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Illegal Adderall—From College Students to NFL Cornerback

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Cleveland, OHNot only is illegal Adderall (AKA ‘smart drug’) use rampant amongst college students, it has also turned up in professional sports. Earlier this week the NFL stated that Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns starting cornerback, has been suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

In July, during a random screening, Haden tested positive for Adderall, a stimulant generally used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and bipolar disorder, and consequently violated the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. However, if Adderall is prescribed by a doctor, the NFL allows its use. Because Haden was suspended immediately from four games, it is assumed that he did not have prescription Adderall.

Many athletes feel the need for speed, and Adderall is increasingly the drug of choice. Just one month ago Giants safety Tyler Sash tested positive for the drug. Sash says he was prescribed Adderall to help treat his fear of public speaking and not for what it is intended, i.e., ADD and ADHD. And back in 2010 baseball players were in the spotlight after 13 players tested positive for Adderall, even though Major League Baseball banned amphetamines four years earlier.

It would seem that Adderall is now widely regarded as a performance-enhancing drug, and a possible steroid substitute. Like other amphetamines, it increases alertness, increases stamina, and increases oxygen flow. Adderall is a multi-purpose drug. Along with treating ADD patients, Adderall is purported to improve "self-esteem, cognition and social and family interactions" of the patient. College students fake ADHD to get a prescription or they get it by other means.

Haden has paid a hefty price for his illegal use of Adderall, but he is still alive.

Adderall is a potentially addictive amphetamine, and it lists insomnia, changes in appetite and high blood pressure among its most common side effects. It is also known to cause Adderall heart attack, Adderall stroke, and even Adderall death.

About a year ago, Alison was prescribed Adderall to treat ADHD/ADD. She took it for six months before her doctor told her to stop taking the drug. “My blood pressure went through the roof, I had heart palpitations and trouble breathing,” she says. “I haven’t fully recovered from these horrific side effects but I’m lucky—if my doctor hadn’t tested me, I might not be here today.”

Ryan’s son was prescribed Adderall, again for ADHD. At 23 years of age he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. “His doctor said my son’s condition was caused by Adderall XR,” says Ryan. “He has to take so many meds, perhaps for the rest of his life. He might even end up on disability with a defibrillator and a heart transplant.”

Both Ryan and Alison are appalled that Adderall is used illegally by supposedly smart college students and high-profile athletes.


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