From learning teamwork and developing friendships to maintaining an active lifestyle, sports are an important part of the lives of many young adults in both high school and college. Unfortunately, the risk of injury is always present, especially for students who play high-impact sports.
For acute athletic injuries, a physician may prescribe a powerful opioid pain reliever like OxyContin or Vicodin. However, while medical guidelines increasingly advise using opioid medications for only a few days when treating an injury, many physicians overprescribe these potent narcotics.
Student athletes may be at higher risk for opioid dependency
Directly or indirectly, the current opioid epidemic has had an enormous impact on individuals of all ages. Research suggests that over 8.7 million Americans over age 12 currently misuse pain relief medications. Of those individuals, over 3.3 million are between the ages of 12 and 25.
Student athletes, eager to get back in the game, may be especially at risk for developing opioid dependency. A young adult may use the drug to mask the pain of an injury, returning to their sport before they have fully recovered. That may result in the injury worsening and a continuing need to use pain relief medication.
Opioid dependency may lead to heroin use in young adults
While the specific number varies, it may take as little as two weeks for an individual to become physically dependent on opioid medication. Additionally, if people use prescription painkillers over an extended period, they may need more and more of the drug to get the same effect.
When prescriptions run out, young athletes may find that they still crave the drug, even if their original injury has healed. However, buying prescription opioids on the street can become exorbitantly expensive, leading many to turn to heroin, a much stronger and potentially deadly narcotic.
All young adults are at risk
Studies also continue to show that many young heroin users have been student-athletes. Even dedicated, driven young adults with good intentions may find themselves facing addiction while in the pursuit of excellence.