Researchers examined data from more than 21,000 high school seniors
surveyed between 2006 and 2014.
Overall, they didn’t find any differences in prescription or illegal
opioid use between students who played at least one competitive
sport and non-athletes. The study did, however, find an increased
risk with three sports: hockey, weightlifting and wrestling.
“We already knew from several of my previous studies that while
athletes in general are at a lower risk of opioid use, athletes
involved in high contact sports like wrestling, football, ice
hockey, and lacrosse are at a greater risk of misusing prescription
opioids,” said lead study author Philip Veliz of the University of
Michigan in Ann Arbor.
“The current study confirms that athletes in certain high contact
sports are at a greater risk of misusing opioids,” Veliz added by
The study participants answered survey questions that touched on a
variety of factors that can influence drug use, including grades,
social life, employment, family characteristics, cigarette and
alcohol use, and sports participation.
The most common sports played by teens in the study included
basketball, football, baseball, soccer, track and weightlifting.
About 31 percent of participants didn’t play any sports at all,
while 30 percent played one sport, 18 percent competed in two sports
and 21 percent participated in at least three different sports.
To assess opioid use, surveys also asked whether teens had tried
heroin in the past year with or without a needle, or tried narcotics
other than heroin such as opium or codeine without a doctor’s
About 8 percent of teens surveyed said they had taken prescription
opioids in the past year without getting a prescription from a
Slightly less than 1 percent of teens said they had tried heroin in
the past year, and an even smaller fraction of adolescents reported
using both heroin and opioids that didn’t come from a doctor.
While most responses were similar for athletes and students who
didn’t play sports, there were some exceptions, researchers report
in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
With prescription opioids, tennis players were 25 percent less
likely than non-athletes to use these medicines without a
prescription, the study found. But weightlifters were 22 percent
more likely to take opioids without a prescription and wrestlers
were 33 percent more likely.
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Heroin use, meanwhile, was three times more common among ice hockey
players than non-athletes and 81 percent more likely among
Compared with teens who didn’t participate in sports, hockey players
were nearly four times more likely to use both heroin and
prescription painkillers, while weightlifters were nearly twice as
likely to use both types of opioids.
The study is observational, and doesn’t prove whether or not sports
participation in general or certain athletic pursuits in particular
influence the odds of teen drug use, the authors note. Researchers
also lacked data on sports injuries, which might influence whether
teens tried painkillers with or without a prescription.
“High contact sports, particularly for males, have some of the
highest injury rates at the interscholastic level excluding
weightlifting,” Veliz said.
“Injuries are bound to happen, and these athletes may be
self-medicating to recover from injuries in order to get back on the
playing field as soon as possible,” Veliz added. “Accordingly, these
athletes may develop a dependence on opioids that can eventually
lead to heroin use.”
Among other things, parents can help prevent misuse of opioids by
making sure teen athletes get close supervision after injuries that
require painkiller prescriptions and disposing of any unused
medications, Veliz said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2hTGLWK Journal of Adolescent Health, online
December 1, 2016
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