As a crazy millennial-non-home-owning creature, I don't like prescription drugs. There are a number of issues impacting our little sporting world at the moment, led by concussion and the misuse of prescription drugs. One of these issues filters into wider society and the other is one of many consequences men and women accept when pursuing a career in professional sport.
The misuse of prescription drugs has swept the world and as is often the case, it's led by the United States of America where some jokers named The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared it an epidemic. Without going too far down a deep conspiracy rabbit-hole (I can if you want - just email us), there are many pharmaceutical companies that make a fair amount of cash off of prescription drugs, so while it may be an 'epidemic' there are many important people in this world profiting from it.
Now, when I hear 'prescription drugs' I immediately think of pain-killers. Not your standard Panadol but Oxycontin, Vicodin, Tramadol and Xanax which do a fabulous job in numbing pain and making you feel better. They are also highly addictive.
In recent times, we have seen the misuse of prescription drugs headline our sporting landscape. In a sport like rugby league - where one of the guarantees of each game is that the opponents will try their hardest to dominate any physical contest with you - pain is a fact of life. Injuries will happen and, worse than that, you will deal with pain that isn't specifically an injury just to play next week.
A player might need surgery and will be given a cocktail of prescription drugs to numb any pain. Or a player might need to deal with pain on a weekly basis and you'd have to assume that one of the better ways to do this is to take a drug that kills any pain. Either way, a portion of these athletes will find that the prescription drug makes them feel great, it's a quick and easily available fix. I don't think it's ideal but sporadic or short-term use is alright, I guess that's the purpose of it all but when you rely on prescription drugs to play with pain or to get out on the field, then we have an issue.
Surgery/injury/pain. Prescription drugs to numb pain. 'Oh I actually like this feeling'. Addicted.
The thing about prescription drugs is that they are prescription drugs. A doctor or a 'good guy' has given them to you, so the implication is there's not much wrong with that, as opposed to substances that are illegal. This allows athletes to dabble in a substance that is seemingly all good and then if you combine it with a beverage of choice, you get a bit of a buzz. A buzz that the average punter never really has to deal with because they don't get drug tested and can instead dabble in whatever 'escape' they can get their mits on.
Why risk your career/providing for your family by doing an illegal drug, when you can just mix up a cocktail with something that a doctor has given you, for a buzz? Sounds pretty smart to me, oh and get off your anti-buzz moral high horse. You're addicted to coffee, beer, sugar, meth, cocaine ... everyone wants a buzz.
Everyone says that prescription drug use/misuse is popular in league or union, thanks Senior Sergeant Obvious. These sports deal in pain, so there's no great insight in those sort of comments because it makes sense. And I guess that's why I wanted to write this as I'm not shocked or upset when prescription drug misuse is in the news, I expect it ... as you should as well.
There's not many other options to these athletes as it is a doctor giving it to them. From that point on it becomes a matter of whether an athlete has an addictive personality (which they probably do because they are addicted to winning/competing/getting better) or, whether an athlete simply needs to them to play, to provide for their family.
I don't have answers, I don't know how to stop or steer those at risk in the right direction.
There are alternatives to prescription drugs, such as a plant that grows like out of the earth which is healthier and widely accepted in the NFL, but that's illegal in Aotearoa and Australia so there ya go.