View Full Version : Do stimulants (ritalin, adderall, etc) affect your meditation?


jonathan123
03-03-13, 01:08 AM
My question could not be simpler:

Those of you who have ADHD, do you find that taking stimulants helps or hurts your meditation? Does it make it easier or harder to enter a relaxed but aware state of mind?

All opinions are welcome.

ana futura
03-03-13, 04:00 PM
I prefer not to meditate on meds.

I was dx'ed late in life, and I had a lot of experience with meditative type activities (yoga and martial arts) prior to meds. When I was younger sitting meditation was agonizing for me, but I kept at it, and now I'm used to doing it in a non-medicated state.

On medication, "mindfulness" comes too easily. There's no challenge, I feel like my brain is already in a meditative state. I am interested in meditation primarily so that I can learn to live my life without meds one day. I view meditation partially as a substitute for meds, (and vice versa).

Also when meditating on medication one must consider how "active" the med is in your system. If I am in a "rebound" period, entering anything resembling a meditative state is almost impossible. It's just a completely unpleasant experience.

I do not take meds daily. If I did, I would prefer to meditate while the medication was at its peak, or in the morning before I took it. It takes me a full night's sleep for my brain to "reset" to its base line.

MellyFishButt
03-03-13, 04:58 PM
I was curious about this as well. I am goin for a massage today and am worried because I took meds (kinda silly), but I was also thinking of doing medititation. I really could not meditate before. Impossible. I am hoping that the meds actually help with this.

goodtimesahead
03-11-13, 02:13 PM
I used to take dexadrine for inattentive ADHD. I didn't make any difference to my meditative practice. I stopped taking medication since yoga and meditation helps me more than medication. Meditation is my medication now.

pudge72
04-04-13, 02:30 PM
I agree with anafutura when she says:

"On medication, 'mindfulness' comes too easily. There's no challenge, I feel like my brain is already in a meditative state."

During the first year I took Adderall, it felt like I was in a mindful state 24/7. I felt like I was floating in a hot-air balloon, observing life and sensations in such a detached, non-judgmental manner. My sense of intuition was greatly enhanced, and I exuded a sense of loving kindness without any conscious effort to do so. It was bliss, but of course it didn't last.

I'm currently weaning off of Adderall and have been regularly meditating in an attempt to recapture the mindful state that Adderall seemed to automatically give me.

From a neurological perspective, it's fascinating that a pill could automatically trigger a constant state of mindfulness. From a personal standpoint, it's agonizing to be living a life of effortless mindfulness for a year and then to have it suddenly snatched away from you.

My hope is that with consistent effort on my part, I can climb the mountain of mindfulness once again, this time sans-Adderall.

ana futura
04-05-13, 12:40 AM
I agree with anafutura when she says:

"On medication, 'mindfulness' comes too easily. There's no challenge, I feel like my brain is already in a meditative state."

During the first year I took Adderall, it felt like I was in a mindful state 24/7. I felt like I was floating in a hot-air balloon, observing life and sensations in such a detached, non-judgmental manner. My sense of intuition was greatly enhanced, and I exuded a sense of loving kindness without any conscious effort to do so. It was bliss, but of course it didn't last.

I'm currently weaning off of Adderall and have been regularly meditating in an attempt to recapture the mindful state that Adderall seemed to automatically give me.

From a neurological perspective, it's fascinating that a pill could automatically trigger a constant state of mindfulness. From a personal standpoint, it's agonizing to be living a life of effortless mindfulness for a year and then to have it suddenly snatched away from you.

My hope is that with consistent effort on my part, I can climb the mountain of mindfulness once again, this time sans-Adderall.


Don't worry, you can get there! Especially if you were that way on Adderall- you know already that that state is a possibility for you. I still take meds on rare occasion for academic work, but I am managing my day to day with meditation exclusively now.

I can get those awesome blissed out days sometimes without meds. Not every day, but often enough.

Did you practice meditation or yoga or anything like that prior to meds? Because very few people seem to share my experience with them. Meds immediately put me in a mindful state- but it seems like they don't do that for most people. I assume my experience with meditation prior to meds has something to do with it.

fatefm
04-05-13, 02:01 PM
Interesting. I stopped using Adderall precisely because it put me in a mindLESS state.

On meds, I wouldn't hesitate to sit down and get things done (which was initially a wonderful and novel experience!) However, I soon realized that the moment-to-moment awareness of my moods, needs, thoughts and feelings which helps bring about calm, appropriate and thoughtful responses and actions was absent. Instead I was working at a frenzied pace, completing work in a rushed and inexact way, failing to prioritize and falling into states of hyper-focus to the detriment of any sort of balance in my life (like forgetting to eat) and constantly anxious and moody.

The thrill of being productive was intoxicating but my mindful practice demonstrated how mindless and potentially destructive this form of productivity could be.

pudge72
04-05-13, 02:16 PM
Don't worry, you can get there! Especially if you were that way on Adderall- you know already that that state is a possibility for you. I still take meds on rare occasion for academic work, but I am managing my day to day with meditation exclusively now.

I can get those awesome blissed out days sometimes without meds. Not every day, but often enough.

Did you practice meditation or yoga or anything like that prior to meds? Because very few people seem to share my experience with them. Meds immediately put me in a mindful state- but it seems like they don't do that for most people. I assume my experience with meditation prior to meds has something to do with it.

Thanks for your reply. I never practiced meditation before taking Adderall. I scoffed at it actually. It was many years later, after Adderall had taken a harsh toll on my life, that I began investigating meditation to help dig me out of my Adderall-induced abyss.

A friend recommended that I read two books about mindfulness meditation: "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Gunaratana and "Full Catastrophe Living" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. As I read them, it became so clear that the intended purpose & effects of mindfulness were exactly what I had experienced during that first year on Adderall. This realization obviously occurred in retrospect, but at least I have a palpable sense of what I hope to achieve with mindfulness.

I've been meditating for a few weeks on my own, but I plan to enroll in an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at Rush Hospital in Chicago in May.

Adderall has basically taken away a decade of my life. I am desperately hoping that mindfulness can help me salvage what's left of it.

fatefm
04-05-13, 02:36 PM
From what I have read and experienced to a certain degree is that meditation is not about trying to experience "blissed out days" but rather to be more aware of whatever you are experiencing at any point in time - good, bad and neutral. It is a way of living that doesn't deny or avoid pain, confusion and suffering but rather accepts it and allows you to respond in an more appropriate manner than we are might normally. It is a means of embracing the inherent chaos of our lives (to paraphrase Pema Chodron).

My initial experience with meditation was an ongoing quest to find calmness, tranquility, and permanently destress. When it didn't happen as it often doesn't I became more anxious and stressed and questioned my meditation practice. Once I began to try (and it is not easy at all) to meditate without any preconceived expectations my meditation practice became a little deeper and impacted me in different and useful ways that I could never have anticipated. It became more about knowing where I was rather than trying to get somewhere else.

ana futura
04-05-13, 05:50 PM
From what I have read and experienced to a certain degree is that meditation is not about trying to experience "blissed out days" but rather to be more aware of whatever you are experiencing at any point in time - good, bad and neutral.

True, and getting "blissed out" is never my "goal", but it's still really nice when it happens. I think it's my "natural" state that I have forgotten- my default mode when I'm paying attention to everything around me is just really super happy.

Something as simple as looking at patch of grass will make me ecstatic. I love looking at the world around me- just the colors and shapes of things. Mindfulness practice just tells me, "Hey, you love this, remember?" So everywhere I go, I can be in love with the world around me.

I don't try to force myself to be in that mode, especially when I've got crap going on. If I am pain, I don't ignore that pain- I try to pay attention to it. But it is a mode I slip into very easily, and for that I am grateful.

I have always found joy in simple things. So for me trying to pay even more attention to simple things has the side effect of increasing joy.

ana futura
04-05-13, 08:14 PM
It became more about knowing where I was rather than trying to get somewhere else.

Also I would add that "knowing where you are" IS exactly the sort of bliss I am talking about. Pure love for the immediate moment = bliss (at least for me)

crowash
04-06-13, 12:30 AM
Great discussion, id add a + 1 for John Kabt-zinns work, I've meditated on and off for years sometimes with great dedication and now realise I was doing it for entirely the wrong reasons. my recent diagnosis and medication has me mediating again and I now meditate if and when I feel like it, on meds or off and its probably 50/50.
my take on it is it really doesn't matter if you are medicated or not it is your intention that counts. meditate because you are interested in being more aware, because you want to "rest in awareness" of all that is, or something specific I.e your breath, your mind, your thoughts. The part of you that watches is always there and is the same regardless of mind, or your body or the meds. There is no "too easy", you can't cheat at watching.
Don't meditate to cure or overcome adhd, to acheive enlightenment, be a better, happier person or any other reason than curiosity to see and connect with yourself, in the words of jkz "wherever you go, there you are"

ana futura
04-06-13, 12:40 AM
Don't meditate to cure or overcome adhd, to acheive enlightenment, be a better, happier person or any other reason than curiosity to see and connect with yourself, in the words of jkz "wherever you go, there you are"

I don't meditate to "do" anything, only to meditate. Is there harm though in discussing the results? I would be lying if I said that it doesn't do things for me. It erases my anger. I know that from experience. I don't meditate to erase my anger, but the fact that it does erase my anger encourages me to meditate more!

I suppose maybe I use words differently than others do, which is why I have the feeling that people view my perspective as "striving", when I really don't think it is. It is frustrating being told by others why you should meditate. If it works for you you're doing it right for you.

I think sometimes people need some encouragement with "concrete" results. If meditation won't ease your suffering in some way, why do it? I understand the need to not set up false expectations, but if I didn't already know that mindfulness practice would help calm my crazy brain, I would do it half as much. Westerners often need a more practical "hook". Being told it is only to "connect" with ourselves is sadly not enough for many people, and I want as many people as possible to discover mindfulness practice.

I know JKZ says not to talk about mindfulness for the first 5 years of practice, and I really do understand why, but dang it, I have ADHD- if nothing else it's a "talking too much" disorder!

ana futura
04-06-13, 12:55 AM
There is no "too easy", you can't cheat at watching.


I really disagree, but meds affect me profoundly. They change the nature of my brain dramatically. If they didn't alter me so much, perhaps I would feel differently. I won't meditate on them for the same reasons I won't meditate after having a drink- Meds are an "altered state" for me. I take them very rarely.
Like I said, if I took them daily, I'd have no problem meditating on them. But "med me" is not "me" in the same way that "beer me" is not "me". Maybe I will get to the point where I am comfortable with that, but what I have found is that meditation just makes me want to not drink or take meds.

Although I do think that alcohol and stimulants push the brain in opposite directions, in regards to mindfulness.

ana futura
04-06-13, 01:24 AM
I think the most important thing is to not "expect" meditation to do anything. Sometimes it brings a whole heap of discomfort! Sometimes I get extra pissy the next day- because it has made me more aware of something I am pissy about. If you expect certain results, you will be disappointed.

But I still see no harm in having a "why" rooted in a more concrete condition like- "I meditate because I am struggling with X" or "I meditate because I no longer want to be depressed all the time". Science tells us meditation will help with depression- there's no mystery there. There's nothing wrong with coming to meditation for a "purpose", and if that purpose brings someone to meditation who wouldn't otherwise come, then terrific.

The danger is in expecting things to unfold a certain way, because they won't, and then you might be disheartened, and stop the practice.

crowash
04-06-13, 04:34 AM
yeah sorry may have come across as a bit preachy, I've found it incredibly freeing to let go of my reasons for mediating and beating myself up when I don't. I really don't think there is a fake "you" on meds, you may think and feel differently but you are not your thoughts or your feelings.
I reckon there is something awesome in that, take it or leave it as it suits you best.

ana futura
04-06-13, 11:13 AM
yeah sorry may have come across as a bit preachy, I've found it incredibly freeing to let go of my reasons for mediating and beating myself up when I don't. I really don't think there is a fake "you" on meds, you may think and feel differently but you are not your thoughts or your feelings.
I reckon there is something awesome in that, take it or leave it as it suits you best.

What do think about alcohol though? Would you meditate on alcohol? Is that the "true" you? Most Buddhists describe the mind on alcohol as "clouded"- you can meditate when drinking, but you are making more work for yourself. Therefore, it would follow that the by using stimulants, you are making less work for yourself, and that your mind is automatically "less clouded". I do not want to make less work for myself anymore than I want to make more work for myself.

However, if you find meditation frustrating when unmedicated, then by all means, do it medicated. I don't find it frustrating, I love meditating unmedicated. And while I can do it on meds too, I prefer the additional effort towards attention the unmedicated state requires. I feel as if I get "more" from the practice- it is fuller in some way. I have put in more effort, so I feel a greater sense of reward. And reward is important for ADHD/

Anyway, You do bring up a a very important point- that whatever ones "goals" are, you must set them aside when meditating.

fatefm
04-08-13, 03:34 PM
Yes, this is a very interesting and useful thread. Always nice to hear other perspectives and experiences with meds and meditation as they seem to be so useful yet oppositional in many ways. If one of the goal's of meditation is to allow us to see how our attachment to ego (or ideas we have of who we are) is really an illusion then not being "authentic" is really a non-starter. In a book by a psychiatrist who incorporates insights from mindfulness into his work he advised a woman who didn't want to take her anti-depressants before a meditation retreat (for fear of being inauthentic) to take them. His argument that her clinging to some authentic pure version of herself was illusory and the meds would only help her in the meditative process. I didn't like this at all because at the time I was very proud of going off meds (Adderall) and only meditating to help with ADD tendencies. However, I agree somewhat with ana futura, that different substances make awareness, mindfulness, meditation and the achievement of whatever you are trying to achieve more difficult. For me, stimulants put me into a mindless hyper-focus mode. I got work done but to the detriment of any balance. However, if meds help people gain the benefits of meditation when they otherwise might not then they obviously should do it. If you can gain awareness of your breath, body, sounds, thoughts while on meds then I don't know if that is any less mindful than if you are not on meds. I think my brain is starting to hurt a little now...

fatefm
04-08-13, 03:46 PM
I don't meditate to "do" anything, only to meditate. Is there harm though in discussing the results? I would be lying if I said that it doesn't do things for me. It erases my anger. I know that from experience. I don't meditate to erase my anger, but the fact that it does erase my anger encourages me to meditate more!

I suppose maybe I use words differently than others do, which is why I have the feeling that people view my perspective as "striving", when I really don't think it is. It is frustrating being told by others why you should meditate. If it works for you you're doing it right for you.

I think sometimes people need some encouragement with "concrete" results. If meditation won't ease your suffering in some way, why do it? I understand the need to not set up false expectations, but if I didn't already know that mindfulness practice would help calm my crazy brain, I would do it half as much. Westerners often need a more practical "hook". Being told it is only to "connect" with ourselves is sadly not enough for many people, and I want as many people as possible to discover mindfulness practice.

I know JKZ says not to talk about mindfulness for the first 5 years of practice, and I really do understand why, but dang it, I have ADHD- if nothing else it's a "talking too much" disorder! I had a subtle shift similar to crowash. Instead of thinking "I am meditating to cure my ADD" I shifted to "I am aware that I am thinking that I am meditating to cure my ADD". (I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for this last sentence!) This made a lot of difference in helping me be ensure that my focus was on awareness and not on dealing with my ADD even though this is an important and noble goal. I was also confused by JKZ advising not to talk about your practice but also telling me to be very wary about thinking you are getting anywhere. I think it is good advice though. When you think that you are getting it, improving, etc, then just be as non-judgmentally aware of this as possible and return to your meditative focus or whatever you are doing. Thinking, wow I am being so mindful right now means you are not really being mindful. OK, now my brain really, really hurts.

ana futura
04-08-13, 09:48 PM
If one of the goal's of meditation is to allow us to see how our attachment to ego (or ideas we have of who we are) is really an illusion then not being "authentic" is really a non-starter...

Yes that's a very good point. I think that throwing the whole "true me" thing out there was sort of grasping at straws. I don't get hung up on authenticity, not at all.

Honestly, I think I have no real reason for not wanting to meditate on meds, beyond I simply don't like it. It's boring! There's no challenge. All those thoughts that I'm trying to work with disappear, the chatter shuts off. Maybe I will arrive at that same point through meditation one day, but as of right now sitting with myself with no thoughts to observe and let pass, it's just boring. Maybe I'm not ready for that mind state yet?

Similarly, I don't like meditating after drinking (or during a rebound) because it's too hard. The thoughts are fast and fuzzy and loud and obnoxious.

I suppose I like to meditate in an "unaltered state" because that's how I spend most of my time. It's what I'm used to, comfortable with.

Meditation is freaking hard- and having my mind operating in a familiar state makes the whole process more comfortable (to me)

ana futura
04-08-13, 10:26 PM
I had a subtle shift similar to crowash. Instead of thinking "I am meditating to cure my ADD" I shifted to "I am aware that I am thinking that I am meditating to cure my ADD". (I would like to wholeheartedly apologize for this last sentence!) This made a lot of difference in helping me be ensure that my focus was on awareness and not on dealing with my ADD even though this is an important and noble goal.


It's interesting- I have never had the problem of thinking about a "goal" when meditating - but after I wrote those posts I found it really hard to meditate that night. My mind was all "Maybe you DO have a goal! Oh, look you are trying to do something! See, what is it like to try to meditate to "cure ADHD"?
It was awful! I think it might take a while to "get over" this thread.

I really have never meditated to do anything other than meditate, but now that the suggestion is in my head it's horrible! So maybe I understand more the struggle you were talking about. I think maybe I set a trap for myself.

In all honesty, I often put very little consideration into my words, especially on the internet. It's all stream of consciousness. I do not know how to be in a mindful state and write at the same time. Can anyone? Writing about/ talking about meditation is about the hardest exercise ever.

Thinking, wow I am being so mindful right now means you are not really being mindful.
My thought process is usually- *mindful state* then "Wow, that was a totally mindful experience!" That thought is like an alarm to me, it signifies that something has ended- I have lost sight of the present moment. Sometimes I am able to let that thought pass, and other times I give in and immerse myself in thoughts.

I do fall prey to the "mindfulness practice is so awesome" thought, which is it's own sort of trap. I'm aware that I'm not being mindful, but I don't care, because I had already "been" mindful a little while ago.

I was also confused by JKZ advising not to talk about your practice but also telling me to be very wary about thinking you are getting anywhere. I think it is good advice though.
I definitely think not talking about it is great advice, it's just very hard to do. I'm not confused by it, but I do frequently choose to ignore it. Then of course I judge myself for ignoring it...

The being wary of thinking you are getting anywhere is very important- it's not a linear progression. It's only a state of awareness. You are either in it or not in it.

But it is hard not to be excited when you see that you are in more often than you were before. And that state does bleed over a bit into a "non-mindful" state, especially with regard to your emotional landscape. In my experience that bleed over doesn't go away.

I can't find it right now, but Seung Sahn said something to the effect of - Enlightenment is easy. Waking up every morning is easy. It's waking up every second of every day that's hard.

fatefm
04-10-13, 01:13 PM
It's interesting- I have never had the problem of thinking about a "goal" when meditating - but after I wrote those posts I found it really hard to meditate that night. My mind was all "Maybe you DO have a goal! Oh, look you are trying to do something! See, what is it like to try to meditate to "cure ADHD"?
It was awful! I think it might take a while to "get over" this thread.

Yes, I feel your frustration. However, every moment is a learning moment. Every attempt to meditate both "successful" and "awful" provides insight into our state of mind, your tendencies and your habitual responses to whatever life throws at you.

Imagine if you didn't have the experience of meditating or this insight into your moods and emotions. Imagine if you were experiencing the frustration of a bad meditation and interpreting it as you failing and starting on a whole story about how useless you are rather than it just wasn't working today? Imagine if you had not yet learned to non-judgmentally let this experience go so you can more fully appreciate and be mindful of the next moment (or at least know that that is where you should be directing your energies if you cannot do this right now). In other words, how would have handled this or any of bad experience without having practiced any mindfulness at all? For me, it would have resulted in a week of depression and distraction, moodiness and irritability, too much sleep and not a lot of work rather than just a few moments of annoyance and frustration.