A Ringside View of Substance Abuse Among Athletes

The problem of substance abuse is so ubiquitous that there is hardly any discipline where people are free from its tentacles. People from all walks of life have succumbed to addiction. Even in the world of sports, athletes are not infallible and independent from its ominous reach. Incidents of athletes being caught in doping tests are quite common. There are many athletes who have had fallen from grace because of their brush with drugs.

Why athletes abuse drugs

Whether or not it is ethical to take even a harmless amount of drug to enhance performance could be a matter of perennial debate, but there have been many sportspersons who did cross the line, trudged the path, and dabbled with substances enlisted as forbidden. Athletes abuse illicit substances for various reasons. Some of these are:

  • To alleviate physical pain: Sport is an enduring field which demands a lot of energy, stamina, and resilience from sportsmen. The pressure and competition are tremendous and those who lack physical and mental tenacity do buckle at times. Some resort to drugs to ease physical pain gotten from the sport that invariably lands them into trouble.

  • To self-medicate for mental conditions: Many athletes use drugs and other banned substances to self-treat mental conditions which are otherwise not treatable.

  • To handle pressure: Sportspersons sometimes take these illegal drugs to deal with stressors. There is a constant pressure on them to perform and excel in their respective sport, which builds up a lot of stress inside. So, they start misusing these drugs to manage their stress, to perform better, to manage injuries, and to deal with the pressure of retiring from the sport.

Drug abuse by sportspersons, not a recent phenomenon

Doping in sports is not new and dates back to ancient times. Even Greek Olympic athletes took various brandy and wine concoctions and consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms and sesame seeds to improve performance. They even knew about various plants which could be used to improve speed and endurance, mask physical pain and improve overall performance.

However, even in those times, these acts were considered unethical. In modern times, the first case of doping was reported in 1904. High-level athletes reportedly abused concoction of drugs like cocaine, strychnine, heroin, and caffeine during the 1920s. But, it was in 1966 at the European Championships that actual drug testing started, followed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) two years later that conducted the first drug tests at the summer and winter Olympics.

Drugs abused by athletes

There is a string of drugs used by athletes to gain a one-upmanship over others, unethically of course. Ranging from prescription drugs to other recreational drugs, athletes have been using a host of drugs that fall into the categories of androgens, growth hormone and growth factors, stimulants, nutritional supplements, beta agonists, beta blockers and others.

Side effects of illicit drugs used by athletes

It is difficult to ascertain the side effects of most of the drugs used by athletes because of the high doses consumed by them. But, it cannot be denied that these drugs do have short- and long-term impacts. Given their ill effects, these drugs cannot be tried and tested on participants to unravel the side effects. Most of the inferences are drawn from speculations.

Drug addiction is treatable, provided there is an early intervention and at the right treatment center. Treatment intervention methods like neurotransmitter therapy or Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NAD) therapy are immensely helpful in treating substance abuse patients.

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