By Rob Senior
Adderall is an amphetamine best known for its success in treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But the alarming number of Major League Baseball players using Adderall has led to the medication’s designation as a performance-enhancing drug by league executives.
Initially made available to the public in 1996, Adderall was originally an instant-release tablet. Five years later, Adderall XR—an extended-release version—came onto the market. Both are available in generic forms.
Adderall has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of ADHD, which is commonly characterized by difficulty maintaining focus, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Symptoms of ADHD typically manifest before age seven, but can remain present long into adulthood.
Adults with ADHD often struggle with planning, impulse control and easy distractibility. Adderall’s effectiveness in improving concentration, impulse control and attention span make it a desirable solution for these adults.
Similarly, adults without ADHD can enjoy these same attention-span increasing benefits. As it pertains to Major League Baseball, in 2011 a total of 105 players were granted exemptions under the league’s drug policy to fill prescriptions for Adderall according to an NBCSports.com article. That’s about one in every 10 players, a much higher rate than the general population.
“The anticipated benefit is that performance and stamina can be enhanced,” said Daniel Hussar, professor of pharmacy at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the University of the Sciences. “But sometimes individuals get into such a habit of using these medications that it can be quite a letdown when they stop using them. They feel compelled to continue using the product.”
Earlier this year, Major League Baseball tightened criteria for obtaining such exemptions in response to criticism stemming from the abnormally high rate of prescriptions among its players. As of last June, players receiving exemptions to use Adderall or other such stimulants need the approval of a three-expert panel. In the past, only one individual reviewed and decided on such requests.
Hussar added that Adderall is not a known masking agent for other performance enhancing substances. But he added that he feels strongly that MLB should better regulate Adderall use in its players. “These are potent medications that can have serious consequences if misused,” says Hussar. “If individuals let their guard down with these substances, circumstances can increase the risk of damage to the cardiovascular system.”
Side effects with Adderall have been known to include dizziness, headache and weight loss. The active ingredients in Adderall and Adderall XR are dextroamphetamine and racemic DL-amphetamine salts.