Athletes of every age can feel internal and external pressure to succeed. Athletic competition requires physical and mental toughness beyond what the average person is capable of. Between the scrutiny of coaches, families, friends and the consumer market, an athlete faces tremendous pressure. As a result, many athletes turn to drug use.
Athletes face unique challenges when it comes to substance use and addiction. To prevent and treat addiction among athletes, it’s important to understand how and why this drug abuse occurs.
Why Athletes Use Drugs
Athletes are at risk for drug abuse due to the competitive nature of sports. Participation in competitive sports can lead to continuous, intense pressure to become stronger and faster and perform better. On top of everyday responsibilities and obligations, such as work, school and childcare, the stress can mount and lead an athlete to try different substances that may be able to reduce their body’s response to stressors or increase their performance.
Additionally, drug abuse can follow sports injuries. Athletes are often prescribed powerful painkillers after sustaining injuries, and the use of these drugs can lead to addiction. At times, substances are also used by athletes recreationally.
How Common Is Drug Use Among Athletes?
While the numbers on how many athletes use drugs are difficult to determine, research on college and high school athletes shows that drug use is widespread. Many student-athletes report substance use. Consider these facts about athletes and drugs in college:
- About 22% reported using marijuana in the past year.
- Around 23% reported using pain medication within the past year.
- Approximately 44% of males reported binge drinking.
- About 33% of females reported binge drinking.
Student-athletes in contact sports are more likely to engage in binge drinking, while basketball players report lower levels of substance use than other athletes. Athletes who abuse anabolic steroids are also more likely to use other drugs.
Athletes With Drug Addictions
The following are examples of pro athletes who were addicted to drugs:
- Len Bias: Len Bias’s drug addiction to cocaine led to his death at age 22. The cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, which was a result of a cocaine overdose he experienced two days after being drafted. In professional sports, it was one of the youngest deaths related to drugs.
- George Best: George Best’s substance abuse involved alcohol. The Irish soccer star died after suffering multiple organ failure at age 59. His drinking problem reportedly led to turbulent relationships with his loved ones. In fact, Best’s son published a book in which he detailed the extent of the drinking problem, which often included neglect and violence.
- Marvin Barnes: Marvin Barnes’s abuse of cocaine led to the disintegration of his career and likely to his death at age 62. Barnes was reportedly drug-free for years before again succumbing to his addiction prior to his death. By his own admission, he began using drugs during his second season in professional basketball, after which point his skills began to diminish and his life started its downward spiral.
Receive Treatment at Gateway Foundation
If you are an athlete struggling with drug abuse, you deserve treatment that addresses your individual needs. With the help of addiction medicine, Gateway Foundation has been providing lifesaving treatment to clients for more than 50 years.
If you or a loved one is an athlete suffering from drug addiction, now is the time to seek help. To learn more about our services and receive care, contact us today.