Addiction in Athletes

11/26/18: Addiction \ Drug Addiction
It is no secret that this country is facing one of the worst cases of addiction yet. Substance abuse has become an epidemic according to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are over 100 people that die every day from overdosing; this death rate is triple what it was 20 years ago. It is horrible to see the grip that addiction has. Addiction has no bias, it can affect anyone. One demographic that has succumb to substance abuse, again and again, is athletes. In the last couple of decades, athletes have started to abuse substances that can enhance their performance or they get ahold of other highly addictive substances because they have the money for them. The world of sports and young athletes are particularly vulnerable to developing substance dependencies. It’s ironic, the people with some of the healthiest lifestyles are facing one of the highest addiction rates. In this article, we will discuss the relationship between athletes and addiction and try to understand why these drug dependencies happen.


drug use among athletesAthletes have some of the most physically demanding jobs on the planet and that can put a lot of strain on the body. You can often see athletes getting minor to major injuries in their sports. When athletes have an injury, they may be prescribed painkillers in order to get back on their feet, but they may get over-prescribed. For most athletes, addiction stems from the use of prescribed drugs and painkillers. In the 1990s, doctors started overprescribing painkillers after surgery for injuries and as a result, opioid addiction has become a serious issue. About 21-29% of people who are prescribed pain-meds end up abusing them. Since athletes see injuries more often than the common person, this can put them at severe risk for addiction. Athletes want to eliminate pain quickly and get back into their sport, so it becomes common for doctors to prescribe painkillers. Abuse of these medications is all too common and it has led to many athletes falling victim to addiction.

Performing Under Pressure

Athletes are expected to be the best at what they do, especially when it comes to fan, coach, and team expectations. Everybody is counting on them to do their job and do it well. But expectations aren’t always a reality. There are good days and there are bad days. However, sports is extremely competitive and there is very little room for error. The intense amount of pressure and high expectations from everyone can be jarring, so much so that the person may resort to using alcohol or substances to cope. Many people would excuse this as a way to let out some emotions, but this is exactly how addiction starts.


Whenever a sports team wins, they are bound to celebrate in some way. To celebrate a win, they will typically go out to party and these parties typically have some sort of negative influence. Alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances are likely to be used in celebration. When a young athlete sees these substances being used during a celebration by their fellow teammates, they may be inclined to indulge themselves. The more they do this, the more likely they are to develop a serious addiction.

Drug-Use for Performance Enhancement

Athletes are always wanting to outdo the competition, but what happens when they fail time and time again to do so? Sometimes, they may resort to using steroids to be “the best”. Lance Armstrong, Manny Ramírez, and other notable athletes have been found to be using steroids to enhance their skills and outlast any competition. When Lance Armstrong was found to have been using steroids for all 7 years of his Tour de France victories, which goes to show how addictive the drugs can be. If you continue to outlast the competition and win overall, it can be hard to give up. Though steroids do have legitimate medical use, athletes have been known to abuse them to increase muscle mass & stamina to beat their competition. Though addiction can be tough to get out of, there are ways to battle it. Many athletes have struggled with addiction, but some have fought their way out of it. Here are a few notable athletes that have fought against their addictions:

Brett Favre

One of the top quarterbacks of all-time and three-time MVP, Brett Favre was the Green Bay Packers quarterback for most of his career. He has accomplished a number of things in his NFL history, but he did have a huge problem with opiate addiction at one point. Favre had multiple injuries throughout his career and had to resort to painkillers in order to continue playing. At one point, he had a seizure and that became his wakeup call to change his ways. Favre went to rehab after realizing how serious his addiction was, now he is celebrating 20 years sober.

Michael Phelps

Easily one of the world’s most renowned and awarded swimmers, Michael Phelps is an 18-time Olympic gold medalist. At the height of his career, he lost many of his endorsements when a picture of him smoking marijuana surfaced. After he realized the negative effects the drugs had on him and his career, he checked himself into a facility, beat his addiction, and is still the king of swimming. It’s easy to think that addiction can’t be beaten, but when you look at examples like these, you can see that recovery is possible. Don’t let addiction rule your life, you can recover and live a better life. Content for Arizona Addiction by Cohn Media, LLC. Passionate and creative writing and broadcasting, covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment and technology. Advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

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