Athlete After WorkoutAccording to the media, an opiate epidemic of epic proportions now exists in the US. Athletes, while renowned for being excellent role models with exemplary health, strength and determination, have a huge weight of pressure and expectation on their shoulders. They’re also at a much higher risk of sustaining injuries than nonathletes, especially those who play contact sports. As such, they have an increased potential for developing an addiction to painkillers. Read on to discover six ways athletes can easily turn into addicts.

1. Ease of Access

As a result of the rigorous demands of competitive sports, athletes are twice as likely to be prescribed painkillers than everyone else. Perhaps as a result of the pressure of performing and the mental strain of constantly chasing a win, they’re also four times more likely to abuse these prescription drugs.

Doctors are quick to give out addictive opiate substances such as tramadol and Vicodin. In 1991, physicians prescribed just 76 opioids; in 2012, this number peaked at 255 million. Although this had decreased to around 191 million by 2017, the readiness of clinicians to prescribe opioids is still contributing to the opiate crisis. Guidelines suggest that opiates shouldn’t be given out for more than a week because of how addictive they are, but athletes often receive 30-day prescriptions.

2. High Risk of Repeat Injuries

Naturally, people who engage in physical activity most days of the week have a much higher risk of succumbing to injuries. Those who compete in gymnastics, soccer, football, boxing, basketball and softball face a particularly high risk. Knee, groin and ankle injuries can cause significant pain, and these parts of the body are imperative for the type of movement demanded by these sports. Once weakened, it doesn’t take much for these to become recurrent problems.

If athletes have MDs who are quick to prescribe opioids, they can end up being exposed to these addictive substances frequently. Repeat exposure is an important risk factor when it comes to developing a substance abuse problem. If you end up regularly using painkillers due to repeat or persistent injuries, you risk developing a tolerance. Once you’re tolerant, you’ll need more to achieve the desired effects. This is the way many people start to abuse prescription drugs.

3. Playing is Everything

Sports are competitive, and the people who play them are hard-wired winners. The desire to do well and prove yourself as an athlete can’t be shut off or ignored because of injury. The frustration felt as a result of not being fit to play is a heavy burden to carry. Additionally, team players can fear losing their hard-won place if they miss too many games. 

Strong painkillers can be so effective at masking the pain that athletes can use them to return to the playing field before injuries fully heal. The disappointment of sitting on the bench often outweighs the risks of making a repeat injury more likely and exposing yourself to such addictive substances.

4. Tramadol Doesn’t Violate Doping Rules

Tramadol is a narcotic painkiller that was only deemed a controlled substance in 2014. Perhaps as a result of this, some people still don’t fully comprehend the strength of the drug. Some doctors and coaches don’t discourage athletes from using the potent analgesic as a means of easing the pain of an intense workout. If someone uses tramadol in this way, they still come back with a clean drug test.

In spite of its reputation, many athletes risk Tramadol substance abuse to excel in their field. The fact that this drug is not illegal reinforces the behavior.  Endurance sportsmen and sportswomen such as cyclists and long-distance runners are especially prone to this because they can simply take a pill three-quarters of the way through their race and feel relief unlike anything else.

5. From Vicodin to Heroin

One of the most dangerous aspects of developing an addiction to legal painkillers that have been prescribed by a doctor is what happens when the supply dries up. Sometimes, people will turn to illegal street drugs such as fentanyl and heroin because they can no longer get a prescription. In other cases, when the high from medical analgesics is no longer enough, Addicts often seek out more intense highs once they are hooked.

6. Life After Sports

A sad outcome of a successful youth spent playing sports, enjoying the highs of winning and adulation of crowds, can be not knowing where to turn when that career is over. Due to the demanding nature of being an athlete, this occupation is much shorter-lived than many others. Once the body starts to age, a person’s ability to compete is impaired.

If an individual hasn’t made a clear plan for what they will do afterward, they can find themselves at a loss and craving the intense feelings they felt during their sporting life. Some people may turn to drugs to feel a semblance of the euphoria they experienced and get lost in a haze of addiction.

Sports are an incredible pastime, and the majority of people enjoy a long, happy career without turning to drug abuse. That said, the risk of becoming addicted is higher for sporting heroes. If the issues discussed in this article have affected you, call our men’s rehab now at 844-254-9664 to discover the wealth of help that’s available.