Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough? We’ve all been there in some form or another. We compare ourselves to other people, and we feel like we’re falling behind. Now, imagine your success or failure depends on how you compare to others. This is the life of a professional athlete. And the pressure of being the best often leads to addiction. But the road to addiction isn’t always the same.
Reasons for athletes to take addictive substances
When you think of athletes and addiction, you’re probably thinking of performance enhancers. And while performance-enhancing drugs play a role, they aren’t the only drugs athletes take.
The following are a few reasons why athletes may turn to addictive drugs:
- Pain – Because athletes challenge their bodies regularly, they are more likely to become injured and seek relief from prescription painkillers. A Drug and Alcohol Dependence survey found that 52 percent of NFL players were exposed to opioids with 71 percent of opioid users admitting to misuse.
- Confidence – Athletes are also prone to abusing mood-enhancing or confidence-boosting drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.
- Stress – When the going gets tough, many people turn to alcohol. Athletes, in particular, seem to have a tendency to rely on alcohol. A 2014 Addictive Behaviors study found that adolescent athletes were more likely to drink alcohol in excess.
- Performance enhancement – We’ve all heard about athletes who get penalized for taking performance enhancers like anabolic steroids. Performance enhancing drugs offer the allure of a competitive edge, but that edge comes at a price. Performance enhancing drugs have many side effects, including addiction.
How to find non-addictive alternatives
The pressures and physical demands of athletic competition will not go away, but addictive drugs are rarely the answer. If you are an athlete and find yourself turning to drugs like opioids, it’s time to get help. There are customizable recovery programs that can help you get on a path of sobriety without sacrificing your career.
You should also know that there are healthier alternatives to manage the demands of any sport, and you should try them before turning to addictive drugs.
The following are some alternatives to the conditions that may be driving addiction.
- Pain – There are many natural pain relievers that have been shown to be effective for pain management. These include arnica cream, stretching, meditation and even marijuana. Although marijuana is classified as a drug, it is not nearly as addictive as opioid painkillers. In fact, research estimates that about 30 percent of people who use marijuana may develop some degree of use disorder.
- Confidence – Meditation is often used to help students and adults strengthen self-regulation and self-esteem. As a general practice, mindfulness can help athletes refocus on what is important rather than getting caught up in comparisons.
- Stress – There are many natural alternatives for stress relief, and alcohol is never a good solution. Consider acupuncture, herbal teas, meditation or yoga to combat the stresses of competition.
- Performance enhancement – Performance enhancement drugs are illegal in competition because they offer an advantage that the athlete couldn’t get naturally. But if you want to be in your best shape without drugs, start taking care of your body by fueling it with high-quality foods.
Athletes may be more likely to succumb to addiction than the general public, but this doesn’t mean that every athlete will become an addict. Try to avoid addictive substances by using some of the natural remedies listed here, and you’ll be less likely to follow the path of addiction.