Addiction is not uncommon among athletes, but it is consistently detrimental to their lives. Athletes are supposed to be the physical pinnacle of their sport in order to remain desirable as athletes. The most damaging thing that addiction can do to an athlete is affect their health. Substance abuse addictions affect an athlete’s health in obvious ways, but even addictions that are not substance related will have an effect on a person’s physical body, even if for no other reason than addiction heavily interferes with a person’s passions and goals, making what used to be important to them go by the wayside. A professional athlete, who needs to train daily to remain competitive, cannot afford this kind of distraction. The other commitments in their life, such as personal relationships, cannot survive addiction either. The best thing a professional athlete can do for themselves, their careers and their loved ones is seek addiction treatment.
Professional athletes should know that there are addiction treatment programs created specifically for them. The pressures that athletes face are unique, and mental health professionals and addiction specialists know that addiction treatment for a professional athlete has to be created specifically for them. In fact, many of the staff members of addiction treatment programs for athletes are former athletes themselves, and know very well the challenges and hardships that fall on professional athletes. In addiction treatment, or a rehabilitation program, athletes will go through a complete detox, if it was a substance they were addicted to, followed by an in-depth treatment that can last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, or longer. In treatment, the athlete will learn the underlying causes for their addiction and how to manage them. They will work diligently through workbook exercises, readings, therapy sessions and group meetings to reach a point where they can maintain their recovery. These treatment methods will be designed to address the competitive, passionate nature of a professional athlete. If necessary, the individual will take up residence in an on-site sober living facility once treatment is done in order to gradually reintroduce themselves to the outside world. The treatment schedule is often worked around the practices and meetings the athlete needs to attend.
Professional athletes lead remarkable lives. Sports are on the world’s oldest and yet most civilized ways of competing for glory. Unlike war, sportsmanship means testing your own abilities while doing no harm to others. Sportsmanship is a noble calling, yet it is not without its corruptions and its negative effects. The pressure on professional athletes to perform like machines and continuously improve their performance can be overwhelming. Many athletes cannot take the stress and expectations that rest on their shoulders and turn to addiction or substance abuse in order to cope. The life of an athlete is rewarding, but full of challenges.
The obvious pressure on professional athletes is to be the best. This pressure is both internal and external. People become athletes because they are inspired to strive for the personal glory of being the best in their sport. The extent they are willing to go to in order to achieve this title is remarkable. However, it is possible for an athlete to put too much pressure on themselves to be the best and push themselves beyond their means. Many athletes end up with injuries or illnesses due to their own unwillingness to rest. External pressures can come from coaches, support systems, sponsors and anyone else who is invested in the athlete’s performance. What the athlete does in their sporting arena is a reflection on the people who have invested time, energy or money into the athlete, and it is possible for them to apply undue pressure to the athlete to perform. This can cause feelings of anxiety and stress within the athlete.
In the same vein, athletes feel particularly pressured to perform from the very start of their careers because an athlete’s career peaks while they are still young. An athlete’s teens to thirties is the age range in which they are expected to perform the best, depending on the sport. In many gymnastic Olympic events, athletes are merely teenagers. Once an athlete is in their forties, the potential for injury becomes much higher, prompting athletes to push themselves the hardest while they are young.
Every athlete needs to learn to deal with hardships in a healthy manner. If you are stressed or anxious due to the pressure to perform, see a counselor. If you are in physical pain, see a specialist such as a Kelowna chiropractor. If your current coach is making stress worse, find a new one. Do whatever you have to do to deal with stress correctly and avoid substance abuse.
Any stressful profession creates the potential for addiction or substance abuse among its professionals, and sports is no exception. Professional athletes experience high volumes of stress and anxiety over the pressure to perform, beat their opponents and not display any signs of weakness. For some, this pressure proves to be too overwhelming, and drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or one of many other types of addiction becomes their escape. Many are unable to control their addictions and, over time, their ability to perform athletically, maintain relationships and stay healthy becomes hindered due to their addiction. Often, athletes rise to glory just to be taken down by addiction.
One common form of addiction among professional athletes is an addiction to performance enhancing drugs. The question of whether or not performance enhancing drugs such as steroids are addictive is heavily debated. Some argue that they are not chemically addictive, but science would reason otherwise. Addiction can be identified by the characteristic of tolerance. Any substance that people deliberately ingest and can become tolerant of is identified as addictive. If the substance produces a desirable effect for the person, but the person has to continuously increase how much of it they use in order to keep achieving its effects, it is an addictive substance. Which is not to say that every person who uses it will become addicted, but those who do become addicted to the effects of the drug are in danger of jeopardizing their careers and their quality of life.
Other common forms of addiction among professional athletes are to recreational drugs, alcohol and sex. Athletes are people who crave and thrive on extreme circumstances and stimulation so escaping through extremely pleasurable substances or activities is common among athletes. Recreational drugs remove the mind from the person’s current circumstances and take them out of themselves. Alcohol numbs a person to feelings and briefly removes a person from their negative emotions. Sex is a similar kind of escape, creating an intensely pleasurable experience that allows a person a moment’s time to forget about their problems.
Professional athletes are thought of as models of physical aptitude, however, it is not uncommon for a professional athlete to develop a substance abuse problem and put their body, the instrument of their sport, into a compromised state. This has been a highly sensitive matter in recent years with the number of incriminating performance enhancing drug charges arising in professional athletes. However, the substance abuse problems far exceed performance enhancing drugs, and the boards and judges who determine an athlete’s level of success are not taking kindly to it. Among the more famous athletes who felt a decline in their careers after their substance abuse problem emerged are Michael Phelps, Dock Ellis and Darryl Strawberry.
The matter is serious because the sports industry holds its athletes to a particular performance standard that does not tolerate chemical alteration. The ethic of a natural sports performance, one that relies solely on skill and regimen, is valued far more than one that relies on chemical enhancement. The lines can be blurred between the definitions of diet, medicines and drugs, and not all sports organizations draw the lines in the same place, but a vast majority of sports organizations will not tolerate the use of any illegal substance, on or off the playing field. Some legal, prescription medications are also not tolerated, such as anabolic steroids.
Professional athletes, like every other demographic, are capable of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol and require professional treatment in order to recover. There are treatment facilities and rehabilitation centers that cater to high-profile individuals such as professional athletes, not just in the quality of life they offer, but in their medically supervised substance abuse detox programs, expertise on the particular challenges that certain high-profile professions present, and in their flexible treatment schedules that cater to the career obligations of their clients.