Sports, we all watch at least one of them! Football, soccer, basketball, cycling, swimming, etc. all garner attention from across the globe. Sports are entertaining to watch because we can watch what an ordinary person can accomplish purely through physical strength. Athletes are able to accomplish amazing feats, they almost seem inhuman at times. We often hold them up on a pedestal far above our own, almost like they are a celebrity. However, at the end of the day, they are just normal folks like us that go through the same struggles and trials in life. Athletes have just been fortunate enough to have natural skills in the physical aspect of life. With that in mind, it’s time to discuss one outstanding struggle that many athletes have battled or are currently battling: addiction.
Athletes and the Growing Problem of Addiction
As we mentioned earlier, athletes may have a special talent when it comes to physical fitness, but deep down they are no different than you and me. When it comes to internal struggles, you may be surprised to learn that athletes go through the same struggles we all do. No one person, regardless of social status/career/wealth, is without their own personal struggles. Unfortunately, that means that athletes are susceptible to personal struggles like an addiction. Substance abuse is something that has plagued sports in recent decades. But, how does someone that’s dependent on their physical fitness start to take up habits that can affect it? There are a few reasons as to why this may happen:
If an athlete has someone in their family (father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, etc.) that has suffered from addiction in the past, they are far more likely to take up substance abuse. Genetics play a huge role in someone’s likelihood of adopting substance abuse behaviors. The way families use substances can also affect a person’s view of substance use. For example, if a person sees their mother/father/grandmother/grandfather drinking every night and getting drunk, their views on alcohol use may be warped in a way that they see that behavior as socially acceptable/normal.
There’s no denying the fact that athletes have to deal with an insane amount of stress most days. We all have our own ways of dealing with stress, whether they may be healthy or not. If an athlete can not find a healthy way to deal with the pressure to perform, they may be more likely to seek out substance use as a way to cope with the stress. Though athletes are incredibly fit, it doesn’t mean they always stay that way. They need to train constantly and impress the fans, coaches, and/or teammates with their performance. If they aren’t able to impress these people, they may start to have feelings of insecurity which could also push them to substance abuse for coping.
Since athletes are always pushing themselves to perform better, they are more likely to injure themselves. If the injury is severe enough, the person may be prescribed pain medication. Pain medications can be highly addictive and if someone starts to rely on the medication too much, they will develop an addiction. When a prescription runs out, they may start to look for other methods of numbing the pain (narcotics or alcohol, commonly abused substances for pain relief).
What Substances are being Abused?
What are some of the common substances being abused amongst athletes? Let’s discuss which ones athletes are most likely to use:
Alcohol is a legal substance, which means it is the most easily accessible substance to abuse. This substance can be found at stores, parties, bars, etc. it’s pretty much everywhere. Athletes will often times celebrate a post-game win with their teammates at a bar or party and peer pressure can cause them to drink more than they need to. When that type of behavior is reinforced, a person can easily fall right into addiction. Some athletes that have infamously struggled with alcohol addiction are Johnny Manzel, Dennis Rodman, and Mike Tyson. This substance can have some short-term effects that may be desirable to some people, but the long-term effects are nothing to mess around with.
Another substance that can commonly be found in athletics, cocaine is notorious for being a party drug. Many athletes have been caught doing this drug at clubs and parties, resulting in prison time, mandatory rehab check-ins, or even death. Athletes like Lawrence Taylor (NFL), Darryl Strawberry (MLB), and Martina Hingis (Tennis) were suspended for their use of the substance. Some athletes have even lost their lives to the drug (Len Bias, Don Rogers, and David Waymer). This substance creates a short, but powerful high for users which prompts them to continually use for the sake of a longer high. This is why people can easily overdose on this drug.
As we mentioned earlier, athletes are prone to accidents/injuries, which means they are more likely to be prescribed pain meds. Pain medications can be highly addictive and, if not taken in monitored doses, can result in addiction or even death. Some athletes you may know that have struggled with prescription drugs are Erik Ainge, Chris Herren, Jason Williams, Scott Charles Bigelow, Christopher Bowman, Andy Irons, and Derek Boogaard. This type of addiction is no joke, some of those athletes even lost their lives to this substance.
This substance, in particular, is not fatal necessarily, but highly addictive. This drug is used for performance enhancement in bodybuilders but is commonly abused in professional sports. This gives athletes an unfair advantage against their competitors because it reduces fat, body weight, and increases muscle mass at an incredible rate. This sort of performance enhancement is not natural and can really only be achieved through steroids. Sports frequently test for steroids, but sometimes instances can fall through the cracks.
Athlete Addiction in the News
You may have seen it in the news recently, but the starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels, Tyler Skaggs, passed away from an accidental overdose on fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol. It is unfortunate to see addiction take the life of someone so young. Skaggs was only 27 at the time and had a promising future in the MLB ahead of him.
This goes to show how dangerous addiction can be and how it can ruin so many lives. If athletes are struggling with addiction, they should reach out for help. The last thing they would want to happen is for their professional career in sports to be tarnished because of their bad habits. Addiction can be prevented, all a person needs to do is ask for a little help.
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