Drug abuse has become a significant issue of concern in the sports niche in recent times. Media stations have covered story after story of the scourge, and the different experimentation escapades with drugs among stars in various sporting disciplines. With news about athletes having accidents due to drunk driving, going into rehab, or overdosing on hard drugs being all too common, it seems like the problem of drug addiction within the athletic fraternity is a force to reckon with.
Causes of Drug Abuse Among Athletes
Athletes are often under a lot of pressure to win and perform consistently to the best of their ability. This pressure leads them to experiment with drugs and frequently, the pressure metamorphoses into addiction. Also contributing to the drug addiction problem is the exorbitant salaries many athletes earn in short amounts of time. Consequently, the availability of money accords them easy access to expensive substances like cocaine and heroin, while also providing the right atmosphere to indulge. However, having a lot of disposable income is not the only reason athletes turn to drugs.
This article delves into the growing problem of drug addiction in athletes, read on to know more about causes and consequences of this problem.
i) To Get That Extra Boost of Performance
Besides easy access, one of the most common reasons athletes start abusing drugs is to enhance their performance. The high-pressure environment of competitive sports can leave athletes feeling drained and stressed. To relieve this stress, some athletes turn to the recreational use of drugs or performance-enhancing drugs.
Accordig to a 2017 poll, 79 people were interviewed who had specifically taken anabolic steroids, out of which 41% said improving performance was the main reason for taking them, followed by pain relief (40%) and improving how they look (34%).
ii) The Pressure to Fit in “The” circle
Another reason athletes fall into addiction is peer pressure. With many of their peers and role models already abusing drugs, young athletes fail to realize the severe risk that drug addiction poses to their careers and lives. Because the addiction can affect their emotional states and health as well.
iii) Dealing with Injuries
The third reason an athlete might resort to drugs is personal injuries. In a bid to accelerate recovery from an injury, some athletes abuse painkillers to assuage their pain as they seek to push their bodies beyond their capacities, resulting in a heavy reliance on medication. Subsequently, the dependence morphs into a full-blown addiction.
The athlete tends to ignore the importance of rest in accelerating healing and instead opts to mask the pain with medication to get a chance to practice and compete. However, playing with an injury exacerbates the already detrimental injuries and feeds into a vicious loop that is bound to end up to a severe career-ending injury, or with the athlete joining a rehab program.
Initiatives to Reverse the Trend
After public outcry and numerous scathing scandals, many of the world’s governing bodies have taken action against drug abuse among their athletes. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) started testing for drugs in the 1968 Olympics. Following the IOC’s lead, testing for substance abuse and performance-enhancing drugs has become a standard practice among the world’s top leagues and competitions.
Despite this widespread testing, the problem of substance abuse persists, partly driven by a lack of standardization. The creation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), an association charged with developing anti-doping unified standards, has significantly improved the ability of the sporting industry to respond to drug and substance abuse. In spite of this, varying practices have hampered efforts to have a consistent and global approach to drug abuse. It is left to the leagues and sports governing bodies to implement mitigating measures, leading to an overall discordant response to the whole issue.
Career penalties for drug abuse and use of performance-enhancing drugs have gotten stiffer with time. Some sports activities now have lifetime bans, while most have severe suspensions and fines. For example, the IOC banned Russia from participating in the 2016 summer Olympics due to reports of a state-sponsored doping program.
Help and Treatment for Athletes
Drug addiction often ruins the lives and careers of athletes unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. The fact that many athletes are young, frequently without families or with very young families, only serves to aggravate the predicament. Concerted efforts to manage this trend on an individual level are focused on two initiatives including prevention and cure.
In attempts to prevent drug abuse, many former famous sports personalities who have struggled with the vice have been encouraged to speak out about their struggle. Celebrities such as Mike Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Andre Agassi regularly give talks to young people about the dangers and lifelong effects of substance abuse.
More importantly, other star athletes who have succeeded without engaging in drug abuse have been encouraged to speak out and show that success without substance abuse and performance-enhancing drugs is possible.
Depending on the severity of their addiction, athletes have a choice of options to treat their drug addiction. They include therapy, medically supervised detox, and lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of relapse. The emphasis on a successful recovery is usually placed on lifestyle changes including meditation and mindfulness as well.
For example, excessive partying and similarly risky behavior are ill-advised, as is alcohol. Many sports and athletic teams now incorporate sports psychologists to support their athletes in dealing with the stress and strain of competitive sports. And it will help them break the cycle of negative thoughts that may occur due to excessive consumption of drugs it is not certain, however, if these efforts will effectively reverse the growing trend of drug addiction among athletes.