During Olympic season, the public watches in awe as talented athletes from around the world compete, secretly waiting to see which ones are going to test positive for steroids. But steroids aren’t the only drug problem plaguing elite athletes. There is growing concern in a number of sports that players are sacrificing their health and their careers to prescription drug addictions.
A Budding Epidemic in Sports
Two of the most commonly abused medications in sports are narcotic painkillers, such as Vicodin and OxyContin, and prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. Prescription painkillers are frequently prescribed (at least initially) for legitimate pain complaints following injuries sustained on the field. Their widespread misuse isn’t surprising given the aggressive nature of sports and the intense pressure on athletes to play injured.
Retired NFL players misuse opioid pain medications at a rate more than four times that of the general population, according to a study from Washington University. More than half (52 percent) of NFL retired players said they used prescription pain medication, 71 percent of whom admitted abusing the drugs during their sports career.