Sports injuries and drug addiction – are the 2 connected?
Sports are inherently competitive. If a sportsman/woman is not competing with someone else, they are competing with who they were yesterday, striving to do better, to be better. And the pressure to improve is not merely internal; from coaches to parents to fans, it seems that everyone around them pushes them to do more and be more.
Sports are also frequently seen as an escape from drug use. People who engage in youth sports have a much lower rate of drug use, as the team atmosphere and the presence of a strong role model is usually a good way to keep people from bad influences.
But we’re not talking about the benefits of team sports, good influences, and strong role models. We’re talking about the connection between sports injuries and drug addiction. At first, that connection may not be obvious, but it’s there.
Increasingly, athletes in any sport can fall victim to addiction for several reasons. And that’s not limited to just the highest level of famous athletes. This is an epidemic that affects all athletes, from world-class professionals to amateurs and even high schoolers.
Of course, athletes are ultimately just regular people. They’re as susceptible to drug addiction as anyone else, and a high level of physical prowess and athleticism doesn’t make them any more resistant to addiction. Anyone can become an alcoholic or a drug addict, due to factors that may have absolutely nothing at all to do with their profession.
What being an athlete does do, however, is put people at a heightened risk of exposure to drug use. Of course, drug usage can frequently evolve into drug abuse, given time and extenuating circumstances, like stress and anxiety. But what’s the connection exactly? How do people go from playing a sport to using drugs to being addicted?
There are several paths and substances people can fall into through sports, many of them geared towards improving performance or recovering from injury. Let’s first talk about one of the most harmful and common: opioids for pain relief.
What is the Link Between Prescription Opioids and Sports?
Simply put, prescription opioids are meant for relieving extreme or chronic pain. This is a role it does well, and it has certainly improved many lives in its ability to relieve pain.
How this intersects with sports injuries is simple: sports involve pushing the human body to the very limits of its ability. Sometimes that means pushing the body a little too far, and that means injuries. Athletic injuries can be extremely painful and involve very long recovery times, and in many cases, a simple dose of paracetamol just won’t cut it.
Prescription drugs, especially opioids, are commonly used during physical therapy and the rehabilitation process to deal with the pain of the recovery process. Tramadol is a particularly common culprit, and there’s no doubt it does a lot of good in the pain management department. But Tramadol is an opioid, and as such can be highly addictive.
Other opioids and opioid combinations commonly prescribed include: Codeine, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, Dihydrocodeine, fentanyl and naloxone.
These can all be prescribed by trained physicians (usually under their more user-friendly market names) to fight pain, and they can all cause addiction.
See, one of the most harmful misconceptions about drug abuse and addiction is that it is always the result of personal choice. That’s not the case at all. Addiction is not a choice, and in many cases, neither is the initial decision to use. Sometimes the only mistake anyone makes on the way to addiction is taking the advice and medication given to them by trusted medical professionals.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 22% of people who end up abusing prescription painkillers got them from a doctor. That’s in addition to the more than 50% of people whose prescription drug misuse started because they got it from friends or family members for free. That adds up to well over 72% of prescription drug abusers whose prescription drug abuse started because they got pills from someone they trusted.
What it means is that opioids are a very powerful force with a very high rate of addiction, and that if you have prescribed them, you should be very careful to take them exactly as directed. That may still not be enough – sometimes even reducing all the risk factors of addiction as much as you possibly can isn’t enough to avoid addiction. Sometimes one regular-size use is all it takes to start an addiction.
It’s important to note that this isn’t your fault. Addiction is not an issue of willpower or moral fibre. It’s a chemical reaction in your body, and it can happen to anyone.