Athletic life can be stressful in many aspects. Athletes may decide to use drugs for many reasons caused by environmental, physical, and psychological stressors. These reasons generally consist of performance enhancement due to pressure to perform, coping mechanism for dealing with retirement, and self-treatment for physical pain, injuries, and mental illness.

If repeated and overused, this can lead to drug abuse, which occurs at most levels of competition in all sports. The use of drugs for performance enhancement has become a critical issue existing among athletes of all ages hoping to boost performance and gain competitive advantage. As a result, these performance-enhancing substances have been banned by most sports organizations, implementing strict consequences for people who are discovered using and abusing them. Overall consequences can involve suspensions and bans, health problems, job loss and early retirement, changes in areas of the brain, addiction, and life-threatening situations.

To detect and treat signs of drug use and possible abuse as early as possible, look for physical symptoms, drug paraphernalia, and behavioral symptoms.

Look for Physical Symptoms

There is a considerable amount of evidence for the side-effects of the various substances that are normally used by athletes. It is important to address the significance of avoiding drug abuse due to a range of consequences. Tangible actions that you can take are preventive measures and education on responsible medication use.

If this is a case of drug abuse, more steps that can be taken are motivational interviewing, which is a form of behavioral treatment, and possible pharmacologic interventions, if necessary. These steps would be part of a holistic, rigorous treatment program designed to address the needs of any athlete who needs help. If you notice signs of drug abuse in athletes that you know, you need to act immediately.

Those suffering may try to hide their conditions and downplay whatever they are struggling with. This behavior is common among athletes who may be abusing drugs because they do not want to be flawed. If you are worried that a loved one may be using drugs for performance or other reasons, physical symptoms are probably the first symptoms that you will notice in them.

Signs can depend on which substance is being used. Watch out for warning signs related to anything physical because drug use can affect their physical health and appearance, especially if they are abusing those substances. These warning signs are described below.

  • Eyes and pupils. Their eyes may be bloodshot with a glassy appearance, and their pupils can be dilated or constricted.
  • Appetite and/or sleep patterns. They are likely to be eating and sleeping differently, which affects their energy levels. This can affect their physical appearance due to sudden weight change, loss or gain, and potential decline in personal grooming habits.
  • Slurred, repetitive speech and impaired coordination. Substance abuse can negatively affect the brain in areas that control these aspects.
  • Unusual odors on breath, body, or clothing. This is caused by lack of care directed toward personal hygiene.

If you notice these physical symptoms, it is important to also look for paraphernalia and behavioral symptoms before bringing the problem up to them.

Look for Drug Paraphernalia

Drug paraphernalia is any object or device that is used for drug intake. This paraphernalia may include bongs, pipes, and needles.

But, every person is entitled to their privacy. If you suspect that a loved one may be using drugs, it is crucial to continue with thoughtfulness, respect, and caution, especially if you intend to conduct a search. Conducting a search is justified if this person is your child or your partner and you share the same living spaces.

If that is not the case, it is probably best to only search living spaces if it is shared with a loved one you are concerned about. Get in touch with a mental health professional or counselor to seek advice on the situation. You can also speak with a person who is sharing a living space with the person in question to bring up your worries and fears and discuss how to proceed.

Behavioral Symptoms od Someone Who is Self-Medicating 

Behavioral symptoms are often easier to spot. It is important to remember that just because someone is suffering from an addiction, that does not make them a bad person. Recovery is possible for everyone.

Someone suffering from addiction may experience:

  • Difficulties in their relationships with others. They may be prone to frequent mood swings and lying in response to the substances they are using, and there may be a sudden change in lifestyle (i.e. friends, favorite hangouts, hobbies, etc.).
  • Unexplained need for money or financial problems. They may borrow or steal money while showing signs of engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
  • Criminal or irresponsible behavior and legal trouble. This can include dangerous situations, such as fights, accidents, illegal activities, using dirty needles, and driving under the influence due to increased irritability and changed rationalization. High-risk, erratic behavior can be dangerous for an athlete because it may jeopardize not only their health but also their career.
  • Neglecting responsibilities. These include duties at work, school, or home.

Drug use can lead to drug abuse and addiction, if not noticed, addressed, or ceased earlier. These symptoms include loss of control, increased tolerance, increased, compulsive, continued use despite negative effects, using to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms, dependence, thoughts and actions revolving around drug use, and loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy. If you recognize these warning signs, it is necessary to take care of yourself as you decide to speak up in an uplifting, understanding manner, avoid blaming behavior and gently suggest the idea of treatment.

When You Should Seek Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction, the time to seek help is now! It is never too late to begin the road to recovery. The first step is often the hardest but is a monumental accomplishment that will change your life for the better. With the help of health professionals at the Arizona Addiction Recovery Center, you or your loved one will receive unparalleled medical care with a treatment plan designed specially to fit their needs in their goal to achieve sobriety. Act now to limit the potential negative effects and start a new healthier chapter in life.

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Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888.512.1705.

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