of five rising levels, which I initially recorded on the back of a Comcast "Urgent Notice" bill before transcribing it below. Let me just mention that it was no small feat, relocating that bill. But I knew there was a reason I'd kept it.

Level One: No amphetamines. Empty system. Affect consistent with extreme lethargy, remedied ONLY by one's prescribed dose AS SOON AS POSSIBLE (or "Level Two.") Prolonged "Level One" status typically results in excessive sleeping, bed burritos made of blankets and sheets, drooling, confusion, muscle cramps, and sensitivity to light, car horns, wind, whispers, and any person/place/thing that emits an odor.

Level Two: Affect consistent with prescribed amount (for me, 40 mg.) At "Level Two" status, it's common for one to access the Cognitive Reward Appreciation Bank (or C.R.A.B.) The C.R.A.B. neurologically operates on a "finish this, get this" system. For example, one might think, I took my medication, I took a shower, I brushed my teeth, and I dressed myself. Therefore, another pill.

Level Three: Affect consistent with stable functioning. Though the C.R.A.B. is again accessed in regular intervals at "Level Three," one is hopefully too busy with non-stop work duties to accidentally achieve "Level Four" -- or "I-feel-kinda-high-so-I-deserve-a-drink" status. "Level Three" is a tricky level to maintain, as the effects of the amphetamines often taper off as time passes, leaving one scrambling to look for excuses to tap into the Cognitive Reward Appreciation Bank: I walked to the bathroom and used it. Therefore, another pill. Ultimately, "Level Three" is where one hopes to stay. Unfortunately, "Level Four" is inevitably achieved because the "Level Three" rewards become too plentiful, resulting in rapid, excessive speech, slow and melodic songs played on repeat, repeat, REPEAT, and humiliating body tics (for me, running my fingers through my hair, my hair, MY HAIR!)

Level Four: Affect consistent with mania, remedied ONLY by alcohol (for me, wheat beer, wheat beer, WHEAT BEER!)

Level Five: Affect: drunk, dazed, bedraggled. It's at this level one bypasses the C.R.A.B.: Screw it, I'm too drunk. Therefore, another pill. After remedying one's inebriation, a false sense of "Level Three" is achieved, often resulting in repeating, rotating Levels Four and Five until it's 6 a.m. A new day?!

After reading, rereading, analyzing and shuddering at The B.A.A.A.D. Scale, I opted to eventually tell my physician this: "I've had my ADHD diagnosis since the Berlin Wall fell. I'm in my 30s. I have a professional job. I cannot afford to suffer the effects of being without proper medication. Therefore, Vyvanse."

Even better? My physician had NOT done his homework on this new drug. So when I asked that I be prescribed to take it twice daily, he shrugged and said, "Sure. Just like Adderall, I guess."

Sure. One dose of Vyvanse, according to various Web forums, was purported to last 14 hours so, why not? There can be 28 hours in my day!

For eight months, I took Vyvanse and existed on Levels Three through Five on the B.A.A.A.D. Scale. Until one morning, just as the sun was about to rise and I was tired from pacing the perimeter of my bed frame and pondering what it would be like to NOT take amphetamines, I started to cry. I COULD NOT for the life of me imagine a fulfilling life at "Level One." I imagined living in a bed burrito, cramped up, shaking, sweating, in and out of peaceless sleep. That's ALL I knew of life without amphetamines. Surrounded by unread books, long-ignored journals, unfinished art projects, and unlit candles, I looked around my room and thought, This can't, can't, CAN'T be right. So I ran to my laptop and did some research on amphetamine addiction. Later that day, I spoke to a physician at a local rehab and said, "I've had my ADHD diagnosis since the Berlin Wall fell. I'm in my 30s. I have a professional job. I cannot afford to suffer the effects of being addicted to amphetamines anymore. Therefore, I think I might need help."

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