Athletes & Drugs

Professional sportspeople in any sport can fall victim to addiction for a number of reasons, it doesn't just happen to those who are perceived to have more successful careers and it doesn't just happen to those for whom maintaining their professional status is a constant battle. It doesn't just happen to men, it doesn't just happen to sportspeople from certain socio-economic backgrounds and it doesn't just happen to those who may have embraced the party lifestyle away from the sporting arena.

There are sufferers of addictive disorders in every walk of life outside sport and athletes are ultimately just the same. They're as susceptible to addiction as anyone else, and a high level of physical prowess and athleticism doesn't make them any more resistant to addiction. Anyone can become an alcoholic or a drug addict, due to factors that may have absolutely nothing at all to do with their profession.

Athletes are, however, 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.

Drug use can frequently evolve into drug abuse, it often just needs time and any number of readily available extenuating circumstances in order to develop. There are actually a number of paths and substances people can fall into through professional sport, many of them geared towards improving performance or recovering from injury.

Pain Relief & Rehabilitation

A significant proportion of drug addiction in sport is linked to opioids for pain relief. Athletes who begin to use them at some point in their career can develop an addiction which controls their lives long after they have retired. Opioids can also act as a gateway drug for some sportspeople who go on to develop harmful relationships with recreational drugs.

Simply put, prescription opioids are meant for relieving extreme or chronic pain. This is a role it does well, and it has certainly improved many lives in its ability to relieve pain.

It's part of the make-up of an athlete, the way they are wired, to push their body to the very limits of its ability and this can frequently result in injury, sometimes sustained in the gym, sometimes at the hands or feet of an opponent. 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 process.

Opioids are a very powerful force with a very high rate of addiction, and if you are prescribed them, you should be very careful to take them exactly as directed. If you find yourself visiting multiple doctors to try to get a new prescription, it's very likely that you have developed a dependence and you should seriously consider getting some help before the situation gets worse.

Of course, we understand that managing chronic pain is one of the most difficult things a human being can do. Some of our clients have told us that whatever pain may come as the result of an addiction is preferable to a life in which they feel they are 'under-medicated'. But non-prescribed drugs, perhaps additional batches of a painkiller that you are already being prescribed by your doctor, are always a poor solution.

There are actually ways to manage your physical pain that won't take control of your life. Taking more painkillers than you are prescribed certainly isn't one of them. You will eventually build up a tolerance and no matter how good the painkillers made you feel, they'll eventually stop working as your body adjusts. To get the same feeling, you'll eventually have to use more and more, until either you can no longer afford it or your body breaks down and you become seriously ill.

If you suspect you are suffering from prescription painkiller addiction, call us confidentially to get the help you need and don't fall into the common trap of assuming that you have to choose between the pain of injury and the pain of addiction.

Recreational or 'Social' Drugs

Contrary to popular belief, addiction disorders linked to recreational or 'social' drugs are certainly still an issue in modern professional sport. Many of our clients, having experimented with recreational drugs at a younger age, quickly became addicted and struggled to adapt to the world of professional sport with its constant demand for elite performance and its increasingly rigorous testing procedures. We also find recreational drug addiction is common in retired athletes who may have struggled to adapt to life after their sporting career.

Remember that alcohol is a drug 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. Unfortunately, many of our clients have discovered this to be true after the event and their lives have been affected hugely as a result of 'one night out' with the boys or girls.

Please note that all the information that you are about to read below is just that; information. Please be aware that Sporting Chance has no opinion of or judgement of those who use recreational drugs (in exactly the same way we don't judge those who drink or gamble or who are addicted to drugs that were originally prescribed to them). What we do have is years and years of experience of their negative effects, specifically in the lives and careers of professional sportspeople.

If you feel you have lost the ability to make an informed choice about your drug use, pick up the phone and ask for the help that you need. Like any client that approaches Sporting Chance, you will be never, ever be judged and you will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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0870 220 0714
We run the only residential clinic in the world that exclusively treats current and former professional sportspeople

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