Supermom's Secret Addiction: Stepping Out of Adderall's Shadow

Addiction doctors say the situation is getting out of control.

June 21, 2012, 3:28 PM

June 26, 2012 -- All over America there are moms in the shadows drowning in their daily responsibilities and turning to the prescription drug Adderall for relief.

Adderall is a drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but these women don't have ADHD; they say they need Adderall to be better mothers.

Between 2002 and 2010, there's been a 750 percent increase in Adderall prescriptions for women between 26 and 39. Critics say clearly not all of these women need the drug for ADHD.

ABC News spoke with Betsy Degree from suburban Minneapolis, who started taking the prescription drug to keep up with the demands of being a mother of four.

"I grew up in a house where my mom was very neat," she said. "Everything was really clean, beautiful dinners every night and that didn't come naturally for me."

Several years ago, one of Degree's children was prescribed Adderall, a central nervous system stimulant, for ADHD. In a moment of desperation she stole a pill from her own child and the addiction was almost immediate.

Join ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser at 7 p.m. ET for a Twitter chat on Adderall abuse. Follow the chat at and participate using the hashtag #abcDrBchat.

"I was able to get all the stuff done around the house," Degree said. "I was able to cook the dinner and have everything perfect."

Degree tells ABC News she felt like supermom and would stay up until 3 a.m. doing loads of laundry. She says she thought she'd only take it once.

"I couldn't stop," she said. "I could not stop taking them. I'd say I'm just going to take them one more time."

When she ran out she resorted to tricking the family doctor into writing more prescriptions.

"I would call and say we lost them. I would call and say that dose isn't right so can we try a different dose," said Degree. "[I was trying] every trick in the book."

The need for trickery has created a whole online ecosystem. If you go on Yahoo and type in the words "How do I get my doctor to prescribe Adderall," there are tens of millions of hits.

Joani Gammil, a registered nurse, started taking Adderall after reading a book that told her how to lie to her doctor to get the drug.

"Your life becomes a squirrel, just looking for that nut, looking for that Adderall," she said.

Some women start on Adderall to keep up with the demands of career and home, while others start looking for a quick weight loss fix.

Addiction doctors say the situation is getting out of control.

"This is a significant problem," said Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer at Hazelden, an addiction treatment facility. "We've got an increase in women using drugs like Adderall ending up in our treatment programs. ... We know from a medical perspective it's dangerous and can cause seizures, strokes, heart attacks, even death."

One day, Gammil took 10 Adderall pills and nearly died of an overdose.

"I had a sharp pain in my chest, sweating, fast heart beat, pain down my arm," she said.

Today, Gammil helps other women struggling with addiction. She's the author of the book, "The Interventionist."

Adderall also sent Degree, who admits she struggled with addiction issues all of her life, down a dangerous path. When she decided she could no longer fool her doctor she switched from Adderall to meth. She lost her business and she says she nearly lost her kids.

Both women are now clean and they have this simple advice for any mom considering taking Adderall, "don't."

"It's pretty addictive," said Degree. "It can happen to anybody."

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