If Browns cornerback Joe Haden does miss four games for testing positive for Adderall, he wouldn’t be the first young player to pay extra for the prescription medicine.
On Wednesday, ESPN Cleveland first reported that the third-year standout from Florida failed a routine drug test in which he tested positive for Adderall, which is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Haden would lose $1.356 million, the sum of four game checks, if he is suspended. He would also be ineligible for the Pro Bowl and any awards or honors given by the league or the NFL Players Association.
Adderall is considered a stimulant and is banned by the NFL. As it should be due to its risk of addiction and dependency. It is not the equivalent of a 5-hour ENERGY or a similar product. But in recent years, more than a handful of younger players have missed a quarter of their seasons for taking the drug.
Saints placekicker Garrett Hartley and former Cardinals tight end Ben Patrick were hit with the same suspension in 2009, each saying they took Adderall to stay awake for long drives.
Haden’s teammate at Florida, Brandon Spikes, tested positive for a similar ADHD medicine and was suspended for the final four regular season games of his rookie campaign in 2010. According to Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England, the Patriots linebacker had ingested something in the realm of Adderall that contained amphetamines.
Spikes does suffer from ADHD and was prescribed the medicine by a doctor. However, he didn’t challenge the ruling because he didn’t want to risk losing the appeal and miss an additional playoff game.
Two Giants players this offseason, rookie safety Tyler Sash and fourth-year running back Andre Brown, were found to have Adderall in their systems. But Sash, who was suspended just 10 days ago, was in the dark about the drug. He said on his Twitter account that he knowingly took Adderall, but not as a competitive edge.
“I took a prescription drug (Adderall) legally under a doctor’s care for an anxiety condition during the off-season in March of this year,” Sash tweeted. “The purpose was to help me with public speaking appearances. I had no idea that this prescription drug was banned by NFL policy.”
Although Sash showed the league a prescription, his suspension was upheld. Meanwhile, Brown’s suspension was overturned after notifying the NFL of his Adderall prescription, which he had in previous seasons. That decision drew the ire of coach Tom Coughlin, who assured the media that Sash wouldn’t have taken the drug if he knew it was outlawed.
Although Coughlin did admit that “ignorance is no excuse for the law,” the string of suspensions for Adderall in recent years can be reduced if the NFL takes better measures to inform players, especially the younger ones. The drug’s availability to the newer generation is understandable as use, and abuse, of the drug is increasingly rampant among college students.
A 2011 survey of students at 119 colleges in America done by the publication Addiction reported that 25 percent of students at “very competitive” campuses take Adderall for academic purposes. It isn’t a coincidence that the fresher crop of players, who may still hang out in social circles around their alma mater, are the ones unintentionally or intentionally getting their hands on the drug.
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen told sports talk station WKNR-AM that Haden could appeal his suspension and win if he proves he has a prescription for Adderall and notified the Browns’ medical staff about it. However, simply having a prescription may not be enough with the league giving Sash the cold shoulder on July 31.
The Browns may need to brace themselves for a rough start to this season. Haden, Cleveland’s top pick in 2010, had 65 tackles and 19 passes defensed last season and was a big reason why the Browns were the NFL’s second-ranked pass defense. But if Haden does get the four-game ban, Cleveland’s defense would be playing without four total starters for at least the first three games of the regular season.
Starting strongside linebacker Scott Fujita will likely miss that stretch due to suspension for his alleged role in Bountygate, outside linebacker Chris Gocong will be out for the season after Achilles surgery, and defensive tackle Phil Taylor is out for at least six weeks as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle.
The Browns would feel the impact of Haden’s absence right out of the gates when Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and the Eagles’ dangerous passing attack visits the Dawg Pound in the opener on Sept. 9.