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Is Adderall Addling Pro Athletes’ Brains?

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Baltimore, MDIt’s mind-boggling, how athletes like the NFL’s Haloti Ngata and Orioles slugger Chris Davis think they can take Adderall without a legitimate doctor’s prescription and not get caught. Perhaps they’ve been taking the amphetamine for so long it’s rattled their brains.

If you don’t have ADHD, Adderall is like speed: it boosts your energy, helps you focus and lose weight. But it also increases your heart rate and blood pressure. And it’s highly addictive.

You might recall that Chris Davis was busted for Adderall last season because he didn’t confess to using Adderall. But he has been approved to use it in the 2015 season. Major League Baseball (MLB) allows Adderall if an athlete applies for an exemption, which begs the question: why didn’t Davis apply for an extension last season, before risking a 25-game suspension for using Adderall? (Interestingly, the MLB allowed him to use the drug when he played with the Texas Rangers, before being traded to Baltimore.)

Supposing Davis was getting Adderall without a doctor’s prescription last season. Adderall is easily accessible; just ask for it on any college campus. Or football field. And supposing Davis didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until recently…

Dr. Gary Wadler, a past chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List Committee, told the Seattle Times in 2012 that Adderall


“masks fatigue, masks pain, increases arousal - like being in The Zone. It increases alertness, aggressiveness, attention and concentration. It improves reaction time, especially when fatigued. Some think it enhances hand-eye coordination. Some believe it increases the mental aspects of performance… There’s no question it’s a performance-enhancing drug.”


Perhaps being in The Zone also affects your judgment; you might feel “invincible,” and possibly outside the law. (Being in “the zone” is an expression that describes a state of consciousness where physical skills and mental skills are perfectly in sync.) This theory might explain why athletes think they won’t get caught on Adderall in a drug test. Why else would they risk breaking a substance-abuse policy, getting suspended and letting down the team?

Amphetamine psychosis is a condition that changes mental status, and is a serious Adderall side effect. Although rare, this psychosis becomes more common when drugs containing amphetamines - such as Adderall - are used for a prolonged length of time. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disorders of thought and aggressive behavior.

Winning (and millions of dollars) is so important that athletes will take drugs and cheat. Some will do whatever it takes. While players on Adderall are taking a huge risk, they also know the drug leaves the system quickly, unlike steroids. Failing a drug test is bad timing, but it should also be a wake-up call. As previously mentioned, Adderall is addictive. Athletes like Haloti Ngata, who will be 31 next month, might be playing his final year. What are the chances that he will continue taking Adderall? Will there be a slew of retired athletes suffering from serious Adderall side effects?

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