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Student Athletes and Opioid Misuse: A Growing Problem

There are many benefits to participating in sports as a teenager. Sports can also be dangerous, as evidenced by the over 5 million injuries sustained each year by high school athletes. Athletes can misuse opioids when prescribed pain medication following an injury or surgery if they are not carefully monitored.

Research suggests that student-athletes are at greater risk for opioid misuse than the general population. In one study, athletes had lifetime opioid use rates ranging from 28% to 46%. Moreover, a University of Michigan study found that high school seniors who play contact sports are roughly 50% more likely to misuse prescription stimulants after graduation compared to those who do not play contact sports.

There is no doubt that opioid misuse is a serious problem among student-athletes. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss the causes and prevention of opioid misuse among student-athletes.

Factors contributing to opioid misuse among student-athletes.

Student-athletes can misuse opioids for a variety of reasons. Among them are:

  • Physical injuries. Compared to non-athletes, student-athletes are more likely to suffer physical injuries. Opioid use can be triggered by these injuries, which can cause pain.

  • Pressure to perform. There is often pressure on student-athletes to perform well. As a result of this pressure, stress may also lead to opioid abuse.

  • Culture of silence. The issue of opioid misuse in sports is often shrouded in silence. It may be difficult for athletes to speak out about their addictions for fear of stigmatization.

  • Substance use culture. It is common for athletes to use substances in some sports. A common example is the use of opioids in order to relieve pain or improve performance.

  • Personal factors. It is possible that some student-athletes misuse opioids due to personal factors, such as substance abuse history or mental health issues.

  • Lack of education. It is common for student-athletes to be unaware of the risks associated with opioid misuse. Many people do not realize that these medications are addictive or do not know how to use them safely.

  • Easy access to opioids. In order to relieve pain, student-athletes are often prescribed opioids. The ease of access can make it more likely for athletes to misuse drugs.

Understanding the factors that contribute to opioid misuse among student-athletes is crucial. In order to prevent this problem and protect our young athletes' health, we need to understand these factors.

The dangers of opioid misuse.

There are serious consequences associated with the misuse of opioids among student-athletes. In addition to these consequences, there are also:

  • Addiction. Addiction to opioids can be a chronic and difficult disease to treat.

  • Overdose. There is a possibility of death from an opioid overdose.

  • Life-threatening injuries. There is a risk of life-threatening injuries associated with opioid use, due to their impairing effects on judgment and coordination.

  • Performance problems. Performance issues on the field or court can be caused by opioid impairment of judgment and coordination.

  • Legal problems. There are legal consequences for student-athletes who misuse opioids, such as suspension from school and even criminal prosecution.

Preventing opioid misuse among student-athletes.

In order to prevent opioid misuse among student-athletes, a number of measures can be taken. Some of these include:

  • Educating students and their families about opioid misuse. As part of this education, opioids should be discussed for non-medical purposes as well as the dangers and symptoms of opioid addiction.

  • Encouraging student-athletes to speak to their coaches, parents, or other trusted adults if they are experiencing pain. Students can find the best way to manage their pain safely and effectively without opioids by working with these adults.

  • Providing non-opioid pain management strategies to student-athletes. For the treatment of sports injuries, there are several effective non-opioid pain management strategies. Physical therapy and over-the-counter pain relievers are some of the strategies. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) are other strategies.

  • Student-athletes should only receive opioids when they are truly needed by a doctor. In the event that a student-athlete needs opioids, it is imperative that they receive them from a doctor and that they take them as directed.

  • Screening student-athletes for substance use. In order to identify and treat students who are at risk for substance abuse, student-athletes should be screened for substance abuse.

  • Creating a culture of prevention. Student-athletes need to be encouraged to reach out for assistance if they are struggling with substance abuse in schools and sports organizations.

  • Make sure athletes have access to naloxone. Medications such as Naloxone can reverse opioid overdoses. If someone they know or themselves experiences an overdose, naloxone can be a lifesaver.

  • Properly disposing of unused or expired opioid medications. Prevent misuse by properly disposing of unused and expired opioid medications. Drug take-back programs and flushing down toilets are two ways to properly dispose of opioid medications.

  • Don't rush it. When you cannot wait to resume regular activities on and off the sports field, it can be difficult to be patient during your recovery process. You risk damaging your injured muscles or ligaments if you skip your recovery or jump back into activity before you are ready because cutting corners or jumping back into activity too soon will disrupt your recovery plan and cause more harm than good. A poorly rehabilitated ankle sprain, for example, can lead to long-term chronic ankle instability if not treated correctly.

It is possible to prevent opioid misuse, despite the fact that it is one of society's most serious problems. To keep student-athletes safe, it is vital to educate them about opioid misuse risks, screen them for substance abuse, and provide them with pain management resources.

In addition, here are some resources to help student-athletes who struggle with opioid addiction:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse. In addition to providing resources and information on opioid misuse, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also has a helpline that can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. As part of its efforts to address opioid misuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers information and resources on the topic, including a 24-hour helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

  • The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Providing resources and information on drug abuse, including opioid abuse, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

  • The National Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Center Locator. You can find a treatment center near you by using the National Opioid Use Disorder Treatment Center Locator.

Last but not least, to get more information and resources about substance abuse, call the Delaware Hope Line at 1-833-9-HOPEDE or visit

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