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Injured NHL Players Find Themselves Battling Painkiller Addiction

Drug use among athletes isn’t a new concept. Whether they’re taken to increase performance, independently treat mental illnesses, or deal with the stressors and pressure high-level competitive sports cause.

Close contact sports are notorious for producing the largest percentage of athletes either abusing or addicted to narcotics.

Playing Through the Pain in the NHL

Professional hockey is a cutthroat industry, with thousands of talented athletes hoping to be scouted each year. Therefore, the members of NHL teams are well aware they have to bring their A-game every day or be replaced by someone new.

Most NHL athletes addicted to painkillers note being given them to deal with their game-induced trauma. They feel compelled to play through significant injuries such as fractured ribs, concussions, dislocated shoulders, and severe muscle damage.

Some NHL hockey players admit to taking three or more strong painkillers daily to cope with their injuries and ensure they continue the season.1 Others just take it for the high, the feeling of euphoria overriding the pressure they’re under to perform.

The use of painkillers in sports may not seem like a pertinent issue to address, but if the athletes’ analgesic abuse isn’t stopped early on, it could lead to more serious, damaging drugs.

How Does Painkiller Abuse Lead to Addiction?

Painkillers like hydrocodone, fentanyl, and codeine are typically carefully prescribed by doctors for specific injuries or after surgical procedures. For long-term pain management, especially in the NHL, where athletes are at times only recommended for surgery or treatment during the off-season, people sometimes self-administer these opioids to ease their discomfort.

Extensive use of painkillers causes your body to need more and more of the drug to feel the same effect, known as tolerance. Eventually, you become physically dependent on the drug and feel as though you can’t function normally without it.

At this point, your body is addicted to the painkillers, and you have to use them daily to avoid the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms quitting may cause.

Famous NHL Players Who’ve Struggled With Addiction

Many well-known NHL players have told their stories of becoming addicted to narcotics due to their injuries or the stress competition brought.

The most well-known hockey players who have openly discussed their struggles with addiction include2,3,4:

  • Ian White
  • Rudy Poeschek
  • Derek Boogard
  • Kevin Stevens
  • Steve Durbano
  • Joe Murphy
  • Brady Leavold
  • Brantt Myhres
  • Ryan Kesler
  • Ian Laperrière

Some could not recover from their addiction, while others entered rehab soon after realizing they needed help and are currently living normal, healthy lives once again.

How To Get Help If You’re Struggling With Addiction

The first step to recovery is realizing you have a problem. Afterward, given the severe adverse effects of opioid addiction, getting professional help is vital. In most cases, a medically supervised detox will be advised to help deal with the withdrawal symptoms experienced while gradually ending usage.

Subsequently, an inpatient residential program, one-on-one counseling, or group therapy may be recommended to maintain sobriety, depending on the severity of the addiction.

If you or a loved one suffers from painkiller addiction, get in touch today at (949) 427-9099 to get the advice and support necessary to seek treatment.


  1. https://www.si.com/nhl/2011/09/06/does-the-nhl-have-a-painkiller-problem
  2. https://hockeylists.com/10-former-nhl-players-whose-lives-spiralled-out-of-control/
  3. https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/canucks-hockey/former-canuck-ryan-kesler-opens-up-about-the-problem-of-painkillers-in-tsn-report-2740341
  4. https://www.si.com/nhl/2011/12/07/boogaards-dark-story-points-to-a-painkiller-problem-in-the-nhl

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