Recent studies have discovered that young teens participating in sports have a higher risk of developing an addiction to prescription drugs and especially opoid pain killers than those not involved in athletics. The issue is a much bigger problem for male teen athletes that are more likely to misuse prescription drugs than their female counterparts.
The reason for increased risk for addiction with athletes is mainly due to the greater number of injuries that are associated with sports activities. Students suffering from injuries will often be prescribed pain medication that can be addictive and difficult for them to taper off once they have recovered from their injury.
Male Athletes and Sports Injuries
Statistics show that nearly 7.5 million teenagers participate in high school level sports while there are about 2 million high school athletics injuries each year. With those kinds of numbers it is not surprising that many young athletes are exposed to opoid pain killers and are more likely to be at risk for abuse of their medication. The study focused on 1,540 teens and revealed that male athletes were more likely to abuse medication on at least one occasion in the past year than those not involved in sports.
The surprising find though was that female athletes were not necessarily more inclined to abuse prescription drugs than female non-athletes. One reason for this can be the fact that men tend to participate in sports with higher injury rates. Sports like wrestling and football have the highest rate of severe injury in high school athletics and are typically male-dominated.
Opoid Medications for Injury Recovery
Another possible explanation for the fact that male athletes are more likely to abuse medication could be due to their attitude regarding sports in general. Adolescent males may feel the need to prove themselves and their masculinity through athletic performance. They can push themselves and sacrifice their bodies to achieve the social status that they seek through sports.
Male athletes can be more likely than female athletes to experience frequent injuries due to this mentality. Painful injuries are usually treated with prescription opoids such as Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin. Exposure to these types of opoid medications can often lead to abuse because of the euphoric effects of the drugs.
Users can feel relaxed and anxiety-free when they take opoid drugs especially in higher doses. The feeling of euphoria can become addictive and young athletes may begin to take more medication than necessary or continue to abuse the drugs after their injury has healed.
Reducing Opoid Abuse in Teens
Even though the likelihood of abusing prescription drugs will increase for athletes dealing with severe injuries, this type of medication is sometimes necessary and important for their recovery. Doctors view opoids as helpful in managing pain symptoms on a short-term basis if patients take the medication exactly as prescribed and the doses are eventually tapered off. In order to reduce the odds of teen athletes becoming addicted to the medication, however, it is important for physicians to discuss management of the opoids with young patients and their parents as well.
Doctors could be more vigilant and cautious about which patients are prescribed opoids. The medication should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary and for those patients that need opoids, doctors should explain the dangers of abuse and possibility of developing an addiction. Opoids should only be prescribed in limited amounts and for a limited duration of time so that young athletes have less of an opportunity to abuse them. More legislation could help reduce the number of teens abusing opoids by requiring doctors to review their narcotics history before prescribing any medication.
Any access to prescription opoids should be heavily supervised by parents and physicians so that the drugs are not misused by teens.