Do ADHD Meds Make You Less Creative?

Disclaimer: This blog post is based on my own experience. Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication, dosage, or treatment plan. 

I didn’t want to dull my sparkle. 

When my therapist and I first began recognizing my ADHD, I was unsure about medication. I had heard horror stories of people becoming a “zombie” while on meds—as though they were just drifting through life, detached from their own personality, going through the motions—a mere shell of the person they once were.

I didn’t want to lose who I was just to fit into the box of what a “productive member of society” is. 

And I wasn’t alone. 

The concern that medication will take away the positives of ADHD—creativity, unique perspectives, quick thinking, hyperfocus, intuition—is one shared by many in the ADHD community. 

And it makes sense that we’re worried: being highly creative is one of the great ADHD superpowers. It’s just one of the reasons ADHDers make great writers, and we don’t want to give that up.

But the challenges of ADHD—executive dysfunction, working memory challenges, difficulty focusing—can also make writing (and writing consistently) a challenge. For many of us, medication is a treatment option worth looking into. 

The decision to go on medication, especially as an adult diagnosed later in life, is a very personal one.

I’m not a licensed psychiatrist. I cannot tell you what to do. 

But what I can do is offer up my story so you can glimpse a firsthand experience, separate truth from rumor, and ultimately make the best decisions for you and your brain. 

My medication story

It wasn’t that I didn’t understand how medication worked. I studied neuroscience in college, and my senior year neuropharmacology course was one of my all-time favorite classes—I still keep my flashcards on my desk.

pile of index cards with neuroscience terms and diagrams on top of a laptop keyboard
Really, I still have them!

I understood how medication affects neurotransmitters in the brain; I could tell you the distinctions between a direct agonist, a partial agonist, an enzyme inhibitor, a reuptake inhibitor, and an antagonist; I could explain how Adderall, Vyvanse, Ritalin, Concerta, Strattera, and others treated the same problems in different ways.

And so at age 30, I was considering medication from a highly informed perspective—probably more informed than most.

I was still hesitant.

As a writer, my creativity—and the unique way my brain works—was and is super important to me. I was afraid to alter my brain chemistry in any way. 

But I was also struggling. 

Executive dysfunction made it nearly impossible to get up in the morning. I was constantly misplacing my wallet, running late, missing appointments, and saying, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” when I never would. I felt burnt out and exhausted even when I “wasted the day,” failing to complete even the smallest of tasks.

Something had to change.

Trial and error (lots of error)

I’d love to tell you everything was smooth sailing. I’d love to say as soon as I took that first dose of Adderall, I was transformed into a productivity machine.

But that’s not reality.

When I took medication for the first time, I felt awful.

I felt dizzy, like I was thinking through a fog. I thought I might fall asleep right at my desk at work. 

But I kept a log of what I was taking and when, along with my symptoms and side effects. I brought that log to my psychiatrist, who made adjustments to my dosage and type of medication.

I’m not gonna lie: there was a definite period of experimentation, and it sucked

Dizziness. Headaches. Brain fog. Blurred vision. Dehydration. Exhaustion.

There was a time when I thought I would never find a solution. I broke down crying on my friend’s couch during commercial breaks of The Bachelor after yet another long day on the wrong meds. 

I thought my brain was entirely, permanently broken, and there was nothing I could do.

But when I finally found a medication that worked, I didn’t become a machine, but rather I flipped a switch on a piece of machinery I didn’t even know I had.

I was finally able to get out of bed, finally able to do the things I kept saying I would do. I started cleaning and organizing my apartment. I can tell you where my wallet is (most of the time) and I’m learning to tell the difference between “wasting time” and taking some intentional rest. 

More importantly, my medication created space in my head to develop the systems and structures that help me even when I’m not medicated. I’ve created to-do-list systems that actually help me get things done, and I’ve developed routines that work with my brain instead of against it.

Does medication dull creativity?

For me, it didn’t. But if it did, then it wouldn’t have been the right medication for me. 

When I take my meds, I don’t feel any different; I’m just more able to focus and function the way I need to. Being medicated doesn’t mean I no longer have ADHD—it’s simply one of the many tools I use to be my most effective self. I’m still 100% me.

Choosing to be medicated does not mean you have to erase who you are. 

Furthermore, the choice not to be medicated does not mean you will never find success. The ADHD life is a journey, and it looks different for everyone.

The right treatment—like the right medication—will help you overcome obstacles without dulling your shine or diminishing your superpowers.

How to find the right medication for you

This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Always see a licensed doctor or psychiatrist before making any changes to your medication regimen. They will be able to help you find the treatment plan that is right for you.

My biggest tip for finding the right meds? Keep a log to document your medication journey. This will help you communicate with your psychiatrist about what is or isn’t working for you. 

If you’re a writer like me, you probably already carry a notebook with you. You can use that or make a note on your phone—whatever’s easiest.

Here are some things you can jot down:

  • what time you take your meds
  • the dosage/type of medication
  • when you notice side effects
  • and what those side effects are

You may also find it useful to track other aspects of your life that may affect how medication makes you feel. For example, how much and how frequently you’re eating and drinking can affect how medication is metabolized, and medication can also affect how quickly you metabolize food and water.

The log doesn’t have to be perfectly organized, and you don’t have to be perfectly consistent. This just provides you a place to record what’s going on—whenever you think of it—so you don’t have to remember all the details at your next appointment.

But also know that medication isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

Medication is not a cure—medication on its own doesn’t solve all our problems, and it’s most effective when combined with a comprehensive treatment plan. This plan can involve therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes to diet and exercise—and it looks different from person to person.

Medication isn’t the end of the journey—it’s merely one part of one path we can choose to take. The best path for you will allow you to keep all the best parts of who you are—including your creativity.

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