Laser focus as a performance enhancing drug

Adderall is typically prescribed to patients suffering from ADHD or Narcolepsy. However, it has more recently been associated with misuse in academia. Whether prescribed or not, undergraduate students are using Adderall as a way to cram for exams or complete course work, by making it easier for them to focus and study. However, the non-medical use of Adderall has also been seen in competitive sports, especially ones that hinge on specific individual performance.

Adderall works by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This is achieved through the interaction of some of Adderall’s chemical properties. Adderall is composed of two amphetamine stereoisomers that are similar to the trace amine neurotransmitters in the brain. The Drug mimics the neurotransmitter, binding to the trace amine neurotransmitter receptor. This process increases the level of both norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which produces Adderall symptoms.

The benefits of cognitive enhancement in the realm of sports is an intriguing thought. If an player can be less distracted by things other than what he/she needs to focus on, theoretically, the player should play better. Research done by Veliz, Boyd, and McCabe (2015) examined Adderall use in athletes at the high school level. They found that there was no correlation between type of sport for female athletes, but for males, lacrosse players, and wrestlers were at higher risk for Adderall use when compared to other sports. Whether this be associated to the surrounding culture or not, both of these sports require an extreme amount of mental focus at the individual level.

So is this cheating? I would have to say yes. I am not sure whether or not a normal NCAA drug test would pick up Adderall, but if it doesn’t, it should be adjusted to do so. And even if it did, the majority of players at the collegiate level are not tested regularly for performance enhancing drugs (PED). Although Adderall, has less of an effect on the physical aspect of the game (i.e. making you stronger and faster), the mental realm in sports is almost as important, if not more important than the physical preparation. Many athletes crack under pressure, or loose focus toward the end of a taxing match. The use of Adderall creates an unfair advantage, all other issues aside (addiction and unlawfulness) and should be more highly scrutinized by schools and governing organizations.



McFadden, L. M. (2010). The long-term effects of dopaminergic manipulations in the preadolescent rodent. Dissertation Abstracts International, 70, 5225.

Veliz, P., Boyd, C., & Esteban, S. (2013). Adolescent athletic participation and nonmedical adderall use: An exploratory analysis of a performance- enhancing drug. Journal Of Studies On Alcohol And Drugs, 74(5), 714-719.


Filed under: Sam G Tagged: adderall, Dopamine, norepinephrine, sports
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