Drug addiction among athletes can be traced back to the third century B.C. During the Greece Olympics, athletes were known to use alcohol to deal with their performance anxiety. They also consumed hallucination-inducing mushrooms to boost their performance.
What started as a coping mechanism has now become the new norm. Today, more than 90% of college athletes use alcohol, indicating that the problem begins at the very beginning. So, let’s discuss why athletes suffer from addiction.
Types of drugs athletes use
To manage pain and deal with the pressures of being in the public eye, athletes are found to use the following types of drugs regularly before becoming addicted to them.
- Performance enhancers
Although countless athletes have been banned and stripped off of their titles after they were found using performance enhancers, sportspeople continue abusing them for improving their performance.
Due to the rising competition, athletes are constantly asked to maintain their performance. Therefore, several athletes end up abusing enhancers to boost their game and train harder in order to stay in the race for long.
A few common examples of performance enhancing drugs are anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), diuretics, and erythropoietin.
This type of drug is used to accelerate communication between the brain and the body. Because they make athletes feel more alert and awake, they are also called “uppers.” Some of the common stimulants include amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and methylphenidate and they are used to treat ADHD.
Athletes usually take more than what’s prescribed or abuse their colleagues’ prescriptions to feel the “high” induced by the pills.
- Prescription pills
Athletes are surrounded by doctors who ensure they are in good shape. Since they are prone to injuries, doctors often prescribe painkillers to manage their pain. But athletes end up misusing the drugs for pleasure and other non-medical uses.
Their body becomes too dependent on these drugs to recover, which leads to addiction.
To deal with the pressure, it’s common for athletes to occasionally indulge in alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and cigarettes. But sometimes, athletes may overdo it and find themselves trapped in severe addiction.
Some athletes become such habitual abusers that they take alcohol and cocaine right before stepping into the field. It helps them relax and curb their performance anxiety.
An easy cure to recovery
Drugs like opioids have been pestering athletes in the U.S. ever since their inception. The problem is so grave that 10.3 million people over the age of 12 misuse opioids with nearly 90,000 beneficiaries being at serious risk.
Athletes are expected to maintain a steady graph throughout their careers. From training hard to performing even harder, they are often looking to stay on their A-game in every match. But the more they train, the more they are at risk of injuries.
Because sports are so demanding, unlike regular people, athletes don’t get enough time to recover from these injuries. Their recoveries are often sped up to prepare them for their next challenge.
Most importantly, they aren’t just playing for fun. They are endorsed by countless brands that are waiting for immediate returns. So, if an athlete is a no-show, it can actually affect their career.
But it isn’t only common among those who are currently playing. A 2018 study concluded that drug abuse is prevalent even among the retired athletes. The issue can be traced to their active years. 26.2% of the responding athletes admitted to having recently taken prescription drugs.
The Athletes constant race to the top
Drug abuse is found at every level of competition. Part of the problem seems to be the replaceability factor.
Due to high competition, players have become disposable. If they refuse to show up for some reason, they can kiss their careers goodbye. So, they often do whatever it takes to reach the top and become irreplaceable, including drug abuse.
From artificial energy to quick recovery, drugs offer an instant reward system. And although that works for many, it also presents countless long-term physical and mental issues such as addiction, diminished sexual stamina, hypertension, anxiety, depression, poor coordination, organ damage, hemorrhage, and stroke.
Despite the strict laws in the country, drug abuse is quite prevalent among sports players. Many lose their jobs or get banned from playing their favorite sport ever again.
Quick fix for mental health disorders
Athletes are constantly looking for ways to manage their public image both on-field and off-field. While playing sports can be an incredibly amazing experience and a dream come true for many others, it can take a toll on the players.
Media, admirers, and sponsors together contribute to the declining mental health of the players. The stressful environment can compel athletes to turn to drugs to cope with it. And the most concerning part is that they are much less likely to get treatment for mental illnesses.
It could either be because they are always in a rush to reach the top or because they don’t get enough time to get in touch with their thoughts. This might be another reason that athletes still consider mental illnesses as a weakness,
Sports rehabs are also more focused on physical rehabilitation than mental recovery. Therefore, athletes who find it difficult to keep up with their lifestyle prefer being in euphoria as an escape.
How to prevent addiction in athletes
Many healthcare professionals think it’s important to include a team of mental health experts in the network of doctors. They can identify and help humanize the problems faced by athletes throughout the course of their careers.
Besides, trainers, coaches, and parents should also be involved in the training to spot signs of drug abuse, instead of restricting the training to only the athletes.
Drug testing programs can also be set up at every level of competition to detect the addiction early on. Offering career security, similar to ansy job security, can also help solve the problem of addiction among athletes.
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