ADDERALL BLUES by Brian J. Robinson


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A personal memoir recounts a young man’s battle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as the drugs he used to tame it.

Debut author Robinson attended the prestigious Ranney School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, but started to experience academic trouble in the fifth grade. He perennially questioned his own intelligence, and although he tested well, he was beset by the anger, frustration, and self-recrimination that resulted from chronic underperformance. The author was eventually diagnosed with ADHD, and while he was at Tulane University, he says, he was introduced to Adderall by his girlfriend. Robinson had already sought a reprieve from chronic restlessness in alcohol with predictably unspectacular results, and Adderall, he felt, was like a miracle—and he became woefully dependent upon it. But even after he confessed to his therapist that he’d developed an addiction, he was prescribed it yet again. After he manically pledged to go on a hunger strike to protest American troops in Iraq, his father called paramedics to have him hospitalized. Later, the author would wrestle with another drug problem, this time with Ritalin, after a failed attempt to get a show produced in Hollywood. Robinson finally repaired his life, learned to manage his ADHD, started his own debt-settlement business, and got married. Although this book is principally a memoir, the author also discusses his reservations about the psychiatric community’s reliance on medication to treat cognitive disorders, as well as the American educational system’s failure to accommodate the needs of afflicted students.

Robinson’s remembrance is an intimate one, brimming with courageous candor and bracing self-critique. He intelligently describes the alienation he felt, due to his condition: he was mortified by his underachievement and envied “neurotypicals.” What emerges is a poignant self-portrait of a rather young man (he was 23 years old when he wrote this book) who’s exceedingly talented but just as angry—not just about his condition, but also at the lack of resources available to assist those who have it. A philosophy major in college, Robinson is accustomed to plumbing the depths of meaning in life, and he often does so with charm and verve. Problematically, though, the prose can be clumsy and leaden, with real insights buried in interminable sentences, often marred with mistakes: “In the utilitarian point of view of our nation’s school system, the education that maximizes the number of students who benefit from a curriculum geared toward the predominant a [sic] learning style are ultimately responsible for minimizing the potential of students with different cognitive styles.” Also, the author’s youthful spiritedness can also come across as callowness at times; he’s peremptorily dismissive of religion and too often describes traditional education as an exercise in herd-mentality brainwashing. Further, while his criticisms of higher education and psychiatry are trenchant, he offers little in the way of substantive alternatives. One may forgive Robinson for such unripe reflections, given his age, but it’s also hard not to hope for a more seasoned sequel further down the line.

An astute, if sometimes-undisciplined, remembrance.

Pub Date: July 31st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-63393-431-3
Publisher: Koehler Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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