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Adderall, the NFL, and Me

I have used Adderall. I used it as an adult, with a prescription. So when I hear much of the talk this week about it in the NFL, it makes me realize just how little people know about a drug that has become a huge part of our society. National writers have made statements that at times have reflected a lack of knowledge of awareness of the issue.

Mike Tanier of Sports on Earth is not one of them. His article “Focus Group” comes as close to nailing the truth on the issue as you will get. Are there some players who have used Adderall as an excuse for something else, because the league cannot reveal the details? I suppose it is possible that it has happened. It’s also likely a very small majority of these cases. “The players aren’t taking the easy way out by admitting to Adderall abuse. We are taking the easy way out by disbelieving and trivializing their admissions,” writes Tanier.

To believe that these are excuses to cover up steroid use, is to vastly underestimate how prevalent the problem can be when the drug is abused, and to vastly underestimate the “performance enhancing” aspects it can provide for, say, a cornerback trying to stay focused on coverages and covering fast wide receivers and tendencies of quarterbacks.

What’s it like, Adderall? I can only speak from my personal experience.

It’s like, “Wow.”

It’s like glasses that bring everything into focus. I’ve had Lasik surgery as an adult after needing glasses or contacts since I was eight years old, and I’ve taken Adderall after finding out as an adult that I had attention-deficit disorder symptoms since before then. The effect was the same.

The impetus behind my discovery was the birth of my first child. I was the good kid. I wasn’t hyper or the raging out of control kid that would meet some stereotype that people probably have. I went through high school, and college, and law school, and got married. When my son was born, I was working at a law firm. When my life became more than just about me – when I had to budget my time to make sure he was to the daycare, and picked up, and that I was at home at a decent hour – I found out just how much I, and primarily others like my parents, friends, college roommates – had masked my inefficiencies. I couldn’t keep up with the losing and misplacing files or getting sidetracked anymore.

It took about 20 minutes for the therapist to get the picture, and confirm it with some tests. That would be the 20 minutes I was late for the first appointment after I spaced out and drove past the office. The past became clearer over time. The A+ I should have earned became an A- or B because I would lose an assignment or forget something. The dog never ate my homework, but it was often magically eaten by something never to appear again.

I tried something called Concerta. Didn’t seem to have much impact. We moved to Adderall. Instantaneously, it was like “Wow.”

Those cabinet drawers that I left open? That glob of jelly on the counter that I left behind while thinking about something else? That light bulb that had been burned out for weeks? Now, I noticed them. A million things around me came into focus. I was writing briefs and memos at work better than ever.

Fifty cups of coffee? I don’t know about that. I could have drank a boatload of coffee and Red Bull and other energy drinks, and all I would be is jittery. I do know that it replaced caffeine and I drank only water, because if I didn’t, man, I would be too wired. I was wired enough as it was. I lost weight not only because I cut out sodas, but because I would often forget to eat lunch because I was so focused on whatever I was working on.

I can imagine, then, why someone like a NFL cornerback would resort to something like this, if in fact any of them are consciously using it for performance enhancing on the field instead of just for the effect off of it. It brings things into focus. I wasn’t a different person. I was still me. I was just on. Didn’t miss as much, didn’t wander. If the game is 90% mental, then people should consider that taking Adderall can have just as big an impact on performance as adding a few pounds of muscle.

Of course, it’s not all positives. It can be abused. It can be addictive. You have to get a cardiac workup, and players that are sharing it without prescriptions could lead us to a Len Bias situation for Adderall. For me, I had a hard time sleeping at night. I was still on. That’s why you hear stories like Garrett Hartley, who claimed to have taken it to stay awake for a long drive. I would get so focused on things that I could not let go. I could always “hyper-focus” on things I enjoyed, but it intensified even more on Adderall. Staying up to play Civilization to wind down turned into six hours at the computer, and no sleep before returning to work. Many of the early football articles I wrote as a hobby were written in the middle of the night.

I haven’t taken Adderall in several years. I basically stopped when I began my meandering path from lawyer to writer, as I was also working on a variety of other techniques and learning about how to handle being me. On Adderall, I could be a lawyer, and perhaps I would still be on it if I remained a lawyer. The more important thing from that initial discovery, though, was to re-examine my life and what had always driven me.

Adderall has come back into my life with all of these recent NFL suspensions. I no longer need it, but it is still present. You, though, are my drug of choice now. Passion has replaced pharma. Doing what you love and what drives you is the best drug of all. NFL players who are engaging in illegal and risky behavior with Adderall need to realize that before it’s too late.

[photo via US Presswire]

 

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