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Student remembers friend lost to Adderall use, depression

Published: November 18, 2010, 1:54 am ET
Richmond College '11

It all sounds the same — possible depression, mood swings, anxiety. All of these warnings, yet we all know someone prescribed Adderall and that person is probably OK. Why then, would I write this article suggesting that you not try or take Adderall? My answer is simple, and his name was Kyle Craig.

My personal friend and high school pal Kyle Craig excelled at virtually everything. He earned great success on the athletic fields and in the classroom. He served as captain on his high school lacrosse team and prefect in the dormitory. He won the hearts of the prettiest girls, the respect of the most difficult professors, and the admiration of everyone that had the pleasure of knowing him. Not only was he intelligent, but he was also incredibly gifted at music. The depths of his talents were seemingly endless. He had a humble, pleasant demeanor, the ability to make people laugh and the ability to make people listen. Kyle was perhaps the most talented, driven and successful person I had ever known.

This past May, Adderall changed Kyle. Celebrating his highly touted New York City internship, Kyle went out with some of his best friends. At the end of the night, Kyle ignored his friends’ offers to drive him home and instead walked toward the train station. After texting “I love you” to some of his closest friends and family members, he stepped down onto the tracks, awaited an oncoming train and took his last breaths. That night, May 21, the beautiful life of Kyle Craig came to a horrific end.

Because of confidentiality laws, Kyle’s family did not know he had been prescribed Adderall nor were they aware of the severity of his depression. Like so many American college students, he abused the drug in striving for exemplary marks. In constant pressures we face as students, athletes, friends and family, we always try to perform our best. In the classroom, teachers demand our focus. On the athletic field, coaches demand our highest efforts. We do everything we can to succeed; we study and work out, practice and improve. Kyle, like many University of Richmond students, fit into this model. To him, Adderall had initially represented a tool to help him get ahead.

Kyle’s Adderall use started during times of dire circumstance, but soon escalated to more regular abuse. He would pay $10 for a pill, but soon realized his own prescription would be more practical for his increased use. At the heart of Vanderbilt University’s social community, Kyle was popular in his fraternity acting as the rush chairman. He would stay up during the week to complete his work and go into the weekend ready to party. For students who have ADHD, Adderall has been proven to be an appropriate remedy to cognitive impairment. To others, like Kyle, the long-term abuse of Adderall can cause psychosis, depression and drastic mood swings, especially when taken with alcohol.

Despite Kyle’s growing depression, his extreme academic and social success made it difficult for his friends and family to fully identify his instability. After obtaining a prescription for Adderall without his parents’ knowledge, Kyle appeared to be back on top. He received high academic honors at Vanderbilt last fall, and his future success appeared limitless. But the long-term affects of Adderall soon invaded Kyle’s stability.

While studying abroad in Barcelona, Kyle realized that he was not his old self. He was no longer excited in the social spotlight; he felt anxious, uneasy and depressed. Reaching out to his parents, Kyle acknowledged his emotional changes and actively sought help. Despite having two sessions in therapy, Kyle was unable to combat his emotional uneasiness. Because of confidentiality laws, the therapist did not reveal to Kyle’s parents the severity of their son’s depression. For Kyle’s family and friends, we were simply too late.

I would be a hypocrite to suggest that I have never taken Adderall. But, I can safely say that I will never take the drug again. Kyle was a man of unfaltering direction, ambition and talents. Although Kyle’s case appears to be an extreme example of Adderall’s side effects, I can conclude that if Adderall could change Kyle, it could change anyone. Abusing prescription drugs can have varying consequences on people. In Kyle’s case, the world has been robbed of a true gem. Ultimately, when it comes to such prescription drugs, Kyle’s legacy should prove to all of us that we should proceed with extreme caution.

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  • Kate

    I’m sure it took a lot out of you writing this article. Everyone really appreciates it Pat. Kyle was an amazing person and was truly all American. People really need to evaluate the affects of prescription drugs on university campuses. Yes, it will get you ahead, but at what cost? The cost of sleep, your health, and ultimately your stability. I’m glad you shared this with Richmond. As a freshman in college, even into my first 3 months, have witnessed hundreds of kids staying up all night to finish assignments with perfection. The truth of the matter is, if you learn to plan ahead the drug is just unnecessary to those without ADHD. Thanks for writing this, it’s extremely important.

  • Anonymous

    When my son and I were first diagnosed with ADD about 8 years ago, Adderall was the first prescription tried on us. To paraphrase the late Rick James “it’s a helluva drug.” It changed me , yes, but my 15 year old son immediately became easily agitated and couldn’t stand himself.

    Then we tried Concerta. Yes, it “worked”…for a while anyway. But, one day, I just realized that our form of ADD (the inattentive kind) is a gift, not a liability. We have both been drug free and rightly so. Being aware that one has ADD is 2/3rds of the problem. Learning how to make the best of it and work around it is the other 1/3.
    This is a very sad story.

  • Caitlin Elizabeth Yaeger

    Fellow college students: Please read and reflect .

  • Anonymous

    My condolences.

  • VF

    It is great to raise awareness and the stimulants used to treat add/adhd may indeed have serious side effects.

    However, to make a blanket generalization that these prescription drug treatments should be avoided ignores that they allow many people an ability to function that would otherwise be unattainable.

    The most important issue to remember is that these are highly regulated prescription drugs that should be used as prescribed and at the lowest doses possible.

    It does not really make sense to blame the prescription for individual irresponsibility and drug abuse or irresponsible psychiatric care. However, like I said, it is great to raise awareness about how frequently these drugs are abused and great effort should be made to prevent such abuse.

    Last, prescriptions invariably affect all people differently. For some, the stimulants used for add/adhd treatment might increase anxiety or depression, if not both. On the other hand, some might experience decreased anxiety and depression. This may also be due to variances in the underlying causes of either of these disorders.

  • guest

    I respect your views and I am sorry for your loss. Unfortunately, staying up late every night is a known cause of serious depression and chronic mental illness. You may have been mislead to believe it was the drug that was causing his symptoms. In every case where an ADD or ADHD drug has been misused, there is serious sleep loss. This may be something to consider as you research the causes of these terrible events.

  • Lucy

    My condolences, this is a very sad story. My only question is, I don’t see how Adderall is the drug to blame for his fate.