Adderall Diaries: 8 Great Works of Speed-Fueled Literature


As Joshua Foer once pointed out, “depressives have Prozac, worrywarts have Valium, gym rats have steroids, and overachievers have Adderall.” Particularly, as it turns out, the literary ones — W.H. Auden was addicted to one of its cousins (Benzedrine, as it happens), just like James Agee, Graham Greene, John-Paul Sartre, Jack Kerouac, and Philip K. Dick. This week, we read Kate Miller’s “The Last All-Nighter” at the New York Times and were inspired to look into some Adderall lit, whether memoirs of addiction, novels, or just entire scrolls (yes, that one) written on the stuff. After the jump, a few great works of amphetamine literature — focusing on Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Benzedrine, just plain speed — and let us know if we missed your hyperactive favorite in the comments.

The Adderall Diaries , Stephen Elliott

But of course, with a name like that. Stephen Elliott’s “memoir of moods, masochism, and murder” starts with a dose of Adderall, dissolved in a lonely glass of orange juice. In this appropriately erratic memoir, Elliott’s drug abuse becomes a backdrop to a notorious murder trial — or is it the other way around?

More, Now, Again: A Memoir of Addiction , Elizabeth Wurtzel

Love her or hate her (and believe us, the Internet is full of face-painted, flag-bearing members of both camps), Wurtzel’s memoir of her post-Prozac Nation descent into Ritalin addiction is a classic of the genre — frustrating, fascinating, and maniacally honest.

The Speed Chronicles , ed. Joseph Mattson

Too, er, ADD for an entire novel or memoir about the speedy stuff? Try this excellent collection (part of a great series from Akashic Books) featuring amphetamine-centric stories from Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, James Franco, Tao Lin, Jess Walter, Megan Abbott, and more.

On the Road , Jack Kerouac

No, you’re right — Kerouac doesn’t mention benzedrine overmuch in his beat classic. But boy, is it infused in the book. How else do you think he pounded it out in 20 days? Consider it a primary text, if you will.

Last Exit to Brooklyn , Hubert Selby Jr.

There are bennies galore in this 1964 cult classic — and reading it, it sort of feels like you’re taking them along with everybody else (“I guess I needed a good cry and she passed around the bennie again and they all popped bennie and sipped hot coffee and Goldie sat next to Malfie and asked him if he was enjoying himself, and he said yeah, Im havin a ball; and Goldie just floated along on a soft purple cloud, feeling luxurious and slightly smug: a handsome piece of trade beside her; wonderful girl friends; and a beautiful bennie connection in the corner drugstore where she could get a dozen 10 grain tablets for $.50.”). Oh, and in case you’re skeptical about Selby’s drug credentials, he also wrote Requiem for a Dream.

Accelerated , Bronwen Hruska

Hruska’s novel attacks Adderall from a different angle than most of those on this list, taking on the Upper East Side epidemic of over-medicated, over-accelerated children. Because third graders can have harrowing addiction stories, too.

Speed/Kentucky Ham , William S. Burroughs, Jr.

These two rough, raw autobiographical novels by the son of William S. Burroughs expose methedrine addiction at its darkest and most self-destructive. Interesting how diametrically opposed the drug choices of father and son turned out to be, and how tragically different their legacies.

Anything by Hunter S. Thompson

Sure, he’s on everything. But if you ask us, it’s that amphetamine mania that really sticks out.