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How NBA Sports Injuries Lead to Addiction

Competitive sports, despite their rigorous screening processes, produce many athletes suffering from addiction.

The physical and mental demands of competing at such a high level and the fact that, for players in the NBA, an injury could keep them out of an entire season compels them to turn to drugs to deal with the pain and keep playing.

How Do Sports Injuries Lead to Addiction?

Most drug addictions in athletes begin with a doctor’s prescription for painkillers after an injury.

In highly competitive contact sports where players are under pressure to perform despite their injuries, they may take painkillers more often and for much longer than prescribed instead of taking time off to recover.1

This causes their bodies to develop tolerance and dependence, making them need more painkillers with every dose and making it difficult for them to function without it as they experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

The Most Common Addictions Found Among Athletes

Athletes are likely to become addicted to substances that enhance their performance or help them deal with the pressures of competitive sports.

The most common addictions among athletes include:

Prescription Drug Addiction

Typically, drugs are prescribed to athletes on a short-term basis. After their prescription runs out, most players turn to coaches, friends, or illegal dealers to get their drug of choice.

Opioid Addiction

Opioids are one of the most popular drugs used in the NBA.

They are painkillers that include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Codeine
  • Vicodin
  • Hydrocodone

Opioids block the pain signals sent by your body and produce a feeling of wellbeing and euphoria.

Opioid withdrawal can cause several intense symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Body pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate

Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants can act as performance enhancers, increasing alertness and concentration and suppressing your appetite. If taken in high enough doses, they also produce feelings of euphoria.

The most common stimulants abused are Ritalin and Adderall. Withdrawal from these drugs causes symptoms including:

  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Poor memory

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol produces feelings of relaxation, elevated mood, and reduced inhibitions. Many athletes consume alcohol to help relieve stress. However, the excessive or long-term use of alcohol could lead to addiction.

If you are addicted and try to reduce or stop your use of alcohol, you may experience withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Fever

Drug Use in the NBA


The NBA drug policy calls for random testing for performance-enhancing drugs or drugs of abuse. NBA drug testing subjects each player to four tests per season. However, this has not curbed the use of prescription drugs, as many players still take the risk to continue competing.

Well-known NBA players banned or suspended for drug use include2,3,4,5:

  • J. Mayo
  • Chris Herren
  • Deandre Ayton
  • John Collins
  • Delonte West

Some of these athletes were able to turn their lives around by getting professional help.

Treatment for prescription drug and alcohol abuse includes a medical detox to rid the body of all traces of the substance abused and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Residential inpatient programs typically follow medical detox, and for those who have a co-occurring mental illness, dual diagnosis treatment may be suggested.

If you or someone you love suffers from addiction, it is crucial to get professional help. Get in touch with our team today at (949) 427-9099 to discuss the treatment and therapy options available.


  1. https://www.michaelshouse.com/drug-abuse/injury-concerns-abuse-athletes/
  2. https://thunderousintentions.com/2019/11/06/nba-suspensions-drug-use-concern/
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2012/02/24/us/addiction-nba-chris-herren/index.html
  4. https://www.si.com/nba/2017/08/20/oj-mayo-drug-ban-comeback-milwaukee-bucks-travelle-gaines
  5. https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/30742371/delonte-west-working-drug-rehab-center-attended-source-says

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If you or a loved one are in need of help with addiction, contact us today. Our professional and friendly addiction specialists are able to answer your questions and get things moving in the right direction.