Drug Abuse With Athletes Essay, Research Paper
Drugs and Athletes
Drugs have been a problem in our society for many years. They have been used and
abused by many groups, including professional athletes. It is certainly quite common to hear about
or read about athletes and drug use. Although drugs have a lengthy history of use by
athletes, they have varied effects on the body and different preventions.
Much of the world’s supply of cocaine is produced in South America. Thousands of years
ago, the ancient Incas of Peru chewed coca leaves because they made it possible for them
to work in the high mountains of the land for longer periods of time. In the 1880’s Bolivian
soldiers were given the drug to help them gain endurance and overcome fatigue. It wasn’t until the early years of the 20th century that
cocaine increased in popularity among athletes (”Coca”).
Cocaine is a naturally occurring alkaloid, extracted from the leaves of the coca plant. . Eighty thousand tons of coca leaf will eventually produce about 200 tons
Marijuana was first smoked as a medicine as early as 2737 B.C.E. in China. Marijuana is a
mixture of leaves, stems, and flowering tops of the hemp plant. The hemp plant has the
highest cannabinoid concentration found in the flowering tops. Marijuana is referred to as
grass, pot, tea, or weed. The hemp plant grows wild through most of the world and can
be cultivated in any area with a hot season. It grows best in central Asia. The main
psychoactive compound in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinal, better known as
THC, a strong hallucinogenic that passes from the lungs into the blood and the brain. The
THC content of marijuana has increased eight fold in the last few years and some now
exceed 10 percent. Hash oil may contain 15 to 30 percent THC. Marijuana is by far the
most frequently used illicit drug in the United States(Marijuana).
enhancement, anabolic-andogenic steroids are today’s sports drugs of choice. Steroids are
a family of synthetic compounds. . These children were prepped with wind
sprints at six and steroids at 16, the “sport” vanished from sports (Rosellini 52).
Cocaine was first used by doctors in the late 1800’s as an anesthetic. It was also used
during this time to treat fatigue, alcohol, morphine addiction, impotence, stomach
disorders, asthma, and many other complaints including depression. Despite evidence that
cocaine was habit forming, it was an ingredient in many popular patent medicines, and
until 1903 it was in Coca-Cola. Most countries prohibit its use except for limited medical
purposes. Cocaine is the most reinforcing drug around.
. It is a hardened, very addictive form that may be smoked directly. Cocaine
is very expensive. A single dose may be as little as a quarter of a gram, but it can easily
cost $25 on the street.
There are no currently approved uses for marijuana in the Unites States. However, many
doctors obtain THC from the federal government under special arrangements in order to
prescribe it for cancer patients. THC is effective in reducing the nausea that cancer
patients suffer from. Marijuana may stimulate appetite. Marijuana may be smoked or
taken by mouth. The same dose of THC is about three times as effective when smoked as
when ingested. Marijuana is smoked in the form of a hand-rolled cigarettes, but it is also
smoked in a variety of pipes. After smoking marijuana, the user has a “high,” including an
increased sense of well-being, relaxation, and sleepiness. Most users learn to avoid
overdosage by taking only as many inhalations as required to produce the desired “high.”
Steroids may have some therapeutic value. The United States Food and Drug
Administration has approved the use of selected steroids for treating specific types of
anemia, some breast cancers, osteoporosis, endometriosis, and hereditary angioedema, a
rare disease involving the swelling of some parts of the body. Steroids are used today by
young people that are in a hurry to reach maturity or by someone that hates his skinny
body. Most of all, steroids are used by athletes to build muscle mass. They also help
muscles to recuperate more quickly from exhaustion or injury. These enable users to train
more frequently and for longer periods of time at a high intensity. Athletes generally take
the drugs in dosages 10 to 100 times greater than would be prescribed for therapeutic
purposes. Furthermore, athletes often take more than one type of steroid at a time, a
practice known as “stacking.” Steroids may be taken by injection or orally.
The list of professional and amateur athletes who have become involved with cocaine
reads like an index. A lot of times I’d go up to the plate and the ball was at my head. The
umpire would call it a strike and I’d start arguing. When you’re on drugs, you don’t feel
you’re doing anything wrong.” Raines began using cocaine during the game. He would
keep the little gram bottle in his pocket and if he was stealing a base he would slide head
first, making sure not to break the bottle ( Meer 24).
Cocaine is not an addictive drug in a strictly physical sense. The body does not develop a
physical dependence on it nor is there physical withdrawal when a user stops taking it.
Cocaine increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, and it curbs the
appetite. Prolonged use can cause the septum, which divides the nostrils, to collapse.
On the other hand, cocaine is psychologically addictive. Heavy users often come to treat it
as an emotional crutch, exhibiting “behavior dependence.” Users usually have low self
-esteem and suffer spells of depression.
Professional athletes often have more money and free time than they can handle. E.J.
Junior, a linebacker for the Cardinals, was hit hard by the deaths of Len Bias and Don
Rogers. Both men died of cocaine overdose.The Los Angeles Rams were to flying to San Diego that afternoon, but
White was going to miss the flight. White had spent the nine hours from 3 a.m. to noon
smoking cocaine through a pipe in an unlit, abandoned warehouse. White and his friend
were alone, and he felt that many were trying to kill him. He ran out of the warehouse and
grabbed a garbage lid to hold in front of him like a shield. He ran into a business
screaming, “Someone is trying to kill me!” After about thirty seconds, he ran out and went
to a vacant lot, He then saw five policemen coming at him with guns drawn. He screamed,
“Don’t kill me!” White broke a few tackles before the cops laid him out. He fought so hard
that both of his wrists were permanently scarred by the handcuffs. Four months later,
White was in the ProBowl. White traded his handcuffs for a gold Pro Bowl watch and
became the Football News Comeback Player of the Year. Eventually, White began using
cocaine again and in doing so he almost lost his wife and career. White stopped using
once again and he’s taking a urine test three times a week. He’s staying clean and he’s
playing (Charles White’s Story).
Most people smoke marijuana to experience euphoric properties, including relaxation,
intensification of perception, and visual fantasies. Some athletes use marijuana following a
sporting event because it allows them to feel relaxed and at peace. However, marijuana
has some immediate negative effects. Almost immediately after marijuana is smoked, a
user’s heart rate increases up to 50 percent higher than normal. Also the tiny blood
vessels in the eyes dilate, and the whites of the eyes take a reddish hue. Many people who
get high report that they become very hungry or extremely drowsy within fifteen minutes
of smoking marijuana. Smoking can also cause the throat and mouth to become dry.
People under the influence of marijuana perform poorly on physical tasks.
Marijuana causes many different mental problems. Marijuana can produce a “chronic
cannabis syndrome.” The syndrome consists of loss of energy, reduced levels of drive and
ambition, apathy, depression, agitation, and withdrawal from previous interests. It’s
believed that this syndrome can be reversed by abstinence.
Marijuana affects most people socially too. . Some take place
internally and some are irreversible. Males who take large doses of anabolic steroids
typically experience changes in sexual characteristics. Some possible side effects are
shrinking of testicles, reduced sperm count, impotence, balding, difficulty in urinating,
development of breasts, and enlarged prostate. Females may experience masculinization
as well as other problems. They experience growth of facial hair, changes in or cessation
of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, deepened voice, and breast reduction.
Although there are many different effects on the male and female, both may suffer from
acne, jaundice, trembling, swelling of feet or ankles, and bad breath.
There are also psychological effects caused by steroids.
A few examples of professional athletes that use steroids are Brian Bosworth, Arnold
Schwarzeneggar, and John Kordic. American Danny Harris ranked number one in the
hurdles in 1991, failed a drug test, and could be suspended for four years. The best known
case of steroid use is Lyle Alzado. Lyle, the former defensive end, had an inoperable brain
tumor that left his once-massive body ravaged.
The main weapon that organized sport associations possess to protect the health of those
who participated in sports, as well as to ensure that competitions are fair and natural, is
drug testing. Rules and methods of testing vary from organization to organization, but the
means for discovering whether an athlete has used a prohibited substance are more
discerning than ever. Testing is routine in international and Olympic competitions.
Many of the amateur and professional teams try to detect the use of banned substances
use the same tests, some which cost up to $200 each. Each athlete is asked to give a
urine sample in the presence of a testing official. This separates the urine into different components. After the gas has dissipated,
technicians decipher the colorations left on the column to determine if any banned
substances are present ( Meer 93).
A more accurate but somewhat more time consuming test than the gas chromatograph
alone is the use of a mass spectrometer. In this instrument, some of the original urine
sample is vaporized by a gas chromatograph and then ionized ( converted to electrically
active forms). By passing the gas through an electric current and a magnetic field, the
different ions can be separated from each other by weight. Every substance has a unique ”
signature” in the mass spectrometer because it has a characteristic combination of
molecules. . This is considered
an “invasive” technique (a tester must get a blood sample directly from an athlete’s vein)
and is usually used only if athletes are suspected of tampering with the urine sample or of
substituting someone else’s urine for their own.
A fourth technique for drug testing also shows great promise. The EMIT (enzyme
multiplied immunoassay technique) test may eventually prove more accurate than either
the gas chromatograph or the mass spectrometer. The substance that is being tested for
(THC or cocaine) is injected into an animal in order to provoke its immune system into
producing antibodies. An antibody is a substance produced by animals (including humans)
that attacks a specific substance invading the body. These antibodies are collected,
purified, and placed into a substance that allows them to remain active outside the
animal’s body. This constitutes the testing substance, which is then combined with a
sample of the urine from an athlete to be tested. If the urine contains a banned drug, an
immediate and visible reaction occurs. Because the body responds with a unique antibody
1 for each threatening substance, it is possible to test with great accuracy for the presence
of a specific substance. EMIT is emerging, for example, as the most sensitive test for the
use of marijuana.
Some drugs stay in the body longer than others. Recognizable by-products of the active
ingredient in marijuana can remain in the urine for up to 10 days after smoking, for
example, while long-term users of marijuana may show traces of THC substances into
which it is broken down up to 30 days after the last use. Cocaine, on the other hand, is
usually completely eliminated from the body three days after being used (Meer 95).
In 1982 the NFL Players’ Association and team owner adopted a procedure calling for all
players to undergo a mandatory drug test before the season starts, as part of the normal
preseason physical. If a NFL player tests positive for a banned substance or if the team
doctor has reasonable cause to believe any player is using drugs, tests may be ordered
during the season. If a player is found to using a banned substance, he is required to
undergo drug counseling. Since then, the testing procedure has changed in some ways.
Now, each player must take at least three urine tests per season- one at the beginning of
the season and two other at unscheduled times.
In 1986, on opening day of baseball season it was announced that players would take four
drug tests each year for cocaine, marijuana, and the narcotics heroin and morphine. Some
athletes feel that drug testing is violating their Civil Rights. Although, testing does intrude
on a person’s right to privacy, guaranteed to all Americans, if an athlete wants to
participate they have to be tested( Meer 104).
The best treatment for drug abuse is prevention. The process for treating an addict is
usually divided into two stages. The first is “detox.” During this period of a few days ( that
can sometimes stretch to a few weeks), drug users stop taking the drug or drugs which
they have become accustomed and are helped through any overdose complication or
withdrawal symptoms they may suffer.
The second phase of treatment usually involves psychotherapy. Some therapy takes place
in a psychiatrist’s office. The therapists help users understand the nature of their problem
and how it has come to run their lives. Therapists are responsible for helping addicts plan
their own recovery strategy, to set up specific goals and expectations for themselves. This
sometimes means dealing with other problems-such as abnormal sexuality, poor care for
oneself, lack of assertiveness, uncontrolled impulses, and impotence-that sometimes
accompany drug addiction. In 1984 Cork and Hazelden jointly established a $6.9
million state-of-the-art facility in Center City, Minnesota, for the treatment and education
of drug abusers. There athletes can learn to cope with life without relying on alcohol and
In 1981 Operation Cork created a drug-treatment program for the San Diego Padres.
Since then Cork has established similar programs for a variety of companies, institutions,
and organizations. They established a program called “Employee Assistance Program,” or
EAP. Any player with a drug problem may, without penalty or cost, refer himself to
professional treatment and counseling, put in place by the team. In August 1986 the
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported on 480 companies in six states
that have EAPs covering more than three million employees. . Drug abuse costs the
businesses of the United States at least $85 million every year in lost productivity.
Thus, there is a drug problem among professional athletes today. Although, it has existed
for many years due to a variety of circumstances efforts are being made to eradicate its
use by making people aware of the harmful effects that drugs can have. Many athletes
need to learn to say “no,”
for the price of not saying “no,” is the highest price of all.