The temptation to experiment with drugs, both illegal and legal, is something faced by every teenager in our society. There are many reasons why teenagers choose to use the multitude of drugs that may become available to them- as an escape, boredom, trying to be/ seem cool and fit in. Access to recreational and prescription drugs is at an all- time high, making drug prevention an increasingly difficult issue for teenagers.

For teenage athletes, the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) is an added dimension that makes the need for awareness even greater. Under pressure to perform more consistently or recover more quickly, and given knowledge of the use of similar techniques in professional sports, teenage athletes have been shown to increasingly turn to these in order to improve their performances.

The use of recreational drugs, prescription drugs and PEDs as a high school student athletes can pose real threats to your performance and motivations to play.

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Recreational drugs

At some point during high school, recreational drugs will come into your orbit as a high school student athlete. Whether at a party you attend or just hanging out with friends, like most teenagers across the country you will be faced with choosing if you are going to consume drugs and alcohol, from marijuana to cocaine to newly made synthetic drugs. While there are no conclusive studies stating exactly how much of the high school student athlete population experiment with recreational drugs, there are two opposing views on its prominence.

Picture of tiles spelling BANNED

Some studies have shown that sport participation leads to a healthier lifestyle making a high school student less likely to use any illicit drug or alcohol, as it will affect their mental and physical ability to excel in their sport. In these instances, highly driven student- athletes will reject these drugs because of their ambition to improve in their sport.

However, there are others who believe that student athletes are more susceptible to using recreational drugs for image (to look cool) purposes. They have also pinpointed the culture of a sport (for example baseball’s association with chewing tobacco, football with alcohol) as something that could influence the athlete’s drug usage.

Prescription drugs

There have been recent concerns over the abuse of prescription drugs by student- athletes. Adderall, the brand name ADHD medication designed to improve attentiveness and control has been named as a common source of misuse and has even resulted in the suspension of professional athletes.

With Adderall and other ADHD medication of a similar type being prescribed at historic rates, they are quite accessible to the general public, making it even more important to be vigilant about its abuse by student athletes. The drug can be especially beneficial to athletes by serving as a stimulant. Some use it to give them an extra boost when staying up late to study or complete some sort of schoolwork. For others, it is used to increase their level of concentration when doing film study or get an extra boost of energy during workouts.

In the case of painkillers, athletes have a greater chance of exposure due to higher risk of injury. A National Institute of Drug Abuse sponsored survey in 2009 showed that teenage athletes were increasingly abusing drugs such as Vicodin or OxyContin among others that have been prescribed to them by doctors. 12% of the boys and 8% of the girls out of the 2300 high school seniors responded that they had recently done so.

The abuse of prescription medications by teen athletes with growing brains and bodies is an area for real concern. Adderall abuse has been shown to lead to psychosis and other illnesses while the abuse of pain killers has been linked to heroin addiction amongst teenagers.

Performance Enhanced Drugs (PED’s)

As athletes are looking for an edge over their peers, they are more likely than other students to use steroids and other supplements in a bid to make themselves stronger and faster than their competitors. In recent years, studies have highlighted an increase in steroid usage amongst both male and female high school athletes for a variety of reasons.

A 2013 study by the Partnership for Drug- Free Kids found that 11% of the 3,705 students surveyed reported using synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) specifically, doubling the number reported in previous years. Experts have shown concern over these results due to the fact that the athletes are more likely to get their hands on sub- par and chemically imbalanced products, making it difficult to assess their possible long term effects on the health of the users.

Body Builder

In the same survey steroid use was shown to increase to 7% and boys indicated they were more likely to use performance enhancing drugs that were directed at growing muscle, including substances such as creatine. This product has not been shown to have an impact on athlete performance at any level and again, the use of this and other supplements is a cause for concern because of the level of regulation these items undergo.

It’s clear that there are a variety of options available to teenage athletes in regards to legal, illegal and unregulated drug and supplement use. There are also a range of reasons inherent to sport that can make them appealing to athletes. In order to be your best as an athlete, you have to be careful and knowledgeable about what you put into your body. Use and abuse of these substances can have a huge effect on your physical capabilities and performance, so the most important thing is to ensure you know exactly what you are getting into when you are faced with decisions regarding drug or supplement use.

Try to remember the old saying still applies:  “NEVER start something you are going to need to stop!”  Simply, Don’t Start……