BIRDIES IN A BOT­TLE

GOLF’S NEW DRUG

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Front Page - BY LUKE KERR- DI­NEEN

Eras can be de­fined by the drug. Al­co­hol in the ’20s, acid in the ’60s, co­caine in the ’80s. Though a le­gal pre­scrip­tion, Ad­der­all is mak­ing its claim as the sub­stance of our time. Adults all the way down to school kids are given the stim­u­lant to treat the im­pul­siv­ity and inat­ten­tive­ness of at­ten­tion-deficit/hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD). Hordes more with­out pre­scrip­tions abuse the pills for par­ty­ing, or se­cre­tively self-med­i­cate to give them­selves the edge they feel they need – but of­ten with scary side ef­fects.

If Ad­der­all can help stu­dents cram for fi­nal ex­ams, it fol­lows that golfers might seek its ben­e­fits. Fo­cus, af­ter all, is the name of our game. To find out if it’s per­va­sive, I posted the fol­low­ing on Red­dit: “Has any­one ever taken Ad­der­all be­fore they’ve played golf?” Re­sponses poured in, 48 com­ments in three days. A 30-year-old ac­coun­tant told of be­ing di­ag­nosed with Adult

At­ten­tion Deficit Dis­or­der (or ADD, which is ADHD with­out the hy­per­ac­tiv­ity com­po­nent) af­ter he had ob­tained two master’s de­grees. He would take Ad­der­all in the morn­ing, and the ef­fects would linger when he played golf af­ter work. The first year he was on the med­i­ca­tion, he went from a near-be­gin­ner to an 18-hand­i­cap. One 28-year-old golfer told me that swal­low­ing an Ad­der­all and smok­ing pot was per­fect for re­laxed, in­tense fo­cus. Another young male, an elite player who com­peted in the 2011 US Am­a­teur when he was 24, was pre­scribed Ad­der­all in high school, and his game steadily im­proved. He said he be­came more sin­gle-minded. Lengthy prac­tice ses­sions sud­denly didn’t feel so mo­not­o­nous. But not ev­ery­one found a cure-all. Per one re­spon­dent: “I’ve done this. I played av­er­age. I think I re­mem­ber feel­ing kinda shaky over the ball. I also sweated a lot. I mean a lot.” I mean a lot.”

PRE­SCRIB­ING FO­CUS

In the YouTube video “Tiger Woods Men­tal Fo­cus – Words of Wis­dom & Ad­vice,” Woods speaks of nat­u­ral “black­out mo­ments” when he doesn’t re­mem­ber hit­ting a great shot: “I get so en­trenched on the mo­ment. It’s as if my body was do­ing the work, and I’m just sit­ting back and watch­ing. The more in­tense the sit­u­a­tion gets, the calmer I feel, the more things slow down. It’s a weird sen­sa­tion, hard to ar­tic­u­late.” The spell of Ad­der­all can be just as dif­fi­cult to de­scribe. “It was like, a sense of time di­la­tion,” said one Red­dit re­spon­der, a 7- hand­i­cap we’ll call Tom whose case we’ll re­visit later. “Ev­ery­thing you don’t want to mat­ter just slowly goes away.”

When Ad­der­all first en­tered the US mar­ket in the 1950s, it did so un­der a dif­fer­ent name and with a dif­fer­ent pur­pose. Doc­tors pre­scribed Obe­trol as an ap­petite sup­pres­sant to pa­tients suf­fer­ing from obe­sity, but soon they no­ticed un­in­tended ef­fects. Pa­tients re­ported per­form­ing me­nial tasks more easily. Word started get­ting around, and pretty soon Andy Warhol was among those us­ing the drug. He be­came known for late-night trips to the phar­macy, get­ting his pre­scrip­tion filled so he could keep paint­ing.

In 1995, Shire Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals pur­chased the com­pany that owned Obe­trol.The drug’s pop­u­lar­ity was wan­ing when Shire re­pur- posed Obe­trol as a fo­cus drug and gave it a new name: Ad­der­all. This co­in­cided with a dra­matic rise in the num­ber of at­ten­tion-deficit-dis­or­der di­ag­noses. To­day an es­ti­mated 9 per­cent of the more than 45 mil­lion chil­dren in the United States from 6 to 17 are di­ag­nosed with ADD or ADHD, and about 14 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions for ADHD med­i­ca­tions were writ­ten for adults 20-39 in 2011. Some re­ceived Ad­der­all, and some oth­ers re­ceived Ri­talin, which is shorter-act­ing in the body, but chem­i­cally sim­i­lar to Ad­der­all.

With so many teenagers be­ing doled a pow­er­ful up­per, recre­ational use is in­evitable. A 2012 re­port by the Na­tional In­sti­tute on Drug Abuse in the United States found that 8 per­cent of all high school se­niors took Ad­der­all with­out a pre­scrip­tion, and other re­ports es­ti­mate that up to 20 per­cent of non-ADD/ADHD col­lege stu­dents use it or other ADHD med­i­ca­tions to study – a higher per­cent­age than those ex­per­i­ment­ing with co­caine or heroin.

A 2008 study from Penn State Univer­sity found that up to 93 per­cent of those mea­sured could bluff their way through the ADD/ADHD di­ag­nos­tic test. As for those who lack the am­bi­tion or de­sire to fool med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als, the drug’s ubiq­uity makes it rel­a­tively easy and cheap to pro­cure from friends or buy online. Type “Addy” into Craigslist, and there’s never a short­age of op­tions that can be de­liv­ered by courier: 20mg each. fast, re­li­able de­liv­ery ser­vice. col­lege stu­dent with a bot­tle and look­ing to sell to a se­lect few. Cheers :) read one re­cent Craigslist ad­ver­tise­ment. Ad­der­all – $30. Thirty’s, in­stant avali­able! (sic) Thanks, read

another. Buy­ing Ad­der­all il­le­gally doesn’t come with­out con­se­quences. Laws vary from state to state in the US, but Fed­eral law gen­er­ally treats illegal pos­ses­sion of Ad­der­all, a Sched­ule II drug, as a mis­de­meanour, with a max­i­mum sen­tence of a year in prison and a fine of at least $1 000. Af­ter the first of­fence, both penal­ties get steeper.

PRO­FES­SIONAL ABUSE

Mem­bers of the US Congress weren’t look­ing for Ad­der­all when they in­ves­ti­gated base­ball for steroid abuse in 2005, but they found it. Ad­der­all was so wide­spread – the then­chair­man of the World Anti-Dop­ing agency later said ADD in MLB seemed “to be an epi­demic” – that MLB banned and started test­ing for the drug in 2006. Play­ers im­me­di­ately be­gan fil­ing for ex­emp­tions. MLB’s Mitchell Re­port found that med­i­cal ex­emp­tions for Ad­der­all based on ADD/ADHD di­ag­noses had jumped from 28 play­ers in 2006 to more than 100 in 2007 – roughly 10 per­cent of ac­tive play­ers, far higher than the 2-4 per­cent of adults na­tion­wide who have been di­ag­nosed.

It’s in Amer­i­can football, too. Seat­tle Seahawks All-Pro cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man told the Van­cou­ver Sun in 2013 that “about half ” of the NFL’s play­ers take Ad­der­all be­cause it helps them quickly an­a­lyse sit­u­a­tions. Sher­man later said he was mis­quoted, but the news­pa­per stood by its re­port­ing.

Con­tro­versy over pre­scrip­tion drugs isn’t un­prece­dented in golf. Beta block­ers, the name for a class of heart and blood-pres­sure med­i­ca­tion, were fairly com­mon among tour play­ers in the 1980s for their abil­ity to help a heart beat at a con­stant speed. Greg Nor­man said that “lots of guys were on beta block­ers” dur­ing the height of his ca­reer. Nick Price was pre­scribed the drug for high blood pres­sure and took it be­tween 1984 and 1989. Mac O’Grady said that his putting im­proved when he tried beta block­ers in 1985.

South African am­a­teur Chris­ti­aan Bezuiden­hout was given a six-month ban by the In­ter­na­tional Golf Fed­er­a­tion when he tested pos­i­tive for beta block­ers at the 2014 Bri­tish Am­a­teur.

“When I think of the two drugs that could pro­vide the most ben­e­fit to golfers, it’s beta block­ers and Ad­der­all,” says Dr Grant Liu, a pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

TAK­ING TOO MUCH

One Red­diter, whom I’ll call Brian, de­scribed what it’s like to over­dose on Ad­der­all. Brian was in high school and about to take an exam when one of his golfer friends of­fered him a 60-mil­ligram pill, three times the most com­mon dose.

Half­way through the exam, Brian’s hands started to shake. His mouth grew ex­tremely parched. He got up to buy a bot­tle of wa­ter but just stood at the vend­ing ma­chine, sweat­ing, un­able to count the money in his hand. He went home, lay down in his dark room and just waited for it to all to go away.

Ad­der­all is an am­phet­a­mine, which “Break­ing Bad” fans will know puts it in the same fam­ily as metham­phetamine. Ad­der­all’s side ef­fects don’t ri­val meth’s, but they ex­ist. You can be­come ad­dicted if you take higher doses than pre­scribed, and tak­ing too much

‘ THAT’S WHAT AD­DER­ALL DOES. IT LIT­ER­ALLY PUTS YOU IN THE ZONE.’

— PGA TOUR WIN­NER

can lead to heart prob­lems, high blood pres­sure, con­fu­sion, tremors and hal­lu­ci­na­tions, among other aw­ful things.

GET­TING EX­EMPT

If a pro golfer wants a Ther­a­peu­tic Use Ex­emp­tion (TUE) to take a drug on the PGA Tour’s banned- sub­stance list, he must file an ap­pli­ca­tion. He is then pro­vided with a list of re­quire­ments spe­cific to the sub­stance and his con­di­tion. Those re­quire­ments in­clude med­i­cal records re­lated to the con­di­tion. They could also in­clude spe­cific tests or phys­i­cal ex­ams as well as third-party tes­ti­mo­ni­als. The in­for­ma­tion is then sub­mit­ted to a TUE com­mit­tee, which in­cludes med­i­cal ex­perts in the field re­lated to the rel­e­vant con­di­tion as well as the com­mit­tee chair­man.

If an ath­lete is ap­ply­ing for Ad­der­all, the com­mit­tee would in­clude ex­perts in the di­ag­no­sis of ADD/ADHD. The panel does not con­duct in­ter­views with the ath­lete; the com­mit­tee re­view is done anony­mously. If the com­mit­tee de­ter­mines a TUE is war­ranted, it will be is­sued for one to four years, af­ter which the ap­pli­cant must ap­ply for a re­newal of the ex­emp­tion.

“ADD and ADHD are recog­nised con­di­tions, and we recog­nise them as well,” says Andy Levin­son, the PGA Tour’s vice pres­i­dent of Tour­na­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion & An­tiDop­ing. “We fol­low the guide­lines, and if some­one meets the spe­cific cri­te­ria, we’re not go­ing to stop them from get­ting what they need. But it would stand to rea­son that a drug like Ad­der­all that boosts alert­ness could have some ma­jor ben­e­fits to those who wanted to abuse it.”

It’s dif­fi­cult to tell how many play­ers take Ad­der­all, un­der a TUE ex­emp­tion or oth­er­wise, be­cause of the non-trans­par­ent na­ture of the PGA Tour’s pol­icy. Mul­ti­ple peo­ple with knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion say that ev­ery year Ad­der­all-re­lated TUEs are granted. One PGA Tour win­ner, who took Ad­der­all with­out a pre­scrip­tion through­out col­lege golf but stopped once he made it on tour, says he can un­der­stand why. “It made things a hell of a lot eas­ier. Ev­ery­one al­ways talks about get­ting ‘in the zone,’ but that’s what Ad­der­all does. It lit­er­ally puts you in the zone.”

Bubba Wat­son and Ian Poul­ter have self­di­ag­nosed as hav­ing some form of ADD/ ADHD, although they don’t take Ad­der­all. Each says he doesn’t need it.

MIXED FEEL­INGS

Tom, the afore­men­tioned 7-hand­i­cap, shot his low­est round ever last year. As the 20-year-old walked down the 17th fair­way, all he could no­tice was how the wind rus­tled the tree tops and shot across the grass. When it was time for him to play, he calmly clipped back into fo­cus. He got the Ad­der­all from a friend, and it was his first time try­ing it with golf.

“It’s not a high, but it’s al­most Zen-like,” Tom says. He also be­lieves the Ad­der­all neu­tralised his emo­tions so they didn’t wan­der too far in any di­rec­tion.

At the 18th, Tom hit his ap­proach shot over the green. He flopped his 71st shot to 20 feet. A par would give him a round of 72, shat­ter­ing his pre­vi­ous best. He pulled the put­ter back and kept his head down. When he looked up, he saw the ball rolling ex­actly along the line he’d en­vi­sioned, and then straight into the back of the hole.

“It was ul­tra-clutch,” Tom says, “but even my friends thought it was a lit­tle weird. I made this great shot, but I didn’t get very ex­cited. I didn’t fist pump. I had no re­ac­tion.”

A putt for the round of your life is sup­posed to be one you fondly re­mem­ber, but Tom has mixed feel­ings. He’s happy he made the putt. He doesn’t feel guilty or that the score was il­le­git­i­mate – golf ’s hard enough, and it’s not like he’s a pro­fes­sional, he says. But won­der­ing how a drug could de­liver such im­me­di­ate re­sults over­rides the mem­ory. Is that how “the zone” is sup­posed to feel? Since that round, he has re­watched the Tiger Woods YouTube video on fo­cus, try­ing to make sense of his ex­pe­ri­ence. Tom con­tin­ues to take Ad­der­all, hop­ing to get there again.

Ian Poul­ter and Bubba Wat­son (above) have self-di­ag­nosed as hav­ing some form of at­ten­tion-deficit dis­or­der, although they don’t take Ad­der­all. Each says he doesn’t need it.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.