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Pro Athletes & Addiction: Drug Use in Sports & Famous Athletes in Recovery

male running with headphones who looks like a pro athlete in recovery

Revered for their physical prowess and idolized for their achievements, professional athletes occupy the same pedestal as movie and music celebrities. A professional athlete’s body has been honed and trained to an elite level that most people will never attain, but it does not mean they are immune to the lure of drugs. The right illicit drugs can increase a professional athlete’s strength and performance, so the allure is obvious.

Whether it is to obtain individual or team victories or increase personal stats to earn more compensation, professional athletes and drugs have a longstanding relationship. The news stories of athletes in recovery are a reoccurring theme in mainstream media.

Vertava Health Massachusettes, located in the scenic Berkshire Mountains, offers athletes with addiction, or anyone struggling with substance use disorder, a professional drug rehab program. Call today at 888.655.0289 to learn more.

The Relationship Between Drugs and Professional Athletes

Drug use in sports is more common than many people realize. While many athletes are taking steps to actively avoid such toxins, others may be abusing these substances for a variety of reasons. The tales of athletes with addictions who ultimately go to a drug rehab program occur often enough to indicate there is a problem. There are many reasons why an athlete may use drugs:

Enhance Their Performance

With so much pressure to perform, professional athletes may use drugs like steroids or painkillers to boost their abilities or allow them to keep playing.

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, 44% of athletes who took part in the 2011 World Championships in Athletics admitted to using banned substances, but only .05% got caught.

Deal with Physical Pain

Professional athletes push their bodies to the limit, and the result may be serious injuries or chronic pain. While painkillers can help, they are also highly addictive.

Painkiller use in the NFL, in particular, is a significant problem with former players using these drugs at four times the rate of the general population.

Cope with Poor Mental Health

Whether in their prime or in retirement, many professional athletes struggle with mental health issues and may turn to drugs and alcohol for help instead of getting treatment.

The prevalence of mental health symptoms related to depression or anxiety is believed to be around 34% for current elite athletes.

Have Fun

Professional athletes often lead a life of fame and fortune, including lavish parties, but some may get carried away. It is not uncommon for people in the spotlight to start abusing drugs or alcohol.

While there are athletes who take drugs and may not have any real problems, others may face serious consequences because of their substance use.

Famous Athletes Who Use Drugs and Athletes in Recovery

Although their physical feats may seem superhuman, professional athletes are not immune to addiction. What may start as seemingly harmless substance use can quickly spiral out of control into a full-blown addiction. Consider the following cautionary tales:

Derek Boogaard

Although a force to be reckoned with on the ice, Derek Boogaard developed an addiction to painkillers. Boogaard went to drug rehab but was not committed to recovery and could therefore not beat his addiction. Eventually, Boogaard overdosed in 2011.

Len Bias

Bias is a good example of a famous athlete on drugs who paid the ultimate price. Although a rising basketball star, Len Bias overdosed on cocaine and died just two days after being drafted to the NBA. Some reports speculate that this may have even been his first time using cocaine.

Andre Agassi

A former professional tennis player, Andre Agassi, used crystal meth. Agassi failed a drug test in 1997 and claimed he accidentally ingested a drink laced with crystal meth belonging to his assistant. This reasoning was ultimately accepted by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), and he was cleared to play.  Agassi is now clean and created the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education to provide educational resources to underserved populations.

Josh Hamilton

A famous baseball player, Josh Hamilton has achieved high accolades, including the American League Championship Series MVP. Although he has been successful on the field, he spent much of his career battling addiction. At times, he appeared to be a famous sober athlete on the path to lasting sobriety. However, Josh Hamilton relapsed several times throughout his career and was at times suspended from the league for his cocaine use.

Brett Favre

The beloved long-time quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre, may have seemed to have it all, but he was also struggling with a painkiller addiction and alcohol use behind the scenes. Favre’s addiction became so bad that he was taking 16 pills at a time at points in his career. Eventually, Favre went to an inpatient facility for both his Vicodin and alcohol use. It took some time, but he is now sober.

Joe Namath

A famous alcoholic athlete who eventually got sober, Joe Namath, said he hit rock bottom when he was drunk during an interview and asked the reporter to kiss him. This stint led the former New York Jets quarterback to go to rehab, and eventually, Namath got sober.

Drugs and professional athletics are more closely linked than many suspect. Athletes with drug addictions who stepped forward and got the professional help they needed should be admired and serve as a cautionary tale. 

Find a Drug Rehab Program at Vertava Health-Massachusetts Today

If you are struggling with your own battle against drugs or alcohol, do not be afraid to get help. Contact us today at Vertava Health Massachusetts to learn more about how we may be able to help you. Reach out at 888.655.0289 or contact us online. Do not wait to get started on a life of recovery.