High school is one of the most important times in our lives. It is a time of learning, growth, and opportunity, and shapes us for the rest of our lives. There are few things shape us as much as school sports, which teach high school students to work in teams and build relationships.
While the benefits of playing high school sports are many, there are also risks involved. The main risk is being injured, which may lead to an even more deadly risk: addiction to painkillers. In this article, we’ll walk you through what painkillers are, why high school athletes chase the painkiller high, and how young athletes can avoid addiction.
Painkillers: What Are They?
Painkillers are a class of prescription medication called opiates. Opiates come from the opium plant and work by mimicking the pain-reducing chemicals in your brain called endorphins. Endorphins reduce stress and pain and create a feeling of well-being.
Opiates act like endorphins because connect to the same places in your brain and create a sense of euphoria, energy, or well-being. Opiates are powerful because they cause a strong intoxicating effect and are addictive.
Common painkiller drugs include morphine, codeine, and Oxycontin. These drugs are for patients who have suffered an injury and are suffering from intense pain.
The Painkiller High: Dangers for Student-Athletes
So why are painkillers so dangerous for high school athletes? The first reason that painkillers are so dangerous for student-athletes is the potency of these drugs. Painkillers are very easy to overdose on based on their high potency.
Over 68% of overdoses in the United States are from painkillers and with over 130 Americans dying from opiate overdoses per day, the threat is real.
Student-athletes are more likely to use painkillers than others. High school athletes are already more likely to use illegal drugs than students who don’t play sports, which may be due to the stress of performing.
But high school athletes are even more likely to sustain an injury at some point in their sports career. These injuries can be serious, like a broken leg or torn ligament, and need more time to heal and pain management techniques.
Student-athletes are often given a prescription for these painkillers when they suffer an injury. While the painkillers reduce pain in the short term, some students start using the pills to get high or get addicted while managing their pain.
Consequences of Painkiller Abuse
The first and most obvious consequence of abusing painkillers is an overdose. Painkiller overdoses are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Drug users who don’t die from an opiate overdose may suffer from brain damage or organ damage due to lack of oxygen, which may last for a lifetime.
Painkiller abuse can also affect the digestive system of users. Painkillers make the bowels slow down, which leads to constipation, nausea, and vomiting.
The most dangerous consequences of painkiller abuse are an increase in use and using more dangerous drugs. Because painkillers are so addictive and powerful, they lead to addiction and an increased tolerance for the drug. This is dangerous because it causes the user to take more pills to get the same high, which leads to overdoses, serious financial issues, and crime.
When addicts either can’t afford more painkillers or their prescription runs out, they turn to a cheaper drug that is easier to get: heroin. Heroin is an illegal opiate that is usually sold as a powder or resin, which is then smoked, snorted, or injected into the body. It is cheap, easy to get, and very strong,
Heroin is dangerous because the potency isn’t consistent and different things are added to it to make it stronger. Fentanyl is one of the strongest prescription painkillers on the planet and is added to heroin to increase the potency. This has lead to a sharp increase in overdose deaths from opiates.
Avoiding Painkiller Addiction in Student-Athletes
There’s not much you can do to prevent student-athletes from getting injured. But there are many steps you can take to make sure that young athletes don’t become addicted to painkillers.
The first step you can take is to make sure that your student-athlete isn’t prescribed painkillers in the first place. Painkillers help manage pain but there are other ways to reduce pain.
Over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen and aspirin reduce inflammation and pain. They are hard to overdose on, aren’t addictive, and are easy to find.
R.I.C.E stands for the four steps of recovery: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Resting the injured body part, icing the injury, compressing the injury with wraps, and elevating the injury above your heart reduces pain and increases recovery.
Physical therapy can help reduce the pain from longterm or recurring injuries. It also prevents injuries in the future by strengthening joints and the muscles surrounding them.
Making sure to supervise your young athlete’s painkiller prescription is also important. If your student-athlete has a painkiller prescription, make sure that they take the right amount and don’t have access to the pills.
You can also make sure that the prescription is appropriate for their injury. If the pain won’t last more than a couple of days, then that is how long the prescription should last for. If the pain takes longer to go away, make sure that the doctor has a plan to reduce the use of painkillers over the course of recovery.
Protect Student-Athletes from Addiction
Now that you know a little more about the use of painkillers in high school sports, you can educate student-athletes about why a painkiller high is so dangerous. The only way to stop addiction is by educating people, and that starts with spreading the word.
If you have any questions about opiate addiction, treatment, and recovery, please visit our blog.