Sports and sports “heroes” are always in the news for substance abuse. This abuse is not performance enhancing drugs, but marijuana, cocaine, recreational drugs and alcohol. The stories are so commonplace that athletes caught with illegal substances or ruining their health due to abuse and addiction is almost becoming a joke. Does drug and alcohol abuse ruin careers? There are no exact answers, but documenting circumstances lead to a resounding yes.

Addictive Behaviors

Prescription drugs are useful tools in sports medicine; can you imagine undergoing surgery without pain medications or treating infections without antibiotics? Pain medications offset strong pain and augment the healing process and when used in a legal and prescribed manner is necessary. Unfortunately substance abuse, improper medication usage and using barred substances in competitive sports are huge problems; recreational or social drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and alcohol are common drugs of choice.

Finding Help for Substance Abuse

There are many treatment centers for high profile and not so high profile athletes that have alcohol and drug addiction problems. Athletes can be highly successful patients due to their accountability and responsibility mentality. Some drug rehabilitation centers specializing in substance addicted athletes rely on these traits in treatment programs. First the athlete must admit that they have a problem. Whether beginning drug and alcohol use was for recreation, finding a competitive edge and looking for extra energy or a need to be popular the reason is not important; the acknowledgement that a problem exists is the key. Second the type of abused medication or alcohol needs to be explored. The two most abused narcotic painkillers are Vicodin and OxyContin plus Ritalin and Adderall. Pain medications are widely abused due to pressure on athletes to play injured. Alcohol gives a feeling of social acceptance, a calming effect and ultimately alcohol abuse. Treatment centers focus on helping the athletic or former athletic and provide help by medically treating withdrawal symptoms and counseling. Long term treatment centers have proven to be highly successful in the treatment of chronic alcohol and drug abuse in athletes. Long term treatment increases the chances of success by re-teaching and emphasizing values, lifestyle changes and skill sets. One of the best approaches to changing addictive behaviors is through holistic treatments based on spiritual principals that treat the whole persona as well as using medical and physical interventions. Each piece: counseling, treating withdrawal symptoms, and behavior modification when done in a long term facility can result in a sober, clean, and hopefully happy recovered athlete.
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