The life of a professional athlete is characterized by an around-the-clock dedication to their chosen sport or activity. There are few times during the day when the athlete feels free from the burdens and responsibilities that go along with maintaining peak physical performance. They must watch what they eat, maintain a strict exercise or practice schedule, and ensure they get a sufficient amount of rest.
The psychological aspect of the athlete’s lifestyle is also vastly important. Mastery of the “mental game”—overcoming self-doubt, ignoring distractions, directing a laser-like focus on the task at hand—is often what separates elite athletes from others of comparable physical gifts.
For many athletes, the drive toward excellence leads them into substance abuse. In some cases, substance abuse begins with a conscious decision to gain an “edge” in competitions. In other instances, it stems from a desperate attempt to cope with a lingering physical or mental disorder.
However, substance abuse among athletes doesn’t always derive from the stresses of competition. Athletes, like everyone else, are vulnerable to the kinds of social and familial influences that can encourage dependency on drugs and alcohol. But no matter how it originates, substance abuse can inflict catastrophic harm on an athlete, ruining both their competitive goals and their personal life.
The following infographic prepared by Adelante Recovery Center provides a brief overview of the incidence of substance abuse among athletes.