The Link Between Athletes and Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic and it can be problematic for all demographics. One group that is particularly at risk, but often overlooked, is athletes. For several reasons, athletes may be more likely to abuse prescription drugs, develop addictions and need treatment to embrace a healthy, sober lifestyle.
Prescription Drugs to Alleviate Performance Pressure
One of the reasons that athletes decide to use prescription drugs is as a way to alleviate or reduce the pressure of performing at a high level. Whether athletes are performing in a college football game or they are professional baseball players, there can be millions of eyes watching their every move. When this pressure becomes overwhelming, prescription drugs might seem like a viable means of relief.
Of course, using prescription drugs to avoid pressure is not a long-term solution. Over time, it can lead to greater problems, and it actually has the potential to reduce performance levels, producing the opposite of the intended effect.
Some students athletes struggle to manage their academic and athletic schedules. In some cases, these hard-working students aren’t getting enough sleep. They might be waking up early for practice, having classes during the day and staying up late at night to study. Add in a part-time job, and it can be an impossible schedule.
When busy, stressed student athletes feel overwhelmed, prescription drugs like Adderall or Ritalin may seem appealing. These prescription drugs are stimulants, which means they can help users function on less sleep. Over time, however, this can have serious adverse effects.
There are many ways to handle athletic performance stress without relying on prescription drugs. Stress management techniques, meditation, yoga or more realistic expectations can go a long way in helping athletes establish healthy, lifelong habits that don’t involve prescription medications.
Prescription Drugs to Stay on the Field or Court
Many athletes rely on prescription drugs so that they can continue with their athletic pursuits. When rest and recovery are recommended, some athletes turn to prescription drugs rather than taking time off.
It is easy to see the appeal of a prescription alternative to rest. After all, many athletes work for years to get to a certain level. Having to take time off, particularly when there is a critical game, race or event coming up, can be devastating.
In the case of an injury, pain might make continued play difficult or even impossible. It is hard to imagine a star football player being successful on the field with an injured shoulder or knee. Prescription painkillers, however, can eliminate that pain.
Many athletes decide to rely on prescription painkillers because the more appropriate course of treatment will simply take too long. For many injuries, the best approach is rest and recovery. Alternatively, surgery might be necessary for true healing. Of course, those who are at a certain level of fitness won’t look forward to being forced to taking time off from their sport of choice.
That is not to say that prescription drugs aren’t sometimes the right choice for athletes, both professionals and amateurs. However, short-term use for acute pain is very different from long-term use as a mask for pain needs more serious, comprehensive treatment. Athletes should not be afraid of the time off, which can lead to proper healing and a life of activity.
Former Athletes and Prescription Drug Abuse
It is not just current athletes who have to worry about the risks of prescription drug abuse and addiction. Former athletes, for a myriad of reasons, are also prone to this particular problem.
To start, former athletes are more likely than the general population to have serious injuries as a result of their athletic careers. This is especially true because many athletes don’t let injuries properly recover when they happen. Years or decades down the road, even smaller injuries can become major sources of pain.
Former athletes who deal with chronic pain may want relief. Furthermore, they may be frustrated by feeling frail or out of shape. The potency of narcotic painkillers can make it possible to continue without slowing down. Of course, doing so is not without risks.
When Prescription Drug Use Becomes Abuse or Addiction
Once athletes start using prescription drugs, it can be incredibly difficult to stop using them. This happens because the body begins to depend on the drugs, creating a cycle of addiction that is very challenging to overcome.
Once the crutch of prescription drugs has been used, it is hard to go back. Athletes who avoid injury treatment in order to play the next game, for example, are more likely to want to play the next game and the next. It might seem like there is never a convenient time to stop using prescription drugs.
Another issue is that the body will become chemically dependent on prescription drugs, particularly opiates. As tolerance grows, athletes might require larger and larger doses, which only serves to strengthen the addiction.
How Athletes Can Overcome Prescription Drug Abuse
When athletes face the reality of prescription drug abuse or addiction, recovery can seem like an overwhelming prospect. Thankfully, treatment can make a tremendous difference, and it can be exactly what individuals need to live the healthy life they deserve. Detox and rehab are widely regarded as the keys to recovery.
After a detox, addiction treatment can get to the heart of an addiction. Athletes can begin by partaking in therapy sessions that explore their personal issues and how to move forward. Individual behavioral therapy and group therapy are two important aspects of comprehensive recovery.
For many athletes, pain management will also be a critical element of overcoming addiction. It is important to utilize existing resources, many of which are available in rehab centers. Things like consistent exercise, nutrition, massage therapy and more can all contribute to pain management, helping patients stay off of prescription drugs for good.
There is a clear and strong link between athletes and prescription drug abuse. Thankfully, however, current and former athletes who seek help can successfully break free from a reliance on prescription medications.