How Addiction Creeps into Athletics

athleteThe National College Athletic Association (NCAA) includes 1,000 member institutions, and 420,000 college athletes as of 2013. The 2013 NCAA Division I revenue for college men’s football was $15.8 million per school. The 2013 NCAA Division I revenue for college men’s basketball was $10.1 million per school. Based on those statistics alone, it can be surmised that the stakes are high—and winning can be everything.

The Numbers

A 2013 report published by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM) sheds some light on the large amounts of money involved in college athletics. The report cites the most profitable college football teams as:

  • Texas, with $93,942,815 in revenue, and $68,830,484 in profit.
  • Georgia, with $70,838,539 in revenue, and $52,529,885 in profit.
  • Penn State, with $70,208,584 in revenue, and $50,427,645 in profit.
  • Michigan, with $63,189,417 in revenue, and $44,861,184 in profit.
  • Florida, with $68,715,750 in revenue, and $44,258,193 in profit.

Athletes and Drugs

NCAA drug testing began in 1986, with approximately 11,000 student athletes being tested randomly each year by the NCAA. The NCAA drug tests in all three divisions at championship events at least once every 5 years; and with some championships being tested annually.

The AOAAM study, Substance Use and Abuse Among College Athletes sheds some light on why drugs have crept into athletics, and some of the key reasons why athletes use drugs and alcohol.

It is a comprehensive study publication which can be reviewed in full, but an overview of its highlights is included herein.

NCAA Division 1 male athletes gave the following reasons for using non-prescription medication:

  • 41% used in anticipation of pain.
  • 31% used to avoid missing practice or a game; and Starters were more likely to use for this reason.

On the subject of alcohol use, the study found:

  • Both male and female athletes consumed larger amounts of alcohol when drinking, in comparison to non- athletes.
  • Both male and female athletes engage in greater heavy- episodic drinking.

College athletes gave the following reasons for their drinking—reasons similar to those given by

non-athlete college students:

  • Being involved in fraternities or sororities.
  • Their perceived alcohol use among other students.
  • Team or peer related influences.
  • A “work hard–play hard” ethic.

Reasons found by the study for women college athletes’ use of alcohol and/or drugs were:

  • An overall higher prevalence amongst college athletes.
  • The female athlete may be far away from family and friends –their support group.
  • The increase in responsibility of sports scholarship and the academic workload.
  • Having a new coach, trainer and team mates.
  • Now competing at a higher collegiate standard of athletics.

It becomes evident in reviewing the results of the study and its findings that young college athletes turn to drugs and alcohol as a solution to peer pressure, stress, physical pain, and the demands of life which may outpace their life skills. Many college students and youth turn to drug and alcohol use for the same or similar reasons.

The college athlete alone has the added pressure and stress of the demand for athletic performance; the need to win; the need to maintain an academic standard which holds-up under the close scrutiny of academia and fellow students; the need and desire to be a team player; and perhaps the need to fulfill the obligations to a college which may have given a full or partial scholarship enabling the athlete to attend.

Suggested Prevention Measures

The AOAAM publication on the study results included some recommendations for preventative measures which could be implemented to curtail alcohol consumption at the college level. Those included:

  • Enforcing underage drinking laws.
  • Providing alcohol education to college students.
  • Informing parents of any alcohol-related infractions.
  • Providing alcohol-free campus activities.

Additional suggestions for prevention measure included partnering with local businesses to:

  • Reduce access to alcohol.
  • The elimination of low-cost drink specials in bars near campus–based on the premise that people drink less when alcohol is more expensive.

It’s a given that drug and alcohol prevention education is something we can all do to help our college athletes.

For more information on drug and alcohol prevention education, please call us today.


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