A DANGEROUS GAME
Athletes are at a heightened risk of exposure to drug use. They may be prescribed substances to manage pain or to help them recover from injury, they may feel pressure to take substances to improve their performance, they may succumb to the temptations and pressures of attention from others that frequently comes with the job. This is before we even consider the impact of transition from a playing career into the 'real world' which some sportspeople can find is eased by alcohol, gambling and, yes - a wide variety of illegal and non-prescribed prescription drugs.
Do you have a problem with recreational drugs?
Contrary to popular belief, addictive disorders linked to recreational or 'social' drugs are certainly still an issue in modern professional sport, linked in part to the much more widespread use and availability of drugs throughout in society in general.
Every individual has their own decision to make in terms of weighing up the benefits and consequences of recreational use. ‘Is my use problematic?’ For athletes, like many other professions, recreational use is prohibited under the terms of their employment and so any form of use is inherently high risk.
Remember that alcohol is a drug, just a legal one, and although many sportsmen and women in our experience would categorically state that they would never touch illegal drugs, we also know that an individual's ability to make sound judgements and decisions can be seriously impaired when drinking.
Do you have a problem with prescription drugs?
Athletic injuries can be extremely painful and involve very long recovery times. Prescription drugs, especially opioids, are commonly used during physical therapy and the rehabilitation process to deal with the pain of the recovery.
Some opioids are very powerful with a very high rate of addiction. Athletes who begin to use opioids at some point in their career can develop an addiction which controls their lives long after they have retired. If you find yourself visiting multiple doctors to try to get a new prescription or buying drugs over the internet, it's very likely that you have developed a dependence.
Opioids can also act as a gateway drug for some sportspeople who go on to develop harmful relationships with recreational drugs.
If you are concerned about your relationship with any type of drug in any way, try the following questions:
+ Do you ever use alone?
+ Have you ever substituted one drug for another, thinking that one particular drug was the problem?
+ Have you ever manipulated or lied to a doctor to obtain prescription drugs?
+ Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to obtain drugs?
+ Do you regularly use a drug when you wake up or when you go to bed?
+ Have you ever taken one drug to overcome the effects of another?
+ Do you avoid people or places that do not approve of you using drugs?
+ Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
+ Has your performance ever suffered from the effects of your drug use?
+ Have you ever been arrested as a result of using drugs?
+ Have you ever lied about what or how much you use?
+ Do you put the purchase of drugs ahead of your financial responsibilities?
+ Have you ever tried to stop or control your using?
+ Have you ever been in hospital because of your using?
+ Does using interfere with your sleeping or eating?
+ Does the thought of running out of drugs terrify you?
+ Do you feel it is impossible for you to live without drugs?
+ Do you ever question your own sanity?
+ Is your drug use making life at home unhappy?
+ Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without drugs?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions it may be worth examining your relationship with drugs further.
Support is available
Sporting Chance offers a range of services to male and female athletes to help them with problem drug use, other addictive or destructive behaviours and emotional wellbeing.
It is important to recognise that those worried about recreational or prescription drug use are not alone and that many people who have experienced the same issues have gone on to successfully overcome them.
Identifying that there might be a problem is an important and courageous first step. The next, equally brave, step is to talk to someone about it and ask for help.
Those who are eligible for Sporting Chance’s services can call or text our helpline or e-mail us. You can find the information of how to get in touch here.
Sporting Chance offers a range of services to individuals and organisations that are concerned about substance use and misuse:
If you are concerned about your drug use or the impact that somebody’s else drug use is having on you please contact us.
We have a nationwide network of counsellors and therapists enabling our clients to access confidential, professional support.
For those suffering from more severe addictive disorders, our residential clinic offers professional treatment programmes.
Sporting Chance offers an education and training programme to raise awareness about the dangers of substance use and misuse.