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Drug Abuse for Athletes

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Prescription drug abuse is common among professional athletes. The history of athletes using substances for artificially increasing performance dates back to ancient Greece, where athletes would use substances to enhance performance.  Unfortunately, performance-enhancing substances often have addictive qualities and eventual health consequences.

National Hockey League player Derek Boogaard joined a long list of professional athletes suffering from addiction. Boogaard was only 28 years old when a deadly combination of alcohol and prescription sleep aids claimed his life.

Investigations performed by law enforcement and Boogaard’s father revealed the athlete had 25 separate prescriptions for pain medications and sleeping aids for a combined total of over 600 pills. Dealing with chronic pain, high-stress lifestyles and performance enhancement are some of the reasons for prescription drug abuse among athletes.

Prescription Drug Abuse and Performance Enhancement

By definition, an athlete’s body is under severe physical strain and many professional athletes live with chronic pain. Injuries, subsequent surgeries and years of physical abuse often cause irreparable damage to tissues, which produces inflammation and pain.

Prescription pain medications enable athletes to continue performing under the rigors of their sport while dulling the sensation, which may cause further tissue damage. Pain thresholds and drug tolerance increase requiring higher dosages of medication. Narcotic pain medications that include Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin carry a high potential for addiction and prescription drug abuse.

Synthetically produced anabolic steroids mimic the body’s natural hormones that promote tissue growth. The popularity of steroid use among athletes accelerated in the 1980s. According to NIH, the long-term effects from steroid use include the possibility of developing cardiovascular diseases that increase the potential for having a heart attack or a stroke.

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The side effects of steroids may also cause a loss of impulse control and emotional overreaction, which are both symptoms of a condition known as “roid rage”.   Recently, athletes turn to human growth hormone (HGH) injections and other synthetic substances in attempts at increasing body mass and improving performance.

Athletes may also employ blood doping as a means of improving physical performance by increasing the amount of oxygen distributed to muscle tissue. Prescription drug abuse and other drug use investigations suggest the practice is not uncommon among Tour de France cyclists. Some receive erythropoietin injections, which increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Other athletes revert to blood transfusions that increase red blood cells numbers and subsequently oxygen carrying capacity.

Athletes travel from location to location for games, public events and training. These hectic daily schedules sometimes induce an inability to wind down, relax or sleep. Many turn to Ativan, Xanax and other prescription anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing agents. Over time, the psychological need increases and addiction combined with prescription drug abuse occur.

Prescription drug abuse is not uncommon in athletes and those under physical strain. If you or someone you love is using performance enhancing drugs or misusing prescription drugs, please call us today.  While performance enhancing drugs can improve performance in the short-term, prescription drug abuse for any length of time can be dangerous. Destination Hope is a full service drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida for men suffering from substance abuse issues.

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