Prescription Drug Addiction Among Athletes

prescription drug addiction

Prescription drug addiction is a problem in many parts of our society and athletes are no exception. Why are some athletes prone to substance abuse? Some people blame the very nature of sports and the fact that some athletes themselves have a competitive streak that can often lead to psychological stress and physical injuries. The pressure that athletes, including high school, college and pro players are under can be extraordinarily high.
Because competitive athletes are prone to injuries, prescription painkillers have become prevalent in managing the discomfort and pain from those injuries. If an athlete continues to use painkillers for pain management then this can lead to dependence and eventually prescription drug addiction.
There are several kinds of drugs that athletes typically use to manage injuries and pain:

1) Stimulants
Methamphetamine and cocaine are sometimes used by athletes in order to maintain higher levels of energy and alertness. They are also sometimes used to increase aggressiveness in sports like football, boxing, wrestling and martial arts.
These types of stimulant drugs are extremely addictive, and many athletes soon learn that what begins as performance enhancer often quickly devolves into full-blown addiction.

2) Narcotics
Narcotics like opioids are quickly becoming a huge problem in the world of sports. Serious athletes sometimes push their bodies beyond their natural abilities, and this can lead to injury, chronic pain, or both.
While doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications for relief, these drugs often do not work well enough to ameliorate the high levels of pain that many athletes experience. As a result, doctors sometimes then prescribe opioid painkillers.
This can lead to dependence, abuse, and ultimately, prescription drug addiction.
The opioids that are commonly used today include:
– Codeine
– Hydrocodone (Hysingla, Zohydro ER)
– Hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
– Hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
– Meperidine (Demerol)
– Methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)
– Fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis)

Warning Signs That an Athlete is Abusing Drugs
There are five generally recognized warning signs that one may see in an athlete who is struggling with drug use or abuse. While an individual might not show all these warning signs, evidence of more than one of them may warrant a conversation. These warning signs include:
1. Physical Signs
When an athlete is experiencing prescription drug addiction you may see some of the following physical signs:
– Slurred or repetitive speech
– Bloodshot or red eyes, dilated or tiny pupils (depending on the substance)
– Repetitive or slurred speech
– Significantly increased or decreased activity levels (depending on the substance)
– Excessive sniffling or runny nose (not attributable to a cold or illness)
– Changes in appetite
– Excessive weight loss or gain

2. Medical Signs
Some of the following medical signs of prescription drug addiction may only be noticeable by a physician, you should ask your doctor if any of the following are present in the athlete in your life:
– High blood pressure/hypertension
– Stomach ulcers
– Nausea and other digestive problems
– Heart palpitations and arrhythmia

3. Psychological Signs
Mood swings are common for nearly all types of prescription drug addiction. Other signs include:
– Insomnia
– Depression and anxiety
– Anger issues
– Denial about the use of drugs or about the amount being used
– Rationalization of drug use including excuses and other justifications for behavior
– Minimization – when someone admits to problems casually, but not the true seriousness of the problem
– Diversion – When someone changes the subject in discussions about drug or alcohol use

4. Behavioral Signs
You may also notice the following behavioral changes when someone is misusing drugs:
– Changes in social circles
– Performance obsession
– Problems with money and finance
– Disciplinary problems with coaches, teachers or bosses
– Loss of enjoyment of activities previously enjoyed

5. Drug Paraphernalia
Athletes who are abusing drugs will do their best to keep their drug paraphernalia hidden. Things to look for include:
– Empty plastic baggies
– Pipes and other smoking aids
– Syringes
– Pill vials
– Folded pieces of paper

Seeking Treatment for Athletes
If you believe that you know an athlete who is using drugs, it’s important that you try to get them to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Call us at: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message.

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