So sometime in the mid-aughts, a friend turned me on to Adderall XR, a prescription stimulant that helped him work consistently throughout the day. He offered me one as a trial (I now realize this was not technically legal), and the next day I worked harder and more diligently than I ever had. At 2 am, I was still combing my spam inbox "just in case I missed something." I felt focused in a way I never had. The other thing was I felt good. Better than I had in a while. I was cheerier and liked talking to people more. I visited my doctor, citing ADHD as my primary symptom. He hustled me through a diagnostic test that resembled patty-cake, which I apparently passed. He gave me a prescription anyway, and I set out to explore the world with new eyes and energy. In 2007, Shire's patent on Adderall XR expired, and it was free to go by its generic name: amphetamines.
My doctors warned me of the side effects of long-term use, but males in their 20s aren't renowned for listening skills. Around the fifth year of taking Adderall, I began to notice some downsides to my daily use of legal speed. By the end of the day, my back and neck were invariably tight, and I was prone to irritability as the effects faded in the late afternoon. Concerned, I took Adderall less often, which paradoxically meant the drug didn't work as effectively. Soon I was taking Adderall only when I had work to do, and the effects were even harsher. Even worse, I felt like my work—which requires a lot of creative thinking—was suffering. All I wanted to do on Adderall was fill spreadsheets and smoke cigarettes.
"Why don't you try weed?" a friend asked me a little over a year ago.
My biggest issue with cannabis was I never knew what I was getting. My brain might explode in imaginative bliss with one batch of bud, but the next would have me glued to my sofa and blowing off any commitments for a night in. That, of course, is weed's macro-scale reputation: an ambition-killing couch drug of the contentedly underemployed. For me, and for everyone else who loosely understands cannabis genetics, it's the opposite. When I toke now, it's usually for a rush of energy, a creative perspective that seems limitless, and the sense that I'm present and content in almost everything I do.
Partly, that's because I now know what to toke. There are two primary varietals of cannabis: indica and sativa. Indica strains tend to be sedative and body-centric. ("Couch-lock" in common pothead parlance.) A light hit on a sativa-forward strain like Sour Diesel will have me locked into a project for hours at a time. The brief buzz of Trainwreck is perfect for washing dishes. At night, a bowl of indica-dominant Blackberry Kush might help me relax, process my thoughts about the day, and bump the flavor up on this cheddar-and-pickle sandwich I'm about to mow down. By bedtime, I'm typically tired enough to nod off within a half-hour. (You can find local sources for all at Leafly.com.)
Unlike legalized crank, which can cause seizures, insomnia and aggression—and is handed out like candy to unruly middle-schoolers—a cannabis prescription still stirs up anxious titters and jokes about Taco Bell. Meanwhile, my back still hurts, but now it's because I've been sitting here too long doing the kind of work I love. I'm a productive pothead. And if my back is still hurting later tonight, I'm not worried. I've got a strain for that, too.
WILLIE WEED: Wm. Willard Greene writes a column about marijuana for Willamette Week—oh, not necessarily every week, but when there's a worthy topic.