Monday, June 16, 2008

Guest Post: The Competitive Advantage

After conversing about a recent Newsweek article regarding MLB's "Ritalin addiction," HHR enlisted our good friend Chris Illuminati from phillyBurbs' The Third I to highlight a different perspective on the use of workplace performance enhancers.

The Competitive Advantage
Guest Post by Illuminati

The competitive advantage. The edge that makes a person just slightly better than another. In sports it's become the norm. Starting with Jim Bouton, North Dallas Forty, the cocktails and needles that the early warriors used to get onto the field and progressing into steroids, HGH, the clear, the cream, and now Viagra, there seems to be no limit nor end of the line. It's either available now or will be soon enough.

With every revelation of a famous athlete testing positive, I would shake my head and wonder 'don't these guys care about their health?' I'd wonder how a person could knowingly take a drug that could do irreversible damage to their body and years off their life. All to hit the weight room harder, hit a ball farther, hit an opponent with greater force, and hit pay dirt with a contract that would secure a comfortable life, no matter how long that life may last. I know money and fame are a dangerous drug but I was positive if I were in that situation I would never look to drugs as an alternative. I would be the bigger person. The real man in a world of cheaters and drug abusers.

Then I read this article.

On the surface it just appears to be another way for the cheaters to use drugs to gain that athletic edge. It struck a nerve with me on a personal level.

About a year ago, I was hired as an online content editor. The position involved a considerable amount of writing and editing.

While writing has always been a strong suit, paying attention to anything for longer than ten minutes was a challenge. I just considered myself unmotivated and lazy.

On the advice of my fiance and some extensive research, I went to the doctor about Attention Deficit Disorder. Everyone thinks they have ADD in some form or another. I took several online tests and passed them all. Of course, the only tests I would pass. The doctor gave me a similar diagnosis and prescribed a very mild drug that could help with my problem. It's not as drastic as Ritalin or Adderall where I will immediately feel as though I am on a drug and it's also not as addictive. The drug takes a gradual effect without noticeable changes.

The doctor said I may not even notice a difference but those around me would notice a change.

Call it a placebo but I noticed a difference within the first week. Long story short, the medication cuts down the chatter in my head. I am not all over the place in my thinking. I can take one task to completion and move on to the next. My writing improved because I could stay focused. I cut in half the time it would take me to complete even the most challenging writing assignment. I fell in love with the results.

I could pump out more material, the web hits doubled, and my work was getting noticed.

It wasn't until I read this Newsweek piece that I realized I may be no different than the athletes I considered cheaters.

Drugs are illegal but there is nothing morally illegal about medication (prescribed or otherwise) to become a better writer. If so, there might not be a Hemingway or a Kerouac, a William S. Burroughs or Hunter S. Thompson. I am only hurting myself to gain an edge. I am really doing nothing wrong. If I write the next great novel or an Oprah book of the month I doubt it would be held against me that I take a prescription to keep me from fidgeting in my chair and stopping mid-thought to check the progress of my fantasy baseball team.

Is the medication doing something to my short term health? I feel just as good now as I did ten years ago. Will I see the damage forty years from now? Neither I, nor the doctors, can say for sure. As long as the writing keeps pouring from my focused mind, the prescription will continue to be filled. Even if it means learning something about myself in the progress. If I were gifted with athletic ability instead of writing, and needed a slight edge that only drugs could provide, I suppose I'd be a cheater too.


Bobby Mags said...

Great article, Chris.

Here's my take:

These drugs (Ritalin and Adderall) are essentially a derivative of cocaine. They have the same general effect – they are all stimulants whereby providing increased focus (albeit jittery focus, quite often). I assume the one you speak of is Strattera or the like (I believe it to be the first non-stimulant drug for attention). This is neither here nor there…

Perhaps these drugs can be viewed as tools. They can be very “helpful” in the short term, as you state. But at what cost – even in the short term?

Many clients of mine (traditional college age) have been prescribed one of the aforementioned drugs – and the overwhelming theme is negative.

These drugs have serious side effects that occur within an hour of taking them.

1) Stops the reuptake of dopamine – the brain no longer naturally produces the d2 neurotransmitter due to the “flooding” of dopamine in the brain by the stimulant. Gives a euphoric feeling - highly addictive.
2) Withdrawal
3) Increased heart rate / blood pressure
4) Lack of appetite - loss of body weight
5) People can become depressed, presumably due to “messing” with neurotransmitters… likely serotonin.

At any rate, thank you for publishing this article --- more attention needs to be given to this very important subject.

Illuminati said...


Thanks for the comment. With all of those side effects, were you referring to Adderall and Ritalin?

I haven't experienced any of those side effects on my medication except for the first week I was 'moody' but that went away quickly.

I am on a low dose of Stattera, and only once a day, so that could also be the reason.

bobby mags said...

Sorry to not specify, Chris...

Yes, these potentially dangerous side effects are ONLY for stimulant ADD / ADHD medications. Strattera is not a stimulant, thus the side effects I mentioned do not apply to this medication.

I'm not certain about the efficacy of Strattera, but it appears to work well in a lot of cases. In terms of long term side effects, I have no info...

Ritalin and Adderall hit hard and almost immediately, so they are easy to notice. The half life is short, so people need to take this medication every 4 hours or so (although, a "less dangerous" idea might be to take the time release form).

Illuminati said...

Thanks for the clarification Bobby.

It's been so far so good but I don't know how long I want to be on this stuff...