The Sober Living AZ Blog

Athletes Struggles with Substance Abuse

Posted on 02/01/19: Addiction Recovery \ Addiction Treatment

While addictions and problems related to substance abuse are prevalent in every occupation, there is one demographic whose ordeal is particularly disturbing. Research shows that issues related to substance abuse are increasingly on the rise in the world of sports and that athletes are at a greater risk of developing dependencies as compared to the general public.

The facts are truly sad and ironic – the one profession that promotes a healthy lifestyle is most vulnerable to addiction. It is common to see even the most successful athletes struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that researchers believe to be the leading reasons why athletes are highly prone to developing addictions.

1.    Pressure to Perform

The world of sports is highly competitive. Every day is about performing better than the competition to stay on top. This makes being an athlete a particularly stressful job because the pressure on athletes to give their best performance is high in every game. However, it is virtually impossible to always be on top of one’s game. Naturally, every athlete faces a defeat every once in a while. The continuous stress and the pressure to perform can make athletes try and find solace in drugs and alcohol.

2.    Cultural Inclination

athletes and addiction

Sadly, the sports culture does not really discourage the use of drugs and alcohol. Teams publicly celebrate their victories by popping a bottle of champagne. In fact, the use of alcohol in the locker room is much more common than most of us imagine. Furthermore, since alcohol and drugs are a common occurrence in the world of sports, a lot of young athletes indulge in substance abuse to “fit in”. Some athletes even admitted to having started drinking only to feel like a “part of the team”.

Research shows that the mere proximity to drugs and alcohol can increase the chances of developing a dependency. This makes sports culture a textbook example of how being exposed to addictive substances can make an individual vulnerable to developing an addiction.

Another factor that encourages athletes to experiment with addictive substances is that instead of discouraging the use of addictive drugs, most coaches often turn a blind eye to it. In fact, in some cases, they promote this behavior in athletes as a way of dealing with the immense pressure of performing.

3.    Prescribed Drugs

Everyone knows that enduring a few injuries is inevitable in a sports career. Naturally, athletes are often prescribed painkillers to help deal with injuries. Unfortunately, in most cases, addiction in athletes stems from over-prescription of these drugs.

Consistently using prescribed drugs leaves them vulnerable to developing dependencies. Once they get off the prescribed drugs, a lot of them turn to stronger addictives like cocaine and heroin. A study suggests that every 1 in every 15 people who use painkillers for nonmedical reasons end up getting hooked to heroin in less than 10 years. This shows that the over-prescription of drugs plays a major role in leading athletes to addiction.  

4.    Enhanced Athletic Performance

Every now and then, it is common to come across a case involving athletes using drugs to improve their athletic performance. Keep in mind that a number of drugs like steroids can be used for gaining muscle mass and improving stamina. Naturally, these factors attract athletes to try out these drugs in hopes of gaining an edge over their competitors. When these drugs are used over an extended period of time, it is easy to become dependent on them.    

Irrespective of why and how athletes get hooked to harmful addictive substances, the important thing is to make sure they get all the help and support that they need to return back to a healthy lifestyle.

Addiction Treatment for Athletes

In most cases, athletes are often forced into treatment by an organizational body or family. While some of them successfully beat their addictions and return home as happier and healthier people, others struggle with addiction their whole lives.

It is important to understand that the treatment for addiction is spurred by the issues in an individual’s life. While the overall approach for treating an athlete’s addiction remains the same as the one for any other ordinary person, a number of personal adjustments may be required in the treatment plan. This is done to ensure that the treatment suits the needs of the individual athlete.

Also, most athletes require a strong support group to put an end to their addiction. Since they travel a lot for tournaments and are often surrounded by the kind of people who openly indulge in drugs and alcohol, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to stay clean without a strong support system.

It is essential for them to be candid about their struggles with addictions with their family, friends, coaches and even teammates. In most cases, being open about an addiction can help massively and gets them all the support that they need.

Famous Athletes Who Struggled with Addiction   

Sure, athletes are prone towards developing addictions due to a number of external factors. However, this does not mean that every athlete will develop an addiction. Furthermore, even if they do, it is always possible to overcome an addiction. Here’s a list some of the most high profile cases of athlete addiction in the history of sports.  

•    Michael Phelps, the US swimmer and winner of 23 Olympic gold medals struggled with drugs. In 2009, he even lost his endorsement contract due to his addiction. However, he made a full recovery and went on to become the most decorated Olympian of all time!

•    Jennifer Capriati, a former professional tennis player with an Olympic gold medal (Summer Olympics 1992), got involved in drugs as a teenager. She was even arrested for possession. However, she made a comeback and reclaimed her glory.

•    Darryl Strawberry, four times World Series Champion, was suspended thrice in his professional career for using cocaine. Today, he has been clean for years and is working to create awareness about the harmful effects of using drugs.

These legendary athletes showed the world that addiction is not the end of the world or a career in sports. With loads of patience and support, any athlete can beat an addiction and get their life back on track. If you are an athlete struggling with substance abuse or know someone who might be, it’s time you set things right by contacting Sober Living AZ to get the help that you need!

Content for Sober Living Arizona 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. www.cohn.media


If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact Sober Living of AZ now to get the help you need. Sober Living offers an acclaimed recovery environment that merges upscale and luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare. Call us now at 602-737-2458.

Recent Posts

Call Now Button