High school athletes are often enjoying the best season of their lives. During this pivotal moment in their physical and personal development, they are playing a sport that they love, creating goals and dreams for the future and planning for a lifetime of success. In many cases, they have a close peer group that includes their teammates and friends. In addition, they often have the support of their coaches as well as their teachers.
All of this can come crashing down very quickly after an injury while playing their favorite sport. Sports injuries among teen athletes can be severe and can have life-altering consequences. In some cases, the teen is no longer able to play the sport that they love. Some may lose their scholarship for college. Others may experience a lifetime of pain, discomfort and mobility issues. And some may end up battling a heroin addiction which can quickly turn fatal.
How are Athletes Becoming Addicted to Heroin?
Despite the fact that they are only playing in adolescent sports leagues, many teens are suffering from the same severe, painful injuries that their professional counterparts are at risk for. From broken bones to torn limbs, teens are subject to a variety of injuries during any type of contact sport. When these injuries occur, physicians are often quick to provide young people with prescription pain medications to help them manage their discomfort levels. These prescription pain medications can easily lead to misuse and abuse, causing an addiction that’s hard to maintain. When it becomes too difficult to acquire the prescription pills that they need, teens begin to turn to heroin — a cheaper, more effective drug that is easier to come by.
Of course, sports injuries are not the only reasons that young athletes begin turning to opioids. In many cases, prescription pills are the drug to have at the Saturday night party. Teens may find themselves using these drugs recreationally because that’s what their friends are doing. Then, it quickly spirals into an addiction that is difficult to control. Generally, young people who get into a bad crowd are quickly influenced to make decisions that can have fatal consequences.
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The Perception of Teen Addiction and Its Impact on Treatment
Unfortunately, for many years, pharmaceutical companies have been down-playing the addictive properties of their medications. As a result, this has led to a significant increase in prescriptions over the years. Recognizing that these pills are quite effective at managing pain levels, physicians have not thought twice about giving these powerful medications to young people who are particularly susceptible to use and abuse.
Parents, who are unprepared for this type of health issue in their children, often do not know where to turn. They begin searching for answers on the Internet. There they find an onslaught of information about opioid treatment at rehabilitation centers. Many of these facilities describe addiction as a lifelong condition without a cure. Instead, a person must manage their addiction appropriately.
This false perception has led many into a cycle of treatment and relapse. Thus, preventing young people from having the freedom from their heroin addiction, that they both need and deserve. There are available medical treatment options that can help teens overcome their drug dependence and also assist with the emotional issues. These medical treatment programs allow young adults to go on to live productive, fulfilling lives; even in the aftermath of a devastating athletic injury.
How Can Society Address This Growing Issue?
The first step in addressing the heroin addiction issue — which plays a significant role in the opioid crisis that the nation is battling — is to minimize the number of prescription pain medications prescribed to young adults. A recent study by the Orthopedic Institute for Children states that many adolescent patients are being prescribed too many pills at once in order to manage their pain. They often do not need a significant amount to manage their pain, and the rest of the pills aren’t used. Therefore, teens and their peers can easily and quickly abuse them. Physicians can reduce the number of pills they prescribe to limit the number of prescription pills that end up on the streets.
In addition, there needs to be more understanding of the impact of opioid use in teens among both parents and educators. As we know, the brains of young adults are not fully developed and behaviors and decisions are not always as rational or responsible as we expect. Furthermore, even if they do fall into opioid addiction, early intervention can reduce risks and consequences. If a physician can reverse the opioid dependence and a psychotherapist can provide individual treatment and emotional guidance, the chances of a full recovery are much greater.
Society needs to recognize that effective opioid treatment is available. It is also important to remember that a young person can overcome their heroin addiction and move forward. Doctors must treat heroin dependence like many other medical conditions, with the addition and support of experienced mental health professionals.
Parents, educators, and coaches need to understand the significant impact that injuries can have on the life of a young teen. They should also, strictly monitor any prescription pain medication use after an injury has occurred. In addition, it’s up to the adults to recognize the signs and symptoms of any health issues including addiction. It is even more important to take action as soon as possible. Any young person who is exhibiting addiction signs and symptoms should immediately seek medical help. A complete opioid detox treatment, such as the Waismann Method, followed by supportive mental health care, can give a young adult the best chances to beat heroin addiction.
Reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC, Founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence
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