Stimulants in Baseball

MLB and the player’s union released their annual drug report yesterday. The big news? 105 players were granted exceptions for Adderall because of ADHD. That figure represents roughly 9% of all players.

As anyone who has recently worked with children can tell you, Adderall is an amphetamine often prescribed for attention deficit hyperactive disorder. As any fan of The Who and classic rock mythology can tell you, Keith Moon supposedly self-medicated his ADHD by taking speed. This makes sense if you think about how he played drums.

Okay. Within baseball, this is probably a non-story — at least in terms of suspicious prescriptions. 9% is not a high number for ADHD prevalence. Via the Center for Disease Control’s website, a 2007 survey of parents revealed that 9.5% of children aged 4-17 had ever been diagnosed with ADHD. The rate was much higher in boys, 13.2%, and 66.3% of children diagnosed with ADHD received medication treatment for it. Being older and male makes one more likely to take some sort of medication.

ADHD rates do tend to decline among adults, but are on the rise in general.

I don’t think anything too fishy is going on here. The numbers don’t suggest that this is an unrealistically high percentage of ADHD diagnoses, considering that the population of MLB players is entirely young males, the group most likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. That said, I assume that MLB players are more willing to take medication, having a stressful job and looking for a competitive edge. But I don’t think we have doctors handing prescriptions out to anyone who asks. The numbers are on the higher limits of what could be reasonable, but it isn’t anything too crazy. This story probably has more to do with residual steroid guilt by the media, as well as our nation’s discomfort with over-medicating children, than anything baseball fans should actually be worried about.

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