Drug abuse is a common occurrence across all types of sports, at all competitive levels. Besides just performance-enhancing drugs such as steroids and stimulants, many athletes feel compelled to abuse drugs and alcohol for a variety of other reasons. The intense pressure to perform, coupled with a possible underlying mental health disorder can all contribute to a drug abuse problem for today’s athletes. Intense pressures to execute peak performance, a life traveling on the road for weeks and months, all creating stress and the ripe conditions to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. While most professional sports organizations like the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL drug test their athletes, so many still turn to illicit substances to cope with the intense pressures of their professions.
The lavish lifestyle of professional sports also helps foster an environment, ripe with the potential for substance abuse to occur. Many professional athletes are highly paid and have access to social circles known for their excessive partying. It is very common in the United States to see sports stars getting arrested for drug-related crimes, failing drug tests or entering a drug rehab program. These types of stories are all over the news, seemingly all the time. Like millions of Americans, athletes are no less likely to develop a chemical dependency to drugs or alcohol than anyone else. It is sometimes surprising however, to see a person who’s job demands peak physical fitness, succumb to an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Why do some athletes turn to alcohol or drugs?
Much like any other person, athletes can begin using drugs or alcohol for a variety of different reasons. The one semi-unique reason, somewhat specific to athletes is the area of performance-enhancing drugs. Some athletes feel that they need a competitive “edge” that will help them win, putting them the extra step ahead of their competitors. Athletics can come with a lot of pressure to perform and a win-at-all-costs attitude. Performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) come at a cost however. While steroids, personal growth hormones, stimulants and even diuretics can help users feel “enhanced” there are numerous, dangerous side-effects associated with their use.
The major side effects of performance enhancing drugs are arguably just as dangerous as any illicit street drugs are. Anabolic steroids can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, baldness, lost sex drive and decreased liver function. Human growth hormones can cause severe imbalances in the body, creating a greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Using stimulants as a performance enhancing drug can greatly increase the risk of a heart attack in athletes. Depending on the type of stimulant, a drug overdose could also occur which could lead to death very easily.
Aside from PEDs, athletes can become addicted to just about any other type of substance, exactly like anyone else. Athletes experience different injuries all the time. It is common for sports doctors to prescribe opioids like Oxycontin, Vicodin or Percocet for pain relief. Many athletes become chemically-dependent on these prescription pain killers because they are highly addictive. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can also contribute to a substance use disorder for athletes. In 2011, former boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya was highly depressed, even contemplating suicide at the height of his addiction to cocaine and alcohol. Luckily he sought help from a drug rehabilitation program, saying that overcoming his addiction was the “greatest fight of his life”.
Professional sports, brain injuries and substance abuse.
A major controversy has surrounded professional sports for decades regarding traumatic brain injury and deaths related to contact sports, especially the NFL. Boxing, wrestling and ice hockey are also high impact sports that have a lot of players who experience concussions and other types of brain injuries. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that can cause early onset dementia, chronic depression and memory loss. This brain disease was found in nearly all former NFL players according to numerous studies completed on the subject. Researchers have also shown a direct link between brain injury and substance abuse.
Since drug abuse is a major problem in sports, athletes need professional help from a drug rehabilitation center, just like any other person who is struggling with an addiction. More Than Rehab, located just outside of Houston, Texas is one of the best, evidence-based addiction treatment programs in the nation. Find out if we can help you, or a loved one who is struggling with a substance abuse problem right away. The sooner you call, the sooner we can help. We are open 24/7 to help you.