Encouraging kids to join a sports team is common in families across the country because it helps them build positive relationships and improves health and fitness. Sports are known for keeping kids from falling in with the wrong crowds, where they would have greater access to illegal drugs. Unfortunately, there’s still a danger of drug addiction for athletic kids, particularly if they’re injured. Coaches, parents, and teachers all need to work to build awareness of the problem. 


Pain Starts the Cycle of Addiction


A sports injury often exposes kids to opioid-based painkillers, which is enough to start the cycle of addiction. In many cases, a doctor will write a 30-day prescription for an opioid painkiller, regardless of the severity of the injury. The patient may only need to alleviate pain for a few days, but they will keep using the drug because they like the euphoric effects the drug creates. According to a study by the University of Michigan, 11% of high school athletes have used a narcotic pain reliever or an opioid for nonmedical purposes. 


In a very short time, the symptoms of addiction will manifest and, as the drug wears off, they will lose that euphoric feeling. This can lead to depressive episodes, fatigue, and other symptoms, encouraging the individual to use the drug more frequently and in bigger doses. By the time the 30-day supply has been used, the individual is suffering from a severe addiction and may turn to illegal means for procuring more opioid-based drugs


How Can the Opioid Addiction Problem Be Prevented?


In the past, the highly addictive nature of opioid-based drugs was not widely known. Now that we do know about this problem, doctors and parents are better prepared for keeping teens from developing an addiction. This starts with looking for other pain relief options, such as prescribing NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, to treat mild to moderate pain. In many cases, ibuprofen or acetaminophen may be enough to relieve the pain.


Sometimes, opioid-based painkillers are necessary to alleviate more severe pain. In these cases, the doctor should meet with the patient and their parents to discuss the addictive nature of prescription-strength painkillers. Families should be made to understand that addiction can form very quickly. Additionally, the doctor should only prescribe enough doses of the medication required to alleviate the pain for the briefest possible period. If additional doses are needed, the doctor should re-evaluate the patient’s needs.


Even for adults, an opioid-based painkiller can cause a serious addiction that requires professional treatment to resolve. For this reason, parents should be wary of letting their athletic kids take an opioid for pain, especially when other options are available.