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Year-round Adderall ban makes no sense

Ten milligram tablets of the hyperactivity drug, Adderall, m Getty Images

As more and more NFL players test positive for Adderall (or claim that they have in order to avoid the steroids stigma . . . and thanks for the shout, Bill Simmons), we’re all learning more about the ADD medication that apparently has become very popular among NFL players.

It’s a stimulant that, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, “can be used as a game-day performance enhancer.”

While players can obtain prescriptions for it, they also must have a therapeutic use exemption in order to avoid discipline.  That was the gist of the warning given to players by the NFLPA in September, given the rash of positive Adderall tests.

Still, the fact that the league says it “can be used as a game-day performance enhancer” raises an obvious question.  If it can be used as a game-day performance enhancer, why is it banned on the other 349 days of the year?

“It’s a prescription drug, right?” Aiello said in response to that question.  “Abuse of prescription drugs is also a concern.”

That’s a fair point.  But does that mean every prescription drug is banned by the NFL on a year-round basis?  Though an argument could be made that Adderall should be prohibited on any NFL work day (practice, meetings, etc.), it makes no sense to ban it every day of the year, especially in the offseason.

The easy answer is that the NFLPA agreed to make it a banned substance, and the union did in 2006.  And as long as the NFL and NFLPA agree that it’s banned all year long, it is.

Unless, again, the player has a prescription and an exemption from the NFL.

None of this changes the fact that a player who is busted for steroids can simply claim that he was taking Adderall.  For that reason, the NFL and the union should craft separate categories of banned substances, disclosing when a suspension is finalized whether the player took, for example, a stimulant or a steroid.

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37 Responses to “Year-round Adderall ban makes no sense”
  1. toledoohoh says: Nov 27, 2012 10:08 AM

    Can it help a player study film better? Be better during practise? Yes and yes.

  2. justinharbaugh says: Nov 27, 2012 10:10 AM

    Essentially, wouldn’t any and all pain medication also be considered a performance enhancer as well?

  3. wannabear says: Nov 27, 2012 10:10 AM

    If adderall could be taken on game day, then other supplement should be allowed on game day.

  4. dmartin17 says: Nov 27, 2012 10:12 AM

    Adderall isn’t banned, you just need to file the paperwork with the league office.

  5. ghostofgilchrist says: Nov 27, 2012 10:12 AM

    I don’t understand the need for NFL players to take an ADD drug to pay atten…….wait, what were we talking about?

  6. armchairgm9 says: Nov 27, 2012 10:13 AM

    Adderall is an amphetamine. It’s basically speed and helps improve reaction and focus. That’s the very definition of a performance enhancing drugs. I don’t see the problem with following the proper procedures to turn over your prescription info to the NFL and get them to approve your use of it if it’s legitimate.

    Am I missing something? Does the NFL make it nearly impossible to do that?

  7. tryingmybest2 says: Nov 27, 2012 10:15 AM

    I don’t see the confusion here. You should be allowed to use Adderall if you have a legitimate medical reason to use such medication – and prohibited from use if you don’t. Period.
    I don’t see the gray issue here.

  8. youcantquitmebaby says: Nov 27, 2012 10:16 AM

    People who do not have ADHD can use Adderall to “get in the zone”. It can increase your concentration big time, and can definitely be a performance enhancer, whether it’s for sports, academics or something else. That’s where the term “Adderall Achiever” comes from.

  9. thereisalwaysnextyear says: Nov 27, 2012 10:17 AM

    What about prescription pain killers that teams probably hand out like candy. Anyone that’s ever taken any for an injury knows the impact. If one doesn’t need it it can provide euphoria and make players better if they don’t feel pain. Is that performance enhancing? I have several friends with severe ADD and they need those meds in order to be as productive as possible. That includes paying attention in meetings and remaining organized. This is going to be a slippery slope for the NFL. Is 5 hour energy a performance enhancer? Similar impact to taking ADD meds.

  10. tcmiller30 says: Nov 27, 2012 10:17 AM

    No need to make excuses for the players being caught. If poor lazy college kids can get a prescription for aderall so they can cram for a test so can an NFL athlete. How hard is that??!?!

  11. pftisterrible says: Nov 27, 2012 10:18 AM

    The NFL shouldn’t test for any drugs. The vast majority of the league is taking some sort of banned substance. Who cares?

  12. steelpenbucs87 says: Nov 27, 2012 10:18 AM

    I agree largely with the assessment of Adderall as a possible game-day performance enhancer (the gains players would get from the stimulant before competitive play) but I also agree that this is a drug that, when prescribed by a doctor, can also help people to deal with a medical condition, and therefore should be permitted.

    The only thought I have is that maybe it has to do with testing timeframes – how long does it stay in your system? Maybe thats why they do year round as just a way to cover bases.

  13. peytonwantsaflag says: Nov 27, 2012 10:21 AM

    I’m not a doctor nor a lawyer but you are Mike (a lawyer). Couldn’t prohibiting a player from taking a medication for a know condition, such as ADD, create and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) problem?

  14. shoobiedoobin says: Nov 27, 2012 10:22 AM

    I can see how it’d be an enhancer. When we think enhancer, we just think physical enhancement. Chemicals that make you stronger or faster. I have ADD, like many people do. Not the hyperactive sort but mentally I’m never at rest. Focusing is tough and when you can’t focus in sports, things are harder than if you could clear your head.

    Enter adderall. I can tell you that when I’ve had a chance to clear my head and focus, everything becomes easier. Now apply this to a guy already good enough to make the NFL and this is definitely enhancing his performance especially on game day.

  15. Chad Bartel says: Nov 27, 2012 10:29 AM

    I hope this doesn’t lead to Brandon Marshall getting off his meds?

  16. thecashcartel says: Nov 27, 2012 10:34 AM

    They are going down a slippery slope. If this is the case, why is percocet and vicodin allowed to be taken? Guys wouldn’t be able to play without it, yet they are allowed.

    And anyone who has ever taken these things knows that pain relievers would help out a player much more than a silly little adderall that I can only see helping you stay awake in film study.

  17. damnsureis says: Nov 27, 2012 10:37 AM

    The Eagles players avoid testing positive by taking the lesser known Fukitol on game day.

  18. fredbavre says: Nov 27, 2012 10:41 AM

    Adderall-pharmaceutical grade meth. Extremely easy to get a prescription for. It’s unfortunate that we’re even in this position as a society. ADHD is a social condition, & a farce blown up in order to sell a lot of Med’s.

  19. nflguy007 says: Nov 27, 2012 10:52 AM

    Marijuana will very soon no longer need a perscription in 2 states…. and according to state law, is legal. I understand not being able to show up for work after smoking MJ, but why is it banned on the other 349 days of the year?

    You think these players don’t prepare in the off season? Workout, study game film/play books? They could do this on any given day, with the help of adderall.

  20. Stiller43 says: Nov 27, 2012 11:01 AM

    I dont know, but perhaps if its a game day enhancer, the effects could also help during training? And when guys get enhanced training vs normal, theyre going to get an advantage…

  21. jdhein22 says: Nov 27, 2012 11:03 AM

    If it enhances performance during the season, it would enhance performance during offseason. This means during work outs in weight room, during conditioning, and during OTAs. That has to be a concern.

    Also, how do you effectively control the stimulant just on gamedays? What does that even mean – on Sundays? Well, what about Monday and Thursday?

    This idea of banning it only 16 days out of the year is pretty shortsighted and dumb.

  22. thelastpieceofcheese says: Nov 27, 2012 11:05 AM

    PEDs should be legalized, regulated, administered under physician’s supervision and taxed.

    The playing field will be leveled automatically.

  23. kash71 says: Nov 27, 2012 11:07 AM

    fredbavre says:
    Nov 27, 2012 10:41 AM
    Adderall-pharmaceutical grade meth. Extremely easy to get a prescription for. It’s unfortunate that we’re even in this position as a society. ADHD is a social condition, & a farce blown up in order to sell a lot of Med’s.

    —————————–
    From personal experience I know that ADHD is real. What people do not understand is that when a person with ADHD takes a drug like this, it slows them down to focus and evens them out.

    The problem is this drug and ritalin are over prescribed and abused so people can get a legal quick fix. High school students who take it so they can prep for their college exams. Adults who take it so they can get a meth head fix without worrying about going to jail.

    My main concern is if they open the doors too much will it end up with 99 percent of the NFL players stating they have “ADHD” so they can compete and even the playing field.

  24. suns11111 says: Nov 27, 2012 11:25 AM

    Adderall “Can it help a player study film better? Be better during practise? Yes and yes.” But as far as remembering to file paperwork with the league….not sure the meds are working for some of these players……..

  25. cunningstunts96 says: Nov 27, 2012 12:00 PM

    I’m a lifelong sufferer of ADD (now called ADHD alongside the original ADHD), and was prescribed adderall years ago. I can speak from experience in saying that adderall works wonders for those with ADD, especially in school. It doesn’t boost anything physically except maybe giving you more energy, but it gives you amazing focus and awareness, which is certainly performance enhancing for a sport like football.

    But what pisses me off to no end is that there is a certain amount of adderall that is permitted to be sold/prescribed each year because of jackasses like the NFL players taking it for the “boost” they get, so in November of 2010, I was unable to fill my prescriptions for the rest of the calendar year. So, they soak up what they want for their quick fix, and ADD users who finally have the help they need in an adderall prescription lose it for a couple of months at the end of the year. Just in time for exams.

    So thanks, you selfish jackasses, for taking adderall away from those who actually need it. Thanks a lot.

  26. nickster31 says: Nov 27, 2012 12:04 PM

    I still think some people are missing the point.

    The drug is legal to take, if so prescribed by a doctor. Once the players get the prescription, then they must notify the NFL that they have a prescription for it, then they can take the drug without any punishment in any way shape or form.

    The problem is, none of us know what the player really tested positive for. The NFL is not allowed to tell us what the drug the player took was, so players could be flat out lying about it, and the only other person that knows is the NFL, and they are permitted by law to not tell us either way.

    The real issue to me is, if a player REALLY got a prescription to take the drug, and failed to notify the NFL that they got the prescription, KNOWING that he will be suspended if he test positive for it, then they are so stupid that they deserve to be suspended for it.

    In the real world, the agent of the player knows most details of their lives, and if the player was actually prescribed the drug, you can bet your life savings that the NFL would be notified.

    To me, this says that every time I hear the “adderall excuse” I automatically think it is steroids.

  27. cbt22 says: Nov 27, 2012 12:18 PM

    I can understand a ban for player not prescribed but what people don’t know is ADD and ADHD are actually real things and people who legitimly have the disorder it can really help them out. People with ADD and ADHD lack the ability in their brains to create the amount of dopamine that a person with out ADD or ADHD can. Dopamine helps drive the reward factor, for example you start working on a task and each step your brain creates and secrets dopamine. Part of your brain turns that in to norepinephrine which affects your frontal cortext and keeps you on task and the rest of the dopamine gives you that feeling of reward once you complete something. When you have ADD or ADHD your brain creates a lot less dopamine and so you don’t have the same drive to a reward as someone with out ADD, so you are likely to switch focus before finishing the task. If you really have ADD or ADHD you will know exactly how it feels to be working on something then all of the sudden lack the focus to finish what you were working on even though you want to badly. Also now days it is actually more difficult to get a prescription for any ADD medication because you need to be evaluated by a psychiatrist and other medical specialist before they determine you have ADD or ADHD. Players using it on game day wont necessarily give them a physical edge but they will have more focus and notice more things before the snap, and how players react before different plays, it gives them a mental edge if they dont actually have ADD or ADHD but levels the field if they illegitimately have the disorder. While adderal is an amphetamine the dosage is very low and doesnt give the same effects as meth like many people think it does, the effects are similar but there actually is a different medication that is medical meth.

  28. bigredgoog says: Nov 27, 2012 12:31 PM

    Outlawing drugs saves players from themselves. If you allow drugs then the current clean players that are not the elite will feel tremendous pressure to take drugs to keep their jobs.

    Players should want the best testing etc. to keep drugs out of their sport. If the cheaters get through then it becomes Cycling where you essentially “can’t play” unless you are willing to use drugs.

  29. Passionburnswithin says: Nov 27, 2012 12:35 PM

    I posted earlier and the comment is gone for whatever reason. But for the average person who doesn’t understand ADHD and the symptoms and the way the medicine works there are a lot of misunderstandings. A person with ADHD has a body and brain chemistry that responds differently to stimulants than someone without the condition. That is why a amphetamine is prescribed to calm someone down and to make them focus in other words normalize them. For the non- ADHD person the drug would have the opposite effect, give them energy and take away their ability to focus (especially if they take over the prescription dosage) or in other words make them act like a person with ADHD.

  30. warman31337 says: Nov 27, 2012 12:36 PM

    It is ridiculously easy to get a prescription for Adderall, which makes me think these guys aren’t really doing Adderall.

  31. japmen says: Nov 27, 2012 12:40 PM

    The NFL has been very upfront with this information and it is usually a lie by the players. Who would really keep their legal prescription hidden after all of this? It’s not a hard process to show proof of prescription and get an exemption. Time to put these types of stories in the favre file(as in the past).

  32. bigjdve says: Nov 27, 2012 12:54 PM

    I don’t know that much about Adderal outside of football except that my wife’s best friend takes it for ADHD, when she got pregnant she had to stop taking it until done breastfeeding. She has been going crazy since because she can’t focus.

    I have ADHD and I am on different meds, I can tell you that if I don’t take my meds for a day it wrecks my ability to perform my daily work and functions properly.

    Most ADHD drugs are cumulative, so if you ban them on game day, they will still fail the test. However that being stated, it would still cause the levels to be lower than needed for the person and you could be dealing with some nasty side effects.

    The NFL and NFLPA (people forget that the process was approved by both sides) requiring notification of the diagnosis of ADHD and prescription of Adderall is brilliant because anyone that would NEED it would definitely want to make it known because the drug is more than just for football benefits, it helps you with your entire life.

    Those players still getting suspended are idiots, because like someone said above – agents know most pertinent details about your life and your health. You are an investment for them, so getting surprised like that isn’t in their best interest, so they would take care of the notifications.

    Either it is an excuse or laziness, doesn’t matter which, either way a suspension is warranted for people that don’t follow the rules.

    Why should this rule be any different than any other, follow them = no suspension. Break them = listed punishment.

  33. hooterdawg says: Nov 27, 2012 12:55 PM

    Informing your team that you have an attention/focus problem could be detrimental to coaches /other players trust – as well as contract negotiations. I can understand why a player might keep this info confidential. ADHD doesn’t suddenly occur – there would be a medical history of the condition prior to the NFL.

  34. castleanthrax says: Nov 27, 2012 1:16 PM

    peytonwantsaflag: Great point on the ADA aspect, however I believe once you are in a union and it is part of the CBA then it is exempt from certain Title VII laws, this being one of them. I could be speaking, er, writing out of turn here, but this may be the case.

    Title VII laws for the most part protect those OUTSIDE of unions as the union’s job is to assure protection of their members. Again for the most part as there is certainly protection from either and/or both depending on the CBA.

    All in all however the players know that they need to get both the script and exemption waiver to be in the clear…

  35. tvguy22 says: Nov 27, 2012 1:26 PM

    Clearly, the Eagles need a candy dish of Adderall in the locker room.

  36. Passionburnswithin says: Nov 27, 2012 4:50 PM

    @hooterdawg it doesn’t occur suddenly but there is a difference in childhood ADHD which is outgrown as the brain and body develops and Adult ADHD. It is also worsened by stress and a more hectic/ chaotic schedule/life. And people do give you strange looks when you tell them. I went unmedicated for years because I thought it was a crock…..until I researched it more and understood all the psychological and physical symptoms

  37. kappy32 says: Nov 27, 2012 5:02 PM

    If you could, I would like you to find out whether opiate / opioid prescription pain medication is treated just as harshly as Adderall during the offseason. If their main offseason concern is prescription drug abuse, then they should certainly have the same policy on opiates & opioids, which are far more abused than is Adderall.

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