Sports Column: Addie all over the field: Adderall usage rising in pro sports


By Mac Moore

I will start this column with a disclaimer. Most editorials, by design, are meant to take a stance and give a call to action. This column will be used much more as a means of loosely informing the public about an issue. I offer no solution as I honestly am not equipped to give you one. Instead here is the story, take from it what you will.

According to USA Today, more than a dozen NFL players have blamed their 2012 drug suspension on Adderall or have been linked to the drug by other players. Other pro sports leagues, including the MLB and NBA, have faced a similarly alarming increase in drug tests involving Adderall. The increase in “claimed” use has some questioning whether this uptick is accurate and others just questioning the seriousness of the issue.

When an NFL player gets suspended for a positive drug test, the league is not allowed by their collective bargaining agreement with the players’ association to release information concerning which drug they tested positive for. The argument is that the players save face by announcing to the press that it was Adderall. The drug carries less social stigma than, say, steroids or HGH. Considering the NFL is not allowed to refute the claims, this seems to be a great PR move.

This accusation might be true. Actually, it probably is true, but isn’t as important as the rest of the discussion. When former KU cornerback Aqib Talib got suspended, I definitely laughed at the SportsCenter info bar when it said Adderall. At this point I just expect marijuana, steroids, etcetera; not necessarily from Talib, but that’s the general direction of drug test suspensions.

Growing up watching movies like “Varsity Blues” and “Any Given Sunday,” I just imagine locker rooms full of painkillers and other prescription drugs used without prescriptions. Even the steroids have numbed most of us. A four-game suspension now receives a yawn unless the player happens to be on our fantasy team. All of a sudden the positive tests begin to be blamed on Adderall, an ADHD medication. Really?

Think about it: the Ritalin generation has come of age. We seem to be so accustomed to the use of ADD/ADHD medication used in the proper way that we don’t even consider ethics involved in using without a doctor referral. College students are swapping “addies,” slang for Adderall, like housewives swap recipes. Adderall appears to be just as likely a study tool as Redbull or even a textbook.

Yes, it is illegal to take without a prescription, but the drug contains little to none of the social stigma that other drugs carry. Adderall has definitely taken on a second life as a party drug, but we still view most of its illegal use as at least being used for good: education. This gives us a strange understanding of Adderall as a schooling pick-me-up, but why are NFL players using it? I may be wrong, but Talib is probably done writing papers.

Some argue Adderall counts as a performance-enhancing drug. The neuro-enhancing effects of Adderall create a mental disconnect from the physical rigors of sports.

When the New York Giants go on the road to San Francisco, the 49ers have a distinct advantage by the jet lag the opposing team faces by going across the country for the game. When players are looking for that little bump to get through a workout day, the effects of Adderall have as many benefits as they do to students who want to write a 10-page paper due in 10 hours. Adderall is great for pushing past those tiresome days.

I will finish the article how I started it. This is happening and here is the info on it, at least as I see; no true stance on the issue and no call to action. Read the USA Today piece, “Do pro sports leagues have an Adderall problem?” and Margaret Talbot’s New Yorker piece, “Brain Gain,” for interesting information from qualified people.

Contact Mac Moore, sports editor, at


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