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Week 3:
Values & Stages of Change

Charlie is a twenty-three-year-old man who is attending a local university as a
Computer Science major. He experimented with drugs and alcohol throughout his teens, with phases of smoking pot daily alternating with phases of heavy drinking. But pot and alcohol were easy for him to give up and he never considered himself to be a person with “addictive tendencies.”

When he was in his second year of college, a friend of his offered to share some pills he was taking to enhance his ability to pay attention and stay up for long hours during final exams. The pills, called Adderall, were prescribed to his friend for attention deficit disorder, but his friend took a little more than he was prescribed and found that it helped him when he needed to cram for exams or big assignments. Charlie thought, Why not? and after trying the Adderall a few times, he found that it really enhanced his performance in school during finals. So he started asking around and found someone to supply him, just in case he wanted to get it in a crunch.

After a few months of using Adderall on and off, Charlie found himself using the
pills not only for finals or major assignments, but habitually for studying or homework. Adderall became somewhat of a crutch for focusing his attention. Despite the benefits, Charlie, who was normally a very upbeat and sociable person, found himself feeling irritable, preferring to be alone much of the time. When he wanted to sleep after studying for long hours on Adderall, he just couldn’t bring his energy level down and he found himself struggling with terrible insomnia. Though he tried to cut back on the Adderall several times, each time he found that his concentration was poor, and he felt stressed about the impact this could have on his grades.

In an attempt to resolve his insomnia problem, Charlie acquired a prescription
for some sleeping pills, but they didn’t work. He found himself doubling and
sometimes tripling the dose to get to sleep. After only a few weeks of alternating between the sleeping pills and the Adderall, Charlie felt overtired and unable to think clearly. As a consequence, he was less productive at school. Charlie was becoming more and more isolated from his friends, and his grades started to slip. His life suddenly seemed to be dominated by pills: thinking about them, coming down from them, feeling the urge to take them, and planning how he was going to manage the balance between the uppers (Adderall) and the downers (sleeping pills) so that he could get everything done. Though he was trying his best to keep it all together, his life was slowly coming apart.

Though Charlie was working a part-time job at the campus bookstore, the cost
of taking Adderall regularly began to add up and he started running out of money.
As his supply of Adderall ran out, he felt depressed, irritable, unmotivated, and
unable to concentrate. His parents came to visit him at school just prior to spring
break, and without a thought, he took his mother’s checkbook out of her purse and wrote himself several checks of a few hundred dollars each to cash. Maybe, he thought, if the amounts were not so large and he cashed them gradually, she
wouldn’t notice.

Tattooed Hands

Charlie's Story

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