Athletics are an integral part of adolescent development. Sports teach children how to socialize, listen to directions, be accountable and respectful while improving their physical health. However, while playing sports has its benefits, it also comes with the risk of becoming injured. As children get older, sports tend to become more physical and competitive. Increased competition usually leads to teens playing on more than one team and receiving additional training, resulting in overuse injuries.
When a player becomes injured, they may need physical therapy or even surgery, which often results in the prescribing of opiates to overcome the pain.
How Do Athletes Begin Using Opioids?
Athletes usually begin their opioid use from a prescription written by a medical professional to treat an injury they have endured. They typically start using the opioid to treat the initial pain from the wound, and then they continue to use it while they attempt to transition back into playing the sport. There is often some pain which is a natural part of the healing process post-injury upon returning to the game. However, to quickly get back to where they were before the injury, they take more medication to play through the pain.
Common Sports Injuries:
- Knee Injury
- Tennis Elbow
- Torn ACL
- Moderate to Severe Strains
- Groin Pain
What are the Most Commonly Prescribed Opioids for Sports Injuries?
Prescription opioids are medications prescribed by a Doctor to treat severe pain. They are usually prescribed to take for a short period after an injury or surgery. However, due to the potency of these drugs, even when taken as prescribed and for short-term use, the risk of addiction is high. Some of the most commonly prescribed opioids for sports injuries are Oxycodone, Percocet, Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Morphine, Demerol, Codeine, and Fentanyl.
Signs of Opioid Abuse Amongst Athletes:
Not every athlete prescribed an opioid medication will become addicted to opioids. When an individual follows a medical professional’s advice and consumes the prescribed drugs for temporary relief of pain, there should not be long-term consequences.
- Weight Loss
- Needs medication more frequently than initially prescribed due to increased tolerance.
- Inability to exercise without the prescription medication
- Decreased academic or physical performance
- Intense cravings to use the drug
- Experiences withdrawal symptoms
- Inability to sleep
- Isolating themselves from family and friends
- Opioid Overdose
What Can Parents Do to Prevent Misuse?
Medication abuse carries a high risk for addiction, particularly in the teenage years, a significant period in brain development. While almost every parent would agree that heroin is dangerous and would not want their teen using it, many of these parents are unaware of the risk factor of prescription opioids such as Oxycodone can be just as dangerous. However, some preventative measures parents can take to reduce the prevalence of prescription medicine misuse among teens.
- Administer medication to teens as directed rather than allow them to take on their own.
- Assess pain level before administering narcotic over Aspirin or Ibuprofen for moderate to severe pain.
- Keep prescription medication in a secure location.
- Do not save leftover medication once it is no longer prescribed.
- Dispose of all unused medicines properly.
- Be on the lookout for behavioral addictions.
- Educate your teen on the dangers of opioid addiction from an athletic injury.
- Speak to family members about the side effects of pain medications.
How to Prevent Opioid Misuse and Abuse:
- Try taking aspirin or ibuprofen before taking narcotic pain medicine, even if prescribed.
- Use Ice Therapy
- Use Heat Therapy
- Speak up about an injury when it occurs, no matter how minor it may seem.
- Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain
- Electric Stimulation Therapy
- Take time off from the sport to allow your body to heal and recover properly.
The best way to prevent the misuse and abuse of opioids is to limit the opportunity for injuries to occur in the first place.
How Can I Reduce the Risk of Sports Injuries?
An overuse injury occurs due to repetitive injury to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon caused by stress without allowing the body to heal. Teens especially are at increased risk for overuse injuries because they are proliferating during their teen years and their bones are less resilient to stress.
There are several ways teens can prevent overuse injuries, including:
- Staying Conditioned during the off season.
- Give your body at least one day to fully rest and recover
- Stay hydrated
- Do a proper warm-up
- Stop when you feel pain
- Wear good shoes
- Do a proper cooldown
- Stretch after exercise
- Use different muscle groups
Addiction does not discriminate. A gymnast is at just as much risk of injury and addiction as a hockey player. The toll that competitive sports have on athletes has created a constant cycle of practicing, playing, performing, pain, and pain relief, leading athletes to abuse prescription medication. A study by the University of Alberta disclosed that a common trait among the study group was hyper-competitiveness, which presented itself in heavy substance use and abuse. Laurie de Grace, a master’s graduate of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, stated, “They wanted to be the best at whatever they did, so if that meant being the best heroin user, that’s what they did.” A lot of athletes begin with prescribed prescription drugs and turn to the illegal drug heroin, developing a substance use disorder later down the road.
Show Your Strength – Ask for Help
At Avatar Alcohol & Drugs Recovery Center, we understand that being an athlete takes dedication, skill, stamina, talent, and determination. Many individuals wish they had what it takes to compete in athletics, but not everyone is built for the challenge. If you are an athlete, there are tons of reasons to reach out and ask for help. Asking for help is an accurate indicator of strength.
Don’t let substance abuse stand in your way. The sports you are participating in demand your best physical and mental strength. Alcohol and drugs may seem like a temporary solution to enhance performance or recover from an injury, but the rewards are short-lived. In the end, alcohol and drug use will diminish your ability to perform at all.
Avatar Alcohol & Drugs Recovery Center in New Jersey provides quality health care for drug and alcohol addiction treatments and behavioral health services. If you or someone is struggling, please call +1 (973)-774-7222 for more information. We provide a variety of treatment services for individuals struggling with addiction and mental health issues.