Opioids and Athletes: A Growing Problem and a Deadly Combination

Kimberly R. Outlaw, Tracy Carpenter-Aeby*, Victor G. Aeby

Opioids and Athletes: A Growing Problem and a Deadly Combination.

This is critical information when considering that as much as 20% of student athletes sustained injuries during interscholastic sports events with just short of 50% of those injured requiring surgery and the consequent prescription of opioid pain relievers. Even more, it supports the notion of athletes who typically pride themselves in pursuing proper training and leading healthy lifestyles ultimately using heroin and other opioid drugs only to “find themselves mired in a life of street drugs and crime.”

The research demonstrates that the primary reason that athletes are vulnerable to opioid addiction is not because it improves their athletic performance. On the contrary, while opioid drugs can initially elicit the feelings of “euphoria and overall wellbeing,” they work to reduce athletic performance because they cause the user to feel tired, sedated and confused as well as cause
their respirations to decrease, none of which supports athletic performance.

In addition to the physical and physiological implications of using narcotic medications recreationally and the dangers presented by their use, there is also a direct impact on the career of
the athlete. Athletes are often subject to frequent drug testing. It is a prerequisite to participating in their sport of choice. Athletes that develop an opiate addiction may find that they fail drug tests,
mitigating them from participating in their sport of choice. They may be eliminated, for life in some instances, for failing drug tests, particularly if they attempt to compete while under the influence.
This is why athletes should not be provided with narcotics or any other medications/drugs that could be addictive or harmful to their health and impede their ability to compete.

Sport Exerc Med Open J. 2018; 4(3): 63-65. doi: 10.17140/SEMOJ-4-163