A sports injury is a setback for any competitive athlete. Frequently, it can lead to a lengthy recovery process. In turn, it can cause a person to be inactive in their sport for an extended period of time. Sometimes, athletes will be prescribed medications as a way to manage their pain. This can be a slippery slope and potentially lead to a serious addiction. In sports, chronic pain is a constant reality for many players and can make it especially difficult to avoid the trap of using and abusing painkillers. Addiction in sports is widespread due to the pressures and expectations that come with intense competition.
The Prevalence of Addiction in Sports
For many years, addiction was not something that was associated with high-performance athletes. Competing at a high level requires intense dedication and discipline. This is something that, on the surface, does not appear to be related to those struggling with some form of addiction. However, the pressure to maintain one’s performance can encourage an athlete to begin using addictive substances such as opioids, steroids, and anti-anxiety medications.
Upwards of 20% of athletes are at risk for becoming addicted to or using some type of performance-enhancing drug. (1) Powerlifters are especially at risk for using some form of anabolic steroids to enhance their performance. One study found 67% of lifters admitted to using steroids at some point in their career.(2)
The Reasons Why Athletes Use Addictive Drugs
Many athletes are willing to do whatever it takes to remain at the top of their field in competitive sports. Often, this can include using and abusing performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids.
Major League Baseball dealt with a significant scandal in the early 2000s, as many of the most popular players such as Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire had their reputations tarnished as a result of their association with such substances. (3) The pressure associated with professional athletics can make the allure of using banned substances worth the risk, despite the potential adverse health implications.
In addition to steroids, opioid painkillers are a common component for many pro athletes. Competing in high-intensity sports can make such substances extremely appealing. NFL players, competing in an extremely intense and violent sport, have reported high levels of opioid use as a means to continue playing and managing their pain. One survey of ex-players found that 52% of respondents reported using opioids, and 71% of these reported misusing the substance (4). This issue not only affects professional athletes, as one study of 12th-grade athletes found that 8.3% had misused opioids in the previous year. (5)
Athletes can also be lured into using stimulants, including substances such as amphetamine, ephedrine, cocaine, and modafinil. These substances may boost a person’s endurance and focus while competing, as well as improving reaction time. (6) Additionally, athletes frequently use recreational drugs such as cannabis, alcohol, and nicotine as a way to reduce anxiety and stress. The high-pressure nature of sports can make the allure of these drugs very tempting. This makes it essential for athletes to seek help if they find themselves abusing such substances.
Continued after infographic:
Options for Athletes Struggling With Addiction in Sports
As the opioid crisis has impacted the United States, awareness and intervention campaigns have also increased in the world of sports. This increase in programs has also provided options for athletes struggling with substance addiction. There are treatment centers that offer interventions targeted to those in the sports world. Ocean Hills Recovery is one such facility that provides programs for those in the world of sports who are seeking answers for their dependent behavior. Our professional specialists offer a safe environment to detox from opioids and other harmful substances. We also work to help provide a path forward after detox is complete. We provide a confidential and holistic approach for our clients. Ocean Hills Recovery understands the sensitive nature of addiction, especially for those in the world of sports.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, whether it is related to sports or not, contact Ocean Hills Recovery today to keep you focused on the path to recovery. We offer a solution-focused approach that is structured according to each person’s situation. Relapse is not a failure. Instead, it can become a success if you decide to take the next step and address the problem. Let the caring clinicians of Ocean Hills Recovery help you jumpstart the recovery process. We can help keep you on the road to sobriety.