Prescription pill addiction.
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Got the job? Check. Got the relationship? Check. Got the kids and that homeroom volunteer spot taken care of? Check. Interventionist Brad Lamm says women on the verge of a breakdown are finding new—and unhealthy—ways to cope.
"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 name

How to help a loved one with a pill addiction
She drives her four children—5, 10, 11 and 13 years old—here, there and everywhere and doesn't believe the drug impairs her ability to drive safely, even as she tells me that her heart races at times so fast it feels like it's going to jump out of her chest. She's also afraid she'll die. Some of Caitlin's family members know about her struggle, but they just don't know what to do to help.

Supermom? No. But I understand the effort, the drive and the ambition to do it all better than anyone else. I meet moms, sisters and daughters who have taken their kids to the doctor to get fraudulent prescriptions for Adderall all in the name of staying on top of it all!

It's time to reframe the pressures and expectations in human terms. And if you or someone you love, like Caitlin, is stuck in a relationship with a pill bottle, it's time to open up and consider initiating change.None of us are superhuman. So the drive to be that, and the pills that we hope will make that happen, are lies. You need to eat, sleep, connect and have loving relationships in your life. As creatures of both habit and change, everyone is a part of some group, family, clan or circle of support.

Beginning to change doesn't mean you're no good—it just means you can be better and get healthier. The root of strong relationships is honesty and the ability to help another in a tough spot. Understanding your family strengths and weaknesses brings clarity and focus to how you can best navigate relationships and help someone you love get better.

If you're going to help change someone you love, you must tap into your family's unique strengths and divorce yourself from the notion that you are best served by going it alone. There is strength in numbers, so circle the wagons! Give and receive help.

All of this advances the journey toward change and helps people open the doors of their heart. Remember: Change someone you love, and you profoundly change your life too.

Ritalin Fast Facts:
  • Ritalin is ranked in the top 10 drugs stolen from pharmacies nationwide (USDA)
  • Ritalin is a Class II controlled substance available in the United States only with a prescription
  • Between 1991 and 1999 the use of Ritalin skyrocketed 500 percent (U.S. Pharmacist 2002)
  • Therapeutic doses for adults average 40 to 60mg per day
  • Common names Ritalin include: vitamin R and West Coast
Brad Lamm, BR-I, is a board-registered interventionist. He is the author of How to Change Someone You Love, is in private practice ( and offers free family training and support at

Keep Reading:

Are physicians to blame for prescription pill addiction?
Dr. Oz on America's prescription drug epidemic
Are you an addict? 4 questions to ask yourself
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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