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  #1  
Old 10-16-10, 09:51 PM
Kaii Kaii is offline
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Lightbulb Physics + Ritalin FR Questions - not just for physicists!

I just started taking Ritalin and I am very interested in how this is going to affect my physics studies (undergraduate) and performance. If you have any experience in the area, any useful information will help.

Optional background reading and further thoughts
As a bit of optional reading, here is some background and some thoughts I have on the subject so far.

I am 24, 170lb (80kg), have been diagnosed with mild ADHD in england.

I am naturally good at physics, at conceptualising dynamics and mechanics, playing around with thoughts. I am deeply interested in it and that obviously helps a lot. I can visualise a lot of (even abstract) areas in physics, like time dilation, space contraction (relativity), and even, to a degree, areas of quantum mechanics. I don't know how ADHD has helped in all this; perhaps it is the active mind that loves exploring and playing around with the fascinating concepts. It could be many things.

ADHD also leads to procrastination, aversion to long calculations (vitally needed for anyone serious about learning physics...and lots of them too!), silly mistakes, and other normal problems. Basically the hard, tedious work of physics is not the area I succeed in, regardless of my prowess in the abstract, conceptual areas. A synthesis is vital for me to reach my dream of becoming a good physicist.

I am sure anyone here who does physics will know exactly what I am talking about. Those who do not do physics, know this: it is a subject that requires a lot of creativity and abilities in abstract thought, for understanding new, counter-intuitive concepts; it requires thinking outside the box; requires a good head for visualizing and juggling ideas. It also requires much hard work, commiting methods to memory so they can be used by second nature, creatively (achieved by practice as well as understanding). It requires a very logical, mathematical mind.

Basically it requies full utilization and synergism of both creative/abstract thought (right brain) and logical/mechanical thought (left brain). I generally have a moderate natural advantage in both. However, my lack of focus, and impulsivity tend to keep my life of physics restricted to short, not so regular epitomies, and I feel I could be accomplishing a lot more, especially if I had the ability to sit down for several hours a week to either just work through calculations, or work my brain to understand new and sometimes abstract concepts.

I will mention that so far I have tried Ritalin once. I tried 20mg, taking 5mg tablets about every 45 minutes/1 hour over a course of 4 hours, slowly increasing the dose. I didn't notice much change to my mental faculties except perhaps faster thoughts. They didn't seem more or less creative, deep, logical, structured, or focussed; just a bit faster. I was quite tired though, and didn't take a large dose in one go.

More specific questions
  • I would love to know how you think Ritalin is going to affect my studies in physics and my general mind for physics. I have heard it saps away creativity in some people, and I wonder how it affects the ability to think outside the box, abstractly. How do you think it will affect these areas?
  • I have heard that it lets you sit down and work for hours, but it's drone-like, mechanical work, lacking creativity. What sort of personalities do you think this effect is produced in? From what I have wrote, can you make any educated guess how you think it would affect me? Will I find it harder to comprehend new, abstract concepts? What dose?
  • How do you think it compares to the marijuana thought process (don't forget to mention what dose you used)?
  • If you think the overall effect is negative to a physics student, do you have any recommendations?

Thanks so much everyone if you read everything, but either way I am looking forward to all answers and ideas!
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Old 10-17-10, 12:43 AM
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Re: Physics + Ritalin FR Questions - not just for physicists!

I think this varies person to person, but too high of a dose slightly dulls my thinking. Today I was taking a practice college admissions test and on the science section, I had a hard time visualizing some of the physics stuff on there because my recently increased adderall dose is too high. Too much of any stimulant is never a good thing for people with adhd. But overall, the increased focus is great if you can find a good dose.

Also I can relate to you with the whole good at physics thing. Last year, my freshman year of high school, I got a perfect score on all my tests for my into to physics class without studying at all, while many of my "normal" friends struggled to get c's and d's. I think its a gift that some adhd people have. If I remember correctly, Einstein had adhd.

edit: for dose I use 20 mg at night as a booster for when my adderall xr wears off. Recently I started splitting my pills into 10 mg because i feel like my thinking is more efficient at those dose. At 20 mg, I can sit down and just work until I get something done, but my thought process was dulled, which is not a good thing. But dose varies significantly from person to person, so you just need to find what works best for you.
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Old 10-17-10, 06:40 PM
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Re: Physics + Ritalin FR Questions - not just for physicists!

I'm doing Architecture, and I laughed so I didn't have to cry when you mentioned hard tedious work etc. I'm good at my ideas and always have interesting ideas for projects but finishing them....
Quote:
Basically the hard, tedious work of physics is not the area I succeed in, regardless of my prowess in the abstract, conceptual areas. A synthesis is vital for me to reach my dream of becoming a good physicist.
Substitute architecture and that's me.

Meds affect people in different ways. When I was on Ritalin, what it helped me most for was actually starting things. The effects didn't last for long so by the time I was already going, it zapped out, I got a crash, felt sleepy. I also didn't like the side effects. Never affected my creative side that I notice. But then I've always thought my creativity is separate from my ADHD, maybe someone who believes creativity is part of their ADHD might notice a difference.

Dexedrine improves my working memory but it doesn't help me start.
But everyone has different reactions, you can't really say from other people's experiences.

It's different if you are predominantly inattentive, hyperactive or combined. Do you have other co-ocurring conditions? Those also need to be treated. Depression can affect you, anxiety can affect you. I have very deep problems with starting anything, and unlike many, I'm not that blessed with hyperfocus. I'm also realizing that my blood sugar is quite sensitive as well. Or maybe I'm just developing pre diabetes (oh lord no..)

Marijuana doesn't have much of an effect on my cognition good or bad, I just feel really dizzy like I'm drunk and never got into it. Caffeine doesn't do much for me unlike some here and tea makes me fall asleep. And sometimes alcohol can really stimulate me.

It's difficult to say. You are you.
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Originally Posted by Kaii View Post
I just started taking Ritalin and I am very interested in how this is going to affect my physics studies (undergraduate) and performance. If you have any experience in the area, any useful information will help.

Optional background reading and further thoughts
As a bit of optional reading, here is some background and some thoughts I have on the subject so far.
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Old 11-28-10, 11:38 AM
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Re: Physics + Ritalin FR Questions - not just for physicists!

This post may be somewhat off topic but I was sifting through threads and was intrigued by this in particular because I'm a physics undergrad and have the same questions haha
Very recently I started taking concerta. Albeit, not ritalin, but the comparison may be interesting. Aside from the weird symptoms: Best day of my life.
The abstraction of physics is my favourite thing in the world and always has been. It encompasses the most intriguing array of topics I've ever come across and is ridiculously compelling to learn, to the point where I study extra physics rather than doing other homework.
I was originally hesitant to study physics in uni because I couldn't focus to the end of an equation, the longer they became. My memory is so bad I forget what the original question was, half way through the question. Re-reading takes so long that I struggle to finish easy questions in the time allotted. I can't remember the names of particles or theories or forces or physicist-- But what I can do, is conceptualize. I've gotten this far entirely on physics intuition. So I was also curious what the effects of medication would be on me and how I've coped through physics.
On concerta I read 10x faster, and absorbed 95% of the information. I could read a question once and answer it fluidly, with continuous accuracy. Physics was my first class that day. Based on the formulae and images on the board, I understood concepts I've never even seen before, before the prof said anything about them. I've never been able to think so quickly. My thoughts had a peculiar clarity to them, as if my mind were a computer compartmentalizing information and partitioning sections for better organization, subconsciously. So I went home and tried to push the limit of comprehension-- How much could I really understand now? I read some advanced physics and in 5 minutes was able to thoroughly comprehend topics that have taken my physics friends days to understand.
As for creativity, one of the strangest parts of the medication was that I could see patterns. I saw correlations between formulae and concepts, but also in random every day objects and happenings. For instance, the latch on my shoe was inextricably entwined in similarity to my watch. But it's not as if I had to stare at my watch and think "HMMMM I wonder what this has similarity to" as I looked around to find something, nor did I have to think about it for lengths of time afterwards. It was just there. Some random correlation. Perhaps it is not integral that I saw this happen between a shoe and a watch, but that wasn't the only case. It happened all day, and seeing these connections.. There's definitely a practical creativity to that.
Overall, I was able to direct my intellect towards specific questions and concepts at full power, dramatically increasing understanding and postulations. It wasn't a detriment to my creativity, in fact, I would argue my creativity and abstraction had improved.
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Old 12-13-10, 03:38 PM
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Re: Physics + Ritalin FR Questions - not just for physicists!

Hey Kaii,

I can totally relate to your concerns. I began as a physics undergrad at one of Canada's top universities. I was not diagnosed at the time. It was the most painful experience of my whole life.

School had always been easy for me. Using creativity and logic, I felt I could succeed at anything while doing little or no work. I learned the hard way. University-level education is totally different.

You have a heavy course and assignment load which means you need to study and work hard, and consistently. You need to learn a lot of stuff by heart. You just don't have time in a 3-hour final to solve the quantum dynamics of the hydrogen atom or to derive everything from first principles for that matter. It's impossible.

What happened is that for two years, I did nothing but study and work on assignments. I was anxious. I was sleep deprived. My life was all about trying to complete the work I had to do. The other students were probably working as hard, but with twice the effectiveness. My workload became an obsession: I could not do anything else. I was totally dysfunctional at home and let my girlfriend do all the work (chores, cooking, etc).

After these two years, I took a computer science course. This is the moment things started to change. Now that I think about it, computer science is a particularly suited discipline for ADD people. It's a very procedural field (think programming). You can work for half an hour, procrastinate for three, come back and complete what you finished. Creativity and multitasking will take care of that for you. You will see other students struggling with concepts and programming while you do those things effortlessly (with a couple hours of procrastination, of course).

Computer science involves a lot of math (something most people ignore) but in a very visual way. It's really different from what you see in physics or pure math.

To make a "short" story, I managed to obtain my BSc. in Honours Physics and Computer Science. I went on to obtain a MSc. in Computer Science. I'm now doing my PhD. I learned about ADD just a few weeks back. Since then, I just keep telling myself: if only I had own!!!

I started taking medication last week and I only have positive thoughts about it. No side effects. No "zombieness". Only more focus and finally the ability to do what I want to do. Cooking. Editing papers. Washing clothes. Programming. Folding clothes. Filling expense reports. Applying for grants. Sending emails. Of course, some of those I could already do. It just seems much easier now.

I like to tell my good friend: the difference between depression and ADD is that with ADD, it's not that you don't feel like doing anything, you just can't.

If I could go back, I swear I would take medication. I'm still glad I switched to computer science and succeeded well, but maybe I would've done things differently from the start.

Anyways, I could go on and describe everything in more details but this post will already be long enough as it is. Ask for more questions if you want.
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