Tag: adolescent drug addiction

The Surprising Spiral From Athlete to Addict

Athlete or Addict?

athlete turning into drug addict

I recently stumbled across a heart wrenching Sport’s Illustrated article that detailed the downward spiral many young athletes take into addiction. The article itself touched briefly on statistics about athletes and addiction, as well as how drug cartels are targeting athletes, but more compelling were the stories of numerous student athletes derailed by painkiller and heroin abuse.

Those “profiled” include Roman Montana, Patrick Trevor, Amber Masters, and others. These were some incredibly talented athletes with the potential to go pro.

Roman was a promising baseball, basketball, and MMA star from Albuquerque, NM. He became addicted to painkillers after being injured in 2008. He died from a heroin overdose in 2012.

Patrick was a star New Jersey high school lacrosse player. After his thumb was shattered in 2009, he became dependent on painkillers. After moving on to heroin, he got sober in 2012.

Amber was a star California soccer player. After following a similar trajectory as Roman and Patrick, she became hooked on heroin. Her addiction grew to the point that she began selling heroin and introduced her younger brother to the drug. He died of an overdose in 2012.

Today, Amber is clean and sober. Her brother’s death was a wake up call that she needed to turn her life around. She did, but not everyone is so lucky.

Roman Montana’s overdose death in 2012 was just one of a growing number of student athlete deaths. In fact, since 2011, at least eight athletes in the Albuquerque area have died of a heroin or prescription painkiller overdose.

There’s clearly something very wrong here. What’s going on? Why are so many athletes turning into addicts? Perhaps it has something to do with Mexican cartels and how they’re targeting student athletes.

Read about what heroin withdrawal is like from a recovering addict’s point of view

Cartels Targeting Student Athletes

One of the most surprising elements of the Sport’s Illustrated article was their suggestion that sophisticated Mexican cartels are actively pursuing young athletes.

Jack Riley, the DEA’s Chief of Operations, recognized this pattern around ten years ago. He noticed cartels began “marketing” heroin to those with a high likelihood of abusing prescription drugs.

No specific population is more susceptible to receiving prescriptions for powerful opioids, and abusing those prescriptions, than athletes. In fact, a seven-month Sport’s Illustrated investigation uncovered rampant prescription opioid and heroin abuse in almost all sports.

heroin addicted athletes
image via Flickr user Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

This investigation concluded that opioid overdoses have occurred across the country in sports like baseball, basketball, football, golf, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling.

Of these overdoses, almost all involving heroin can be traced back to cartel manufactured drugs. Riley himself has seen this firsthand. When asked about the influence of Mexican made heroin, he stated,

“’[The cartels] have developed a strategy, with the help of street gangs, to put heroin in every walk of life. They recognize how vulnerable young athletes are’” (Sport’s Illustrated).

Statistics on Athletes and Addiction

Having examined how heroin is “marketed” to student athletes, what about it’s impact on their lives? We looked at some specific and heartbreaking examples above, but what about national trends?

Things aren’t looking good. According to research from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, around 11% of senior level high school athletes have used painkillers for nonmedical purposes.

With that many students abusing painkillers, and heroin being aggressively pushed on them by criminal enterprises, it’s no wonder there have been so many overdoses.

Equally alarming is research from Philip Todd Veliz, a scientist from the University of Michigan. He conducted a 2013 study on over 1,400 young athletes. His findings?

Well, he concluded that adolescent males playing sports are two times more likely to be prescribed painkillers and four times more likely to misuse/abuse them than males of the same age who don’t play sports.

Two times more likely to be prescribed painkillers and four times more likely to abuse them? That sounds alarming at best and downright terrifying at worst. Playing sports, something that’s universally touted and pushed on our children, can cause them to be much more likely to abuse drugs? That isn’t right.

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Why are So Many Athletes Turning Into Addicts?

There are more forces at work than drug dealers targeting student athletes. Perhaps another reason so many athletes are turning into addicts has to do with what I’ve dubbed the “culture of play.”

This is the idea that, no matter what, athletes need to be on the field, court, or rink. It doesn’t matter if they’re injured. It doesn’t matter if they’re sick. It doesn’t matter if they’re unable to play in whatever way. They’ll simply take a pill and get back to the game.

This culture of play could be one of the reasons so many athletes are turning to opioid pain pills to get them through injuries. And the line between use, misuse, abuse, and addiction is incredibly thin.

There’s also the idea that doctors simply aren’t informed about the drugs they’re dispensing to young athletes or, if they are, they aren’t properly communicating the potential risks to families. Although this is hard to believe – it’s 2015 and the opioid epidemic is in full swing – it seems to have occurred in at least a few of the cases examined in Sport’s Illustrated.

Take, for example, Patrick’s story. He received a prescription for Roxicodone almost right after his injury. Although his doctor knew a bit about the drug, he even joked that Trevor “got the good stuff,” he did nothing to warn Trevor or his family.

This type of uninformed and negligent prescribing is how we ended up with a countrywide painkiller epidemic to begin with. It’s disheartening to see that, many years later, some doctors still haven’t learned their lesson.

Do you think your child or loved one may be abusing heroin or painkillers? Learn how to be sure today

What’s the Solution?

This is where many are left scratching their head, wondering, “huh? There’s a solution?” The good news is that yes, there is hope for the recent tide of adolescent athlete-addicts. The bad news is that it isn’t a quick fix.

drug dealers targeting student athletes
image via Flickr

The solution to athletes turning into addicts is as complicated as the problem itself. That is – there are doctors overprescribing opioids, while drug cartels and dealers are targeting those receiving prescriptions. The answer is for doctors to cut down on prescribing opioids and for addiction treatment to be readily accessible to those who need it.

The first part, eliminating the over the top prescribing attitude of doctors, is already being implemented. Things like prescription monitoring services are cracking down on “pill mills” and other sources of powerful opioids across the country.

Increasing access to treatment, on the other hand, is a bit harder to implement. Some major steps, like mental health and substance abuse insurance parity, have been made in the past few years, but there’s still a long way to go.

Until then, there are going to be drug dealers targeting those who are at risk for heroin abuse. Young athletes, old athletes, and everyone between will continue to get hooked and overdose. It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

People like Roman Montana, Patrick Trevor, Amber Masters, and the rest of this new generation of addict-athletes are living, and sometimes dying, proof of this.

Want to Know What Drug Addiction is REALLY Like?

A Firsthand Look Into Adolescent Addiction

adolescents teaching others about drug addiction

How do adults talk to their teenage children about drugs? It’s a question almost as old as time itself. If adolescents even get a whiff of “adult BS,” they stop listening faster than you can say, “drugs are bad.”

Well, thanks to Dr. Joe Shrand and a project called the Drug Story Theater, adolescents are able to learn what drug addiction is really like.

Drug Story Theater is a production staring teenagers in recovery and it’s designed to let teens reach out to other teens about the dangers of addiction in a way that’ll hold their attention and teach them something. All stories featured are actual events that have happened to the teenage actors.

Dr. Shrand is the medical director of a Brockton, MA treatment center called C.A.S.T.L.E. (Clean And Sober Teens Living Empowered). He’s also the mastermind behind the Drug Story Theater. When asked about the production, he had the following to say,

“[It’s] mutually beneficial…because the audience can see a side of drugs they may not know and the actors in early recovery can spin their troubled history into something positive” (Patriot Ledger).

What’s Drug Story Theater All About?

The Drug Story Theater sounds pretty innovative, right? It is! It’s the first project of its kind – something that lets teenagers who’ve struggled with addiction turn their demons to hope, on stage, for other teenagers.

That’s the definition of one addict helping another stay clean!

Right now, there are five recovering teenagers and two parents involved in the show. They all share the spotlight with at least one unique story. Some of the teenagers involved are as young as fourteen.

According to one of the parents, Drug Story Theater doesn’t only help the teenage actors and the adolescents in the audience. It also allows parents of addicted or at risk teens find some much needed solidarity and learn they’re not alone in their struggles.

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So far, the production is only based in Massachusetts. It gathers its teenage actors from across the southern MA area, including Boston, Quincy, Marshfield, Brockton, and yes, Gloucester.

That could all change soon though. The program is state-funded for the modest sum of $50,000. It’s enjoyed bipartisan support in the Massachusetts’ legislature and is ready to be implemented around the country.

According to Dr. Shrand,

“If half the public schools in the United States put $2,500 in their budget for Drug Story Theater, that could mean a $20 million education fund for kids in recovery…That’s pretty cool and that doesn’t count the money we’re going to save in prevention for all these kids” (Patriot Ledger).

The Lesson Other States Can Learn

And here’s where things get really interesting. Other states can learn a few lessons from Massachusetts’ latest anti-drug success story.

First and foremost, it doesn’t take a monumental sum of money to effect real change in adolescent drug use patterns. Rather than petition the state for a six or seven digit paycheck, Shrand put something together using what he had. He took the resources at his disposal and created an effective substance abuse education program.

Second, the Drug Story Theater is firmly rooted in the local community. All the actors, teenage and adult, are from the southern MA area. All know the devastating impact that painkillers, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and synthetic drugs have had on locals’ lives.

This fosters a sense of urgency and service that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Think about the historical impact small groups of citizens have had on their communities. Grassroots activism is incredibly powerful and one of the main ways local change is effected.

Finally, other states can learn a lesson in innovation from Drug Story Theater, its stars, and Dr. Shrand. Who would have thought that a stage production, regarded by many as out of date, could have such a large and positive effect on teenagers?

Well it is and that’s something we can all celebrate.

How to Tell if Your Child is Using Drugs

Is Your Child an Addict?

No parent wants to think their child is using drugs. It’s a scary prospect. In fact, scary may be too soft a word. It’s a terrifying, horrifying, and overwhelming prospect.

is my child using drugs

Many people, when faced with someone close to them using drugs, choose the ostrich method of dealing with stress. That is to say, they stick their head in the sand and pretend everything’s okay. This gut level denial is dangerous and, in cases of full-blown addiction, deadly.

Facing the truth is hard. Facing the truth about a child’s drug use may even seem impossible, but it’s well worth the fight. After all, if a child, loved one, or friend was suffering from cancer, you’d seek out the best treatment possible. You wouldn’t ignore the disease in hopes it’d go away. Treat drug use, abuse, and addiction the same.

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we believe that every family touched by addiction needs help. Sometimes this help takes the form of seeking substance abuse treatment. Sometimes it’s as simple as gathering information to better understand the warning signs of drug use.

Make yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, and learn how to tell if someone close to you is using drugs.

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Signs of Drug Use

There are various classes of drugs (opioids, stimulants, prescription pills of all kinds, and many more). Each of these classes brings with it unique signs and symptoms of drug use.

Find a list of signs common to all types of drug use below:

• Change in mood – has your child gone from outgoing to introverted? Content to depressed? Happy to sullen? Patient to inpatient? These are all changes in mood common to drug use. It’s worth noting that they’re also typical of teenagers. Still, a closer look may be required.

• Change in appearance – has your child drastically altered the way they dress, behave, and interact with others? Again, this is common of typical teenage angst, but may also be a sign of drug use.

• Change in friends – has your child switched friend groups? Have they started hanging around people who appear to be involved in unsavory activities? This may be a sign of drug use.

• Loss of interest – has your child lost interest in things they once loved? Have they withdrawn from activities that once brought them pleasure? This is often a sign of drug use. As with the above signs, it may also be attributed to being a teenager.

• Loss of money – does your child seem to never have money? Do they have a job, yet are always asking to borrow money? This could be due to drug use. After all, drugs aren’t cheap.

• Drug paraphernalia – this is probably the surest sign your child, or friend/loved one, is using drugs. Have you found pipes, straws, baggies, or other drug paraphernalia among their possessions? As the saying goes – if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

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Effects of Drugs

Much like different classes of drugs have different warning signs, they also have different effects. Simply put, heroin affects users much differently than cocaine does.

Find a list of effects common to all drugs below:

• Euphoria – all drugs produce feelings of intense pleasure. After all, people wouldn’t use drugs if they didn’t have some sort of draw.

• Apathy – all drugs produce feelings of apathy towards anything that isn’t directly related to getting, or using, more drugs. This is true of drug use, abuse, and addiction.

• Compulsive behavior – all drugs produce compulsive behavior, which is linked to apathy. When someone, be it a child, friend, or significant other, is using drugs, they do so compulsively. They do so despite consequences, be they negative or positive.

• Dishonesty – all drugs produce dishonesty in users. Simply put, someone using drugs isn’t going to tell their parents they’re getting high. There is certainly a scale of dishonesty, with recreational use usually bringing less dishonesty than, say, addiction.

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What Do I Do if My Child is Using Drugs?

This is, without a doubt, the hardest part about a child using drugs. As if it isn’t enough that a loved one is using drugs, now you’re wondering what steps to take. Well, rest assured that many have been in the shoes you’re now standing in. Their experience can offer valuable tips for dealing with a child using drugs.

what to do if my child is using drugs

First, seek out information. What drug(s) is your child using? What are their main effects and side effects? What danger do they pose? Where is your child likely getting them? What options for stopping are available? What are the various types of treatment? What are their pro’s and con’s?

After gathering information, this last point becomes especially important. You’re now informed and can make a rational decision, rather than one based in fear. So, does your child, loved one, or friend need treatment? If so, what type of treatment best suits their needs? Do they need to detox and go to residential rehab or will they do fine in an outpatient program?

Ask yourself these questions. If you can’t satisfactorily answer them, reach out to someone who can. To that end, give us a call. We have a dedicated group of outreach professionals who can answer all the above questions and more.

Call us today at 1-844-I-CAN-CHANGE or 1-(561)-381-0015.

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We are here to support you during your time of need and help you make the best decision for yourself or your loved one. Click below to speak to a member of our staff directly.

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