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No, Baseball Doesn't Have a Fake ADHD Epidemic

Many diagnoses in pro baseball players may be valid after all
Carlos Ruiz
Carlos RuizPhotograph by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty Images; Leonard Lessin/Photo Researchers/Getty Images

At the start of the Major League Baseball season last year, Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz was suspended for 25 games for using Adderall, a prescription stimulant commonly taken by children and adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ruiz had tested positive for the drug twice, and didn’t have the exemption granted to players with a league-certified ADHD diagnosis. When the new baseball season starts later this month, Ruiz will take the field using Adderall once again—this time with medical certification and the league’s blessing. He’s now one of 119 players, or about 10 percent of active roster personnel, with clearance to use prescription stimulants to treat ADHD.

In the press, this 10 percent figure is invariably compared next with the 4.4 percent rate of ADHD in the U.S. adult population. The favored explanation for the high incidence of the disorder is that players are using flimsy diagnoses as a backdoor to use amphetamines. “Need performance enhancing drugs?” Slate asked readers in 2009. “Claim ADHD.”