"Anything he can do, I can do better," a friend told me, explaining how her co-worker was neck and neck with her for a promotion. The race to keep pace has reshaped how women work and thrive to stay alive. According to the most recent Department of Labor statistics, women have reshaped the face of the American workforce and have overtaken men on the job. In my role as a family therapist and interventionist, I come in contact with women who've hit a wall. As women continue to make gains on men in the workplace, becoming supermoms to match their superdad counterparts, they're increasingly turning to their own versions of "mommy's little helper."
White pills. Blue pills. Pick-me-up pills, in whatever shape, size and milligram they come in. Women who feel the need for speed are responding with a prescription pad and a bottle of helpers for their rescue.
"After giving birth to my fourth child, Prozac wasn't helping as much as it should have been, even on a higher dosage," Caitlin* told me on the phone. "The psychiatrist added Ritalin, which helped a lot. I felt great." She called to ask for help in getting this "pill thing" under control as she described it. Ritalin is a psycho stimulant, similar to amphetamine, a class of drugs often prescribed to children with ADHD now used more and more by moms trying to get more done.
With a swallow, Caitlin became more energetic and able to focus. "When I first started taking Ritalin, I loved how it made me feel. I felt I could do anything." She described being a better version of herself on the drug. "I can finish what I started, concentrate better; it makes me feel complete." She needed less sleep, had more energy and found keeping her weight at size 6 much easier with her helper. So what's not to like?
Ritalin makes productivity soar, along with your heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, and causes an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
And the trouble for Caitlin? She's developed cravings and obsession around her pharmaceutical helper. She's taking almost triple the prescribed dose, which is now producing some very real negative costs. She's lying to herself and her husband about the drug. She polishes off a one-month prescription in just 11 days. "I get another prescription in my husband's name. He would be so mad and disappointed. He thinks I take it as prescribed, in my own name."* Not her real nameHow to help a loved one with a pill addiction