substance abuse among athletes

A big problem in athletic competitions for years now has been the grim aspect of substance abuse among athletes, not only with steroids and other performance enhancers, but also with different types of addictive and harmful drugs too like heroin, prescription drugs, cocaine, and meth to name a few.  An athlete’s performance on the field is significantly affected by drug use, whether it is enhanced by it or detracted from it.  The truth is though, that none of these substances ever help in the long run, as athletes end up getting addicted to them, they begin to detract from his or her performance, and the result is that they end up getting found out and disbarred from the competition.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is currently charged with keeping the Olympics and other competitive sports fair and honest.  However, it is to a degree pretty easy to beat their tests, as we saw during the most recent Tour de France.  The WADA also has let a lot of drug use go unchecked amongst Russian athletes in the past, even though it was fully aware of these occurrences.

It becomes apparent then that the Olympic Council and the individual countries and the athletes too must take it upon themselves to stop drug and alcohol abuse from occurring among athletes.  Substance abuse among athletes is profoundly immoral and unethical.  It gives them an unfair advantage and edge, and it ruins the entire premise of the game.  Good sportsmanship, fairness, equality, honorable competition, and community and cultural unity are all the hallmarks of the Olympics and athletic events worldwide.  When drugs are entered into these games, then all of the above qualities are torn asunder, and everything that the Olympics stands for is ruined.  This is why drug use among Olympic athletes and athletes in other types of competitions, in general, must be stopped.

Statistics on Rising Substance Abuse Among Athletes

The issue with student and professional athletes alike abusing drugs and alcohol is on the rise and has been for some time now.  As substance abuse statistics in all sectors all across the nation are rising, it shouldn’t be surprising that they are also growing in the athletic community.  However, it concerns because this is a demographic that has never struggled with drug abuse and addiction before.  Before the turn of the century athletes rarely if ever struggled with drug abuse issues.  Now Russia has a state-sponsored doping system for their professional athletes, and more American athletes have overdosed in the last fifteen years than in the time between 1950 and 2000.  For some statistics on these issues as brought to us but the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, (NSDUH):

  • Nearly one-quarter of student-athletes reported using prescription pain medication. Approximately 23% of student-athletes admitted using pain medication in the past year. Most student-athletes that acknowledge use had a prescription for the medication. There were about 6% of student-athletes that indicated use without.
  • Student-athletes who reported ADHD medication use were more likely to use without a prescription. Of the student-athletes surveyed, 9% admitted using ADHD medication without a prescription. Overall use of ADHD medication, either with or without a prescription, was reported by 16% of student-athletes.
  • It is particularly alarming that 30 percent of these student-athletes report experiencing blackouts, which are red flags for developing an alcohol addiction. Also, more than 30 percent have done something they later regretted, and more than 25 percent have been criticized for their drinking.
  • It was identified that there were implications of use and abuse of drugs and alcohol on both academic and athletic success, with more than 25 percent missing class and 16 percent performing poorly on a test or in practice due to use.
  • Less than 5 percent of NCAA student-athletes report prescribed ADHD stimulant medication use, similar to the estimates of ADHD in this population, but more than 5 percent report use without a prescription. The percentage of student-athletes prescribed narcotics for pain medication is higher than the general student body, which is understandable with injury and pain a part of competitive athletics, but use without a prescription is of great concern given the potential for addiction to these medications. Whether this nonprescribed use is self-medication for inadequate response to sports injury is an area for further research.

Using Rehabilitation to Handle and Help Addicted Athletes

The Olympics has begun to take an even firmer stance on drug and alcohol abuse amongst addicts who compete in the Olympic Games.  The rules have gotten stricter and stricter as the decades have passed, and now they have been taken to a whole new level in the hopes that drug abuse won’t be a factor at all in the upcoming games.  The screenings are going to be even more comprehensive, and athlete’s performance histories, previous drug test results, and criminal records will also be carefully examined on a case by case basis.  Finally, if an athlete is found to be a substance abuser, then he or she will be referred to inpatient, residential, drug and alcohol addiction and dependence treatment center, rehab program, detox facility, and recovery organization options.  In this way, it is possible that the substance abuse problem will be eradicated from the Olympics.

In the end, this must also be approached on a highly personal level.  If an athlete is found to be abusing drugs and alcohol, then get him or her help.  Get him or her into an inpatient rehab center so that they can handle the addiction, not just suppress it.  Help that person so that he or she can go on to pursue his or her dreams as a professional athlete with no substance abuse involved whatsoever.

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when help is so close.

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