Sports are seen as a domain free of drug use. After all, athletes get tested regularly for any drug use. If they are found to use anything not prescribed by a doctor, they risk getting kicked off their team. However, the key phrase here is "prescribed by a doctor." This is how drug addiction has quietly slipped its way into the world of sports. Now, an alarming number of sports stars are addicted to painkillers.
Injuries Open the Door for Drug Addiction
With star athletes pushed to play their best, they sometimes get injured. These injuries can sometimes become excruciating, leading players to seek out painkillers from their doctors. Injuries to the knees, groin, and ankles can cause immense pain. If any of these areas of the body is facing issues, it can incapacitate an athlete. What's worse is that once these body parts are injured, there is a greater risk of developing recurring problems.
Doctors are quick to prescribe painkillers, particularly opiates. While they do take the pain away very effectively, they are also highly addicting. When those recurring problems start arising, a substance abuse problem can also develop. This is partially because you build up a tolerance the longer you take opiates. This leads to needing to take more to get the desired effects. This is how star athletes become addicted to prescription drugs.
When athletes get injured, they are usually prescribed the powerful opioid oxycontin. However, depending on the pain level they are experiencing, they may sometimes even be prescribed the highly addictive fentanyl. This is an opiate that is up to 100 times more potent than morphine. Also, the risk of death skyrockets when an athlete gets hooked on potent opioids such as this one.
Lethal Dangers After Retirement From Sports
To understand just how severe this problem is, we need to follow the path of a star athlete from the time they become injured, to getting prescribed painkillers, to getting addicted to those painkillers, to retiring because they can no longer play as well as they used to.
Once athletes who have seen a great deal of physical injury retire, they continue getting deeper into prescription painkiller use. The rate at which retired NFL players abuse opiates is three times that of the general public. Unfortunately, things become even more tragic.
Prescription painkillers are expensive. Also, at some point, a doctor will stop prescribing them. Star athletes who become addicted end up using up all their painkillers and are unable to get more. There is one solution, but it's a dangerous one: heroin.
Heroin and prescription opioids are similar in many ways, since they both have similar effects on the human body. That same feel-good high athletes are after can be provided by heroin, at a fraction of the price. This leads to retired players delving into the dangerous world of heroin abuse.
This is a much more common scenario than you may think. In fact, 94% of people who abuse painkillers used heroin since it costs less and is easier to get. Also, 8 out of 10 users of heroin first used prescription painkillers.
As you probably know, heroin is very dangerous and can even be lethal. Overdoses are not uncommon, which is the ultimate tragic ending to the story of what once was a star athlete renown for their incredible athletic skills.
Star athletes are becoming addicted to painkillers at an alarming rate. More has to be done to address this issue that has proven fatal too many times already. Prescription opioids are highly addictive, and with how freely they are given to athletes, it begs the question: is there a better way to address sports injuries?