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Painkillers: An Athlete’s Dirty Little Secret

Prescription painkiller abuse is one of the dirty little secrets of professional sports. It hides behind the scandals of muscle-building steroids. Types of painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet are keeping players with chronic injuries and pain in the game.

Athletes are among the most at-risk individuals when it comes to they type of  addiction. The measures taken to strengthen their bodies or recovering from serious injuries introduces this risk while attempting to increase performance.

When the rehabilitation period athletes use these strong painkillers. If not used properly it develops into an addiction.

This kind of abuse prevalent in pro sports due to the immense physical wear and tear on an athlete’s body and enduring many injuries, which leads to a need for relief. Of course pain management is one of the biggest issues for team doctors and trainers while treating injured players.

For some athletes, pain pills are an essential part of getting through training and competition. Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, the NFL’s all-time leading passer, is perhaps the best known sports figure to admit a problem. In 1996, he spent 45 days in rehab for addiction to Vicodin.

Prescription narcotics fall into the class of opioids, which include powerful drugs like morphinecodeine, fentanylmethadone and heroin. These types of drugs attach to receptors in the central nervous system, preventing the brain from receiving pain messages. In addition to masking pain, it will produce feelings of euphoria and illusions of athletic prowess beyond athletic ability.

Pain medication is a whole new area that we really need to look at. Quitting isn’t easy and is often met with withdrawal symptoms ranging from muscle and bone pain to insomnia, diarrhea, and vomiting. Long-term effects of painkiller abuse include addiction; depression; infection of the heart lining and valves; and permanent damage to the liver, lungs, and kidneys. Considering these harsh realities, it is important to remember that the need to get back out on the field or the court pales in comparison to the effects of painkillers in those who freely abuse them.

An addiction to painkillers is not shameful, embarrassing or a sign of weakness. It should not make others think less of an athlete’s skill or their worth as a human being. Asking for help is the strongest, hardest and best decision to make. There are treatments that exist and are tailored specifically for the individual.

Ending the use painkillers as quickly as possible is the best way to go to avoid the risk of becoming addicted. If it does become a problem it’s better to get help right away as there are issues as the use of these drugs continue.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

0 thoughts on “Painkillers: An Athlete’s Dirty Little Secret

  1. Hey, I really liked this entry. I think it gives a good view into the “little problem” the game has. Not just baseball, of course, which is my primary interest area, but all sports. I think to myself…the chronic pain that older athletes must have. Pitchers with the amount of arm injuries they must sustain over the course of their careers, not just the big ones we hear about but just the wear-and-tear over time. Basketball player and their knees and backs. Football players and their everything. (For some reason I think of hockey players and gap-toothed smiles and think maybe they’re addicted to novocaine. I think I spelled that wrong, but you get the point.)

    Saw what your background is. Surprised with the amount (and breadth!) of education you have that you’re sharing this with ‘lil ol’ us instead of doing some awesome criminal psych job somewhere or running a sports medicine practice of some variety. The knowledge you’re spreading, though, is really good. Not only is this valuable information for sports fans to know about these players, but for parents like myself who have little ones who might go on to play sports at the youth, high school, maybe even college level some days (who knows, maybe even advance to the professional level?) to keep these things in mind when we’re teaching our children about athletics and talking about what’s important not only on the field but off.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    -Eric

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