From the moment an athlete decides to pursue a professional sports career—whether in the NFL, NBA, or MLB—they’re pushed to perform.
Pressure to win and be the best drives some to take performance-enhancing substances, and drug use among athletes is common.
While some athletes take illegal drugs for their euphoric effects, other athletes become addicted to painkillers they use to manage pain from acute or chronic injuries.
Regardless of how it starts, drug abuse in athletes can spiral into addiction. Sadly, some end up getting banned from their sport because of substance use issues.
If you’re an athlete struggling with addiction, Adelante Recovery Center can help.
Our treatment team has created a specialized treatment program just for athletes. We offer completely confidential, discreet treatment services at our luxury Orange County addiction treatment center in Corona del Mar.
Why Do Athletes Use Drugs?
The intense pressure and expectations athletes face can become overwhelming. They may use legal or illicit drugs to:
Improve athletic performance – Performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and ephedrine can give athletes an edge over the competition. Using these drugs is called doping, and it’s a widespread problem in the sports world, from professional cycling to bodybuilding.
Cope with stress and pressure – Intense physical and mental stress on and off the field can lead to anxiety, sleep problems, and burnout. Athletes may take drugs or alcohol to relax or get to sleep. But relying on drugs or alcohol to cope with stress can lead to addiction and dependence.
Deal with mental illness – While professional athletes routinely receive treatment for physical injuries, stigma around mental health issues makes some athletes reluctant to ask for help. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to treat their symptoms instead.
Manage physical pain – Athletes who suffer physical injuries may use drugs to treat their pain, whether prescribed or illicit. Opioid drugs, especially, come with a high risk of addiction. Even athletes who start out by taking these medications as prescribed can become addicted or physically dependent with time.
Deal with peer pressure – The sports world is known for its party culture, especially at the college level. Student athletes are more likely than other students to binge drink, and one in five reports drinking 10 or more drinks in a single outing when they do decide to drink. This puts them at serious risk of alcohol poisoning and addiction.
Pro athletes are also susceptible to peer pressure. One survey found that steroid use is still a serious problem among competitive bodybuilders and weightlifters, with 33% reporting dependence on the drugs.
Cope with retirement – The average pro athlete retires before they even reach age 30. The dramatic life change that comes with retirement—especially sudden retirement due to an injury—can be difficult for athletes. They may not have much to fall back on, and they might miss the routine of training and the thrill of competition. Some will turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with feelings of loss and uncertainty.
What Types of Drugs Do Athletes Use?
Athletes may use a variety of legal and illegal drugs—for performance enhancement, for stress relief, and even for bonding with peers. Here are some of the most common drugs used by athletes:
- Performance-enhancing drugs – Anabolic steroid abuse is still a major problem in sports, especially bodybuilding and weightlifting. Some athletes use them in high doses to increase muscle size and boost energy. Diuretics (for weight control) and human growth hormone (to increase muscle mass and boost performance) are also commonly abused. These drugs put athletes at serious risk of health problems, from blood clots to heart attack to hormone imbalances.
- Stimulants – Athletes may use amphetamines, such as ephedrine, and methamphetamine to enhance alertness, boost performance, and improve self-confidence. Some athletes use stimulants to lose weight, since these drugs tend to suppress appetite.
- Painkillers – Prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin can help football players and other athletes manage pain from acute and chronic injuries. But these drugs come with a serious risk of addiction. Even people who take opioid painkillers as prescribed can develop a tolerance, which means they need more of the drug to get the same effect. Over time, this can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
- Alcohol and Other Drugs – Drinking is ubiquitous in the sports world, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, or hockey. It’s not uncommon for athletes to drink before a game to reduce anxiety. But this can have the reverse effect of actually increasing the person’s anxiety and hindering their performance. Sports culture also encourages binge drinking, which is not only dangerous but can lead to addiction. Cocaine abuse is also common among athletes, as is marijuana use.
Adelante’s Addiction Treatment Program for Athletes
Adelante Recovery Center offers world-class care for athletes at our Orange County treatment center.
Our specialized treatment program is designed for athletes who have moderate to severe addictions that are seriously impacting their lives. Our program is inpatient, meaning clients live on-site for the duration of treatment and receive round-the-clock supervision, care, and support.
Our program is fully immersive and designed to minimize outside distractions, so clients can focus on recovery.
Our residential inpatient program can run anywhere between 4 and 12 weeks, but it all depends on a client’s individual needs. Our experienced administrative and clinical teams will offer guidance on which level of care is best for you.
Clients in our athlete-focused addiction treatment program benefit from:
- On-site medical experts and trained therapists
- Alternative pain relief methods for treating chronic pain without prescription painkillers
- Medication management for clients with co-occurring mental health disorders
- Private treatment center with ocean views and access to open space
- Luxury amenities in a home-like setting
Our beautiful treatment center in Corona del Mar is the ideal setting for healing and recovery. Beautiful ocean views help clients relax and unwind so they can focus on recovery. We’ve thoughtfully designed our Southern California inpatient drug rehab programs to feel like home away from home.
Call us to learn more about our drug rehab for athletes and for a tour of our treatment center.