Is Aderrol the Next Big Performance Enhancer in Sports?


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           Adderall_main.jpg     Almost overnight, Adderall has become the biggest "buzz word" surrounding professional athletes and illegal drug use. In a short amount of time, we have seen some big names in American sports making big headlines for testing positive for the drug. Columnists and pundits across the country have made efforts to bring this topic to the national discussion, but many people still are unfamiliar with Adderall, its' directed use, or its' list of side-effects. If it is so popular at the highest level of athletic competition, there must be a reason. Let's explore the drug a bit further.

                Adderall is the brand name for a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, most commonly prescribed to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is considered a member of the substituted amphetamines chemical class, which also includes stimulants and hallucinogenic drugs like methamphetamine and MDMA (Ecstasy). As a stimulant, one can begin to see how this could enhance performance not only mentally, but physically as well. It is most well-known for its use in treating ADHD, and its common abuse by American college students. Those with ADHD use it to calm themselves by balancing out certain chemicals in the brain. Those that don't necessarily need the drug often use it for all-night study sessions or recreationally in order to keep the party going as long as they want. For athletes, it is an obvious energy boost.

                Dr. Leah Lagos is a New York sports psychologist that has prescribed Adderall to patients over the years. A few years ago, she estimated that 10% of college students were abusing Adderall. Now, she believes that number has doubled. "It's almost like taking 100 cups of coffee" she claims. For athletes, the drug can make them more focused, more energized. During a long season, as athletes begin to wear down, a stimulant like Adderall can sound more and more appealing.

                One of the most underrated aspects of professional sports is the preparation and mental responsibilities that accompany the occupation. A quarterback could use Adderall to stay awake hours longer than usual to study the opposing defense. He would be sharper and more focused during time spent in the film room too, making the player much more efficient than another player that does not use Adderall. A batter in baseball could use the drug to spend more time studying the opposing pitcher to gain an advantage. Athletes can potentially abuse Adderall for a number of reasons.

The people running the show for the professional sports leagues have not done a great job drawing the line on Adderall, either. In the NFL, a player can apply for a therapeutic use exemption, a process described as "extremely rigorous" by NFL senior vice president of labor law and policy Adolph Birch. The water is still very murky in this regard. Some of the most often recurring testimony from busted athletes is that their teammate used Adderall, and offered them some pills. The teammate ordinarily has an exemption from the league, unknown to the offending player. Other times, athletes have been prescribed the drug since college or childhood and do not file the proper paperwork with the league because they do not consider Adderall to enhance their performance.

The NFL would be wise to reach a conclusion on Adderall's legality during the offseason. On one hand, they classify Adderall as a performance enhancer that boosts the natural abilities of the user and creates an uneven playing field. On the other hand, they deem it as acceptable medication for certain players under unique circumstances. This kind of stance on the issue has the potential to upset many players who may feel disadvantaged by others on Adderall, even though they have been approved. It could encourage some athletes to falsify health issues in order to obtain a prescription and proper league clearance.

The issue is not grey; it is black and white. The NFL (as did other pro leagues) already dealt with a major drug issue regarding cocaine use in the 1980's and early 1990's. Because Adderall can be prescribed, it has the potential to flood locker rooms even more than the cocaine of decades past. Competition brings out the best and worst in people. Any sort of edge can mean a difference of millions of dollars to a professional athlete, and Adderall has become the most popular method to gain the upper hand. If left undeterred, it could explode as the next designer drug to tarnish professional sports in America.

Adderall has also become much more casual and socially acceptable in recent years, with young people in particular. Abuse has been so prevalent that drug manufacturers could not keep up, causing a national shortage of the drug in 2011 and 2012. Some speculate that athletes have taken notice, and are using Adderall as an excuse for a failed drug test. For instance, the NFL's drug screenings do not register which particular substance a player tested positive for. An Adderall offender would certainly not bear the stigma of a player that tested positive for something perceived as more severe. Steroids, testosterone, and human growth hormone certainly come to mind. These types of performance enhancers portray an individual that inflates natural talent through unfair means. Players like Brian Cushing, Shawne Merriman, and Bill Romanowski are certainly viewed differently by the public after their steroid use became public. Adderall is not in the same league as these substances, and thus does not carry the same dishonor.

630x420_ShermanBrowner.jpgPlayers whose performance has unexpectedly spiked in a short period of time, like Seahawks cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman, are viewed as the most likely suspects. A free agent from the CFL and a fifth-round pick, respectively, the two had formed arguably the top corner tandem in the NFC, a feat unthinkable given how their less-than-lofty draft status. After each receiving suspensions for a failed test, the two explained that they had tested positive for Adderall. Was their performance indeed enhanced by some unknown substance? Were they telling the truth, and it was simply hard work that elevated them to elite status? Perhaps Adderall, after all, did indeed increase the mental and physical capacities of both players. These scenarios reinforce why Adderall as a performance enhancer is such a critical conversation in today's sports landscape. What do you think?


Sources

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2012/11/27/adderall-in-pro-sports/1730431/

http://www.drugs.com/adderall.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/sports/football/adderall-a-drug-of-increased-focus-for-nfl-players.html?pagewanted=all

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/01/03/adderall-drug-shortage-will-continue-in-2012-government-officials-say/


3 Comments

Unfortunately there isn't anything most professional athletes won't do to gain an edge. They're under an incredible amount of stress to perform and win. They have worked very hard to become professionals in their respective sports and are paid to entertain. So what if they take a drug that allows them to focus and work longer. It's the pro's, there are far worse things happening; such as HGH and steroids. But even those drugs are very common in some sports. I agree that these drugs should never be allowed to be used by high school or college athletes. The professional players have families to provide for and as well as a contract to uphold. You can't blame the players. Shouldn't we go after murders such as Ray Lewis before we start condemning players taking Adderall?

NY Times- Brawl at a night club

I researched this as well. With the difference in salary between an elite athlete and a back up being around 10 million dollars, what incentive other than personal integrity isn't there to try to gain an advantage. However, I don't see adderall as a physical performance-enhancer. I've made the argument in my own post. If you can focus while being paid millions of dollars to play the sport you love, you shouldn't be on the field. Hang up the pads and let someone who cares play the game. So many people dream of being athletes and people throw away their talent by using these drugs.

When I played NCAA tennis at my last PSU campus, we were given a very large talk as to why we should not abuse stimulants like Adderall, and that if we wanted to compete, we needed a doctor's note and reasoning as to why we were on the medicine. In fact, it is one of the substances that will show up in a drug test for many athletes. However, Strattera is another ADHD drug that does the same exact thing as Adderall, but it is not considered a banned substance. Is there potential for athletes to start using that to pass drug tests, and to evade new rules explaining why Adderall is bad?
While we're on this topic, Chooch, of the Phillies, was recently suspended for 25 games because of his use of Adderall. Clearly, this shows that this is becoming a problem in professional sports...with or without a prescription.

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