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College Athletes on Adderall: How Gaining an Edge Spirals Into Addiction

Adderall is one of the most commonly abused prescription drugs among teenagers and young adults. It is growing in popularity among athletes too, with many NFL and other major league professional sports players blaming their drug test suspensions on Adderall.1

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug typically prescribed for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental condition that makes concentrating difficult and causes people to act on impulse.

Adderall is a combination of two CNS stimulants, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, and works by increasing the concentration of two neurotransmitters and speeding up your brain activity as a result.

The general effects of Adderall are:

  • Increased energy
  • Improved focus
  • Reduced appetite
  • Improved reaction time

Why Do Athletes Use Adderall?

Athletes use Adderall as a performance-enhancing drug.2 Its effects on their appetite and energy levels can give them an edge in training and over their competitors.

High school and college students, especially those participating in high-pressure sporting competitions, are at the highest risk of abusing Adderall.

Not only can using Adderall help them improve their athletic performance, but it often provides them with enough energy and focus on continuing their studies under rigorous training programs, which could be essential, especially if they are in school or college on a scholarship.

Since ADHD is a common condition, Adderall is relatively easy to come by, especially in college, where many different drugs may change hands at parties or in locker rooms. The perceived benefits of the drug and the fact that it’s so easy to buy are what make Adderall so popular among students.

Which Sports Produce the Most Athletes Using Adderall?

Women’s and men’s sports differ in their percentage of athletes on Adderall, with women in all disciplines equally at risk of using the drug.

Male athletes participating in contact sports like football and wrestling, and surprisingly lacrosse, are most prone to abusing Adderall.3

How Performance-Enhancing Adderall Use Leads to Addiction

The long-term or excessive use of Adderall can result in tolerance, physical dependence, or addiction.

If an athlete becomes tolerant to the drug, they will require higher doses to get the same effect as before. Physical dependence on Adderall makes it challenging for athletes to function without regularly using Adderall, whether for sport or simply to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Due to the powerful stimulating effects produced by Adderall, anyone who has become dependent on the drug will have trouble quitting or reducing their use.

Eventually, dependence will lead to full-blown addiction that may need professional help to address and treat. Addiction develops once their dependence and long-term drug use affect their behavior and brain structure.

Addiction is often classified as a disease caused by substance abuse.

Signs of Adderall Addiction

One of the most common indicators of Adderall addiction and abuse is obtained through drug testing.

Other signs you or a loved one may be addicted to Adderall include4:

  • Intense cravings
  • Choosing to use Adderall over other activities or experiences that used to be a priority
  • Lying about drug use
  • Refusing to take a drug test
  • Social isolation
  • Not being able to stop using Adderall when you want to
  • Being unusually talkative

Some athletes addicted to the drug may go so far as to fake ADHD symptoms to get a prescription for Adderall.

Adderall Side Effects

Using Adderall could result in several unexpected side effects, including:

  • Cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and possibly a heart attack or stroke
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia

When To Seek Help

If you find it difficult to function without taking Adderall or experience any withdrawal symptoms between doses, you may need addiction treatment.

Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Problems concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Insomnia

Overdosing on Adderall during an unsupervised detox is a significant concern and could be fatal. For this reason, many doctors recommend an inpatient medical detox program.

Not only can staff at a medical detox center help ease your withdrawal symptoms through therapy and medication but going through treatment in a calm, controlled environment could dramatically increase your chances of successful recovery.

Rehab centers focused on helping athletes overcome addiction will have the most experience in dealing with the unique situations that led to your Adderall abuse in the first place and help you on your long-term road to recovery.

If you are an athlete, or just a regular person, suffering from addiction, get in touch with our team at (949) 427-9099 to get the help and treatment you need.


  1. https://www.sbnation.com/2012/12/5/3731824/athletes-adderall-effect-risks-suspensions
  2. https://misuse.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/error/abuse.shtml
  3. https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/adderall/

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