Addiction in Sports
There are plenty of athletes battling substance abuse in the news, and after taking a closer look, it should be no surprise that addiction is commonplace in the world of sports. There are several addiction risk factors piled up against athletes including a culture where getting treatment is frowned upon, an immense amount of pressure to succeed, and brain injuries. Although athletes are often looked up to because of their performance on the field, they are just as, if not more prone to battling drug and alcohol addiction.
Performance Enhancing Drugs
The use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) has been prevalent in professional sports since the 1960’s, and they are not going away anytime soon. Athletes often feel a high amount of pressure to succeed at their sport, despite jeopardizing their overall health. The use of these performance enhancing drugs can be extremely dangerous, as addiction and sometimes even death are potential outcomes. The most commonly used performance enhancing drugs are steroids, stimulants, human growth hormone and diuretics.
Anabolic steroids are typically used to build strength and muscle mass because they help boost testosterone. They are typically used in pills, creams or injections. These drugs are sometimes approved for medical uses in certain situations, however, they are never prescribed for athletic performance. Using anabolic steroids puts the individual at risk for addiction and other harmful consequences.
Outside of building muscles mass, anabolic steroids are also used to help athletes recover faster from heavy workouts. Some athletes also enjoy the feeling of aggression or “roid rage” that steroids can give off. Athletes that build up an anabolic steroid addiction are able to work out harder than naturally possible, giving them an unfair edge. These athletes have also built up an addiction for getting bigger and stronger.
Athletes that have an anabolic steroid addiction create a hormonal imbalance in their bodies. This leads them to become depressed and sometimes even suicidal when they disrupt their addiction. There is a drug for steroid addiction treatment that helps restore this hormonal imbalance, reducing depressive behavior during recovery.
Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormones are a cheaper alternative to steroids that also help to improve muscle mass. HGH has not officially been shown to improve strength or endurance, although recent studies have shown that combining it with anabolic steroids is effective. It is not possible to have an HGH addiction, however, it is possible to grow both emotionally and psychologically dependent on it over time.
Athletes find stimulants useful as performance enhancing drugs because they help with alertness, reduce fatigue and increase aggressiveness. They stimulate the central nervous system, increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Amphetamines, caffeine, and cocaine are a few of the most often used stimulants.
Stimulants are dangerous to use because often times, they can numb the athlete’s ability to feel pain. That means that they will be less likely to notice injuries during competition or training, making it easier to get even more hurt. Athletes that use stimulants are also more prone to making dangerous, high-risk decisions when competing.
Certain stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, and cocaine have a high rate of addiction, and almost all stimulants are banned substances in every sport. It is important to seek addiction treatment for amphetamines when needed because abusing these drugs is not worth the negative health impact it has on your body.
In medicine Diuretics are typically used to treat patients with heart failure and kidney issues, however, they can be used to mask the use of steroids in sports. These pills increase the amount that you urinate, creating health risks due to the loss of valuable nutrients. Athletes that compete in sports with weight requirements, such as boxing and wrestling, risk addiction by using these pills to lose water weight before competition.
Diuretics are dangerous because it is important for athletes to stay hydrated during competition. It may help individuals cut weight, or pass drug tests with diluted urine samples, but they are competing without nutrients needed for the body to perform at its best. They also put individuals at risk for addiction, heart failure, and blood pressure issues.
Alcohol addiction and sports have always seemed to go hand in hand over the years. Alcohol is served at almost every sports arena, alcohol advertisements are heavily geared towards sports fans and specific sports such as baseball have long been associated with drinking. With a culture that almost seems to encourage a drinking addiction, there is no surprise that many athletes struggle with alcohol addiction issues.
One of the biggest underlying reasons why athletes are prone alcohol addiction is the stress they face in everyday life. Especially at higher levels, athletes face the pressure perform well and win games. If they are not playing well, they are subject to criticism from fans and teammates. This is often magnified by high-stakes contracts and extensive media coverage. Since athletes feel this pressure, they may attempt to use alcohol as a way to negate this overwhelming feeling of stress. Once the athlete becomes dependent on the alcohol to relax, they are at risk a high risk for addiction.
Since athletes are able to perform at a stage higher than others would ever imagine, they may feel as if they are invincible. Even when other athletes around and see peers fighting alcohol addiction, they still look in the mirror and think there is no way it will happen to them. Athletes performing at a high level sometimes fail to realize that they are just as prone to alcohol addiction as everyone else. No matter how fast or strong they are, there is always a chance their alcohol consumption will develop into an addiction.
The negative stigma surrounding alcohol addiction makes it difficult for athletes to get treatment. Athletes grow up in a competitive atmosphere where they are not willing to show any physical weakness, such as an alcohol addiction. Instead of feeling comfortable with finding treatment, they may decide to push through their addiction problems like they would on the field.
When athletes think about getting alcohol addiction treatment, they immediately start to think about lost playing time, and how coaches and fans will view them moving forward. Athletes today live in a culture where they are shamed, or feel like they may be shamed, for treating alcohol addiction problems. This can make it quite difficult for them to get the addiction treatment they desperately need.
Almost every competitive athlete is bound to experience at least one serious injury over their career. In order to bounce back sooner, it is common for an athlete to turn to narcotic painkillers for relief. What is tricky about these pills is that they put the user at serious risk for addiction, despite wide availability. Even if the athlete has the best intentions going in, they can still fall victim to addiction because the habit forming feelings of euphoria these drugs provide.
Painkiller addiction is not limited to professional athletes. Kids in high school are often targeted by drug dealers due to their high levels of susceptibility. This is especially troubling because opioids can become a gateway to heroin addiction. Heroin is a cheaper and readily available alternative that provides similar effects at a higher addiction risk.
There is also a chance that athlete will self-medicate for head related trauma, such as concussions suffered on the field. Contact sports such as football and rugby put athletes at risk for undiagnosed psychological issues, that athletes may try to self-medicate to get rid of. Even if the athlete is unaware of the health trauma they are suffering from, the combination of drug addiction and mental illness can leave an individual in dire need of treatment.
Where Athletes Get Drugs
Today’s athletes are able to obtain addictive medication through both doctors and nonmedical sources. In leagues sports like football where the pain is a common occurrence, it is normal for athletes to be able to receive addiction forming painkillers from team doctors. As helpful as this can be, there are times when team physicians can unknowingly support the painkiller addiction of athletes. There are many former NFL athletes that are speaking out about this practice today, attempting to ensure that more players do not become drug addicted.
There are also sports, such as professional wrestling where drugs have been distributed among fellow athletes. Wrestler Michael Bell picked up an addiction to painkiller after he was given pills by other wrestlers. There have also been stories about baseball players selling and distributing anabolic steroids to their own teammates, supporting their addiction. As unsafe as it is, we are living in a time where it is easy for athletes to get their hands on drugs that can lead to addiction.
Thankfully for athletes, their achievement-oriented focus can make the task of overcoming substance abuse a rewarding one. While it may set the athlete back initially, their addiction recovery can give them even more potential to succeed in their sport.
In rehab, athletes are able to set addiction recovery goals that will help them stay focused moving forward. Their addiction is replaced with healthier activities, including their sport of choice, creating the thinking patterns needed for a successful recovery. At addiction recovery treatment, athletes are able to overcome the mental and physical hurdles created by substance abuse.