To The Doctor Who Criminalized Me For My Mental Illness

Just because you can’t SEE a mental illness, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

It happened on a Tuesday.

I had just recently moved to a new town and simply needed a refill on my Adderall prescription–something I’ve been taking to treat my ADD, and function like a normal human being for the last six years.

The doctor, maybe three years older than me, looked at me and immediately shoved a rundown of “rules” and consequences down my throat of what would happen if I abuse this drug.

The only problem is, it wasn’t a warning of the risks associated with taking Adderall.

It was a preconceived notion that because I take Adderall once daily for my ADD, I was automatically in her mind, going to abuse the amphetamine.

“You can’t call here in the middle of the night demanding for a refill on your Adderall,” she warned. “If you go out into the parking lot and your paper prescription flies away, too bad so sad, you can’t get a new one until the next month. You cannot sell this drug, and no one besides yourself is allowed to consume any medication I prescribe to you.”

The unwarranted threats just went on and on.

Now I get it. Adderall IS abused by some people who wrongfully take it and wrongfully sell it on  It has a bad rap when it comes to people misusing it.

But that’s not an Adderall problem. That’s not even an Attention Deficit problem. That’s a people problem.

I wanted to ask her if she–in her maybe two years of practice at a tiny little Greene county doctor’s office–has ever actually received a phone call in the middle of the night demanding an Adderall refill. If she has, I have to believe that she, as a doctor, had a bigger issue on her hands. Not one that warrants a threatening game of “what if” with future patients, but rather an individual internal battle of one specific patient.

Because for anyone who knows anything about the drug, it does have an inherent risk of dependability, and thus, addiction.

Adderall is used to treat ADD and ADHD, which in their own right are in fact mental illnesses. But as a doctor, who is committed to serving and protecting patients, I have to believe that if she has, in fact, received that phone call demanding Adderall in the middle of the night, there was probably something else going on. It wasn’t an attention deficit problem. It wasn’t an Adderall problem. It was a call for help.

And need I point out, I’m not the one who called the emergency hotline at midnight. Yet I was being criminalized in that exam room like I had been.

I know that college campuses are literally a breeding ground for selling Adderall. People use it without a prescription to stay up all night “cramming” for tomorrow’s big test.

But the reality is that I use Adderall to focus how you normally would. So it really is a shame that people have come to abuse it.

Without Adderall, I cannot mentally function like a normal human being. Usual distractions are intensified, forming a rational thought or a full sentence is seemingly impossible, and the attention to get through a typical task like folding laundry involves a whole lot of frustration and wasted time.

That being said, I KNOW how often Adderall is abused on college campuses. And being that I’m a 23-year-old who looks 16, I’m not surprised she gave me a warning about selling my everyday prescription on a college campus.

Still, I would have appreciated a relational warning rather than her automatically making the assumption that my college-aged-self would undoubtedly break the law. After all, we had just met each other. I don’t think five minutes is enough time for anyone to make inflammatory judgments of that nature.

Beyond the unwarranted criminalization, I could sense that for this doctor, it was all about the Adderall, not the illness. She didn’t ask me anything specific about my mental health, and our discussion wasn’t about my ADD, but rather the amphetamine drug she was taking on the responsibility of prescribing me.

I’ve heard the stories of people who are shamed by their doctor when they inquire about a mental health problem. Heck, I write for a website that seeks to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness–which sadly starts with the very people who have the ability to treat it.

But I’ve never been on the receiving end of a doctor who blatantly doesn’t understand mental health or the real-ness and severity of it.

Her criminalizing me and assuming I was only there for the drugs, made it clear to me just how lucky I had been with doctors in the past. I had been fortunate enough to have never left a doctors office feeling the way I did that day. And I understand now why others deter from seeking medical help for their mental illness.

In all honesty, I was hoping to talk with my doctor about anxiety that has become increasingly polarizing over the last 18 months.

But I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t drummed up the courage to do so yet out of fear that she might once again not believe me. Or even worse, what if she threatens to revoke my Adderall prescription, simply because her acute understanding of mental illness makes me look like a drug addict?

I know this all might sound crazy, but for people who have been there, it’s not crazy at all. Mental health is just as important as physical and emotional health.

If you had the flu, you’d go to the doctor, and that medical professional would never question whether or not you were actually sick.

If your father passed away and you went to a grief counselor to manage your emotions, not a single person–let alone doctor–would question your motives in doing so.

So why isn’t that the case with our mental health?

I never expected that seeing a new doctor in a new town would leave me feeling like I had done something wrong. I know now more than ever, that we have to make a change. And it starts with being vulnerable and sharing our experiences. It’s not always easy, and not everyone will understand, but those who do will back you 100 percent.

So to the doctor who criminalized me for needing medication for my mental illness, thank you. You’re pushing me to use my horrible experience in your office as a foundation for change.

Bri Lamm
Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

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