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Painkillers and Professional Athletes

Painkillers and Professional Athletes

It’s common for athletes to rely on painkillers to get through their season.

They go through long periods of intense training, in addition to their games and competitions. Injuries are bound to occur, and athletes often turn to the strongest and fastest working medications to speed up the healing process. However, painkillers and professional athletes are a risky duo that can end in addiction. Injuries are a never-ending problem in the sports world and athletes who constantly turn to painkillers after each injury increase their risk of developing a dependency on these drugs.

At our Gilman drug rehab, we know that even the healthiest athletes in the world aren’t immune to addiction. That’s why we encourage individuals who have developed a dependency on drugs or alcohol to seek addiction treatment right away.

Athletes and Painkiller Addiction

The opioid epidemic has led to thousands of overdoses and drug-related deaths. Prescription painkillers are highly addictive and taking them differently than directed can easily lead to addiction. Around 21 to 29 percent of people prescribed opioids for pain misuse them, with 8 to 12 percent developing an addiction.1 Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that both retired and active professional athletes abuse painkillers after years of numerous injuries and operations.

Painkiller Addiction in Professional Athletes

Athletes are known for taking care of their health and physique to perform as well as possible. It’s surprising that a group of people who must take care of their bodies develops these substance abuse problems. Even so, drugs and professional athletes are a recurrent duo because painkillers are often easily accessible to these competitors. Drug addiction in athletes usually starts with an actual prescription to treat the pain of an injury. But often, athletes will misuse these drugs to speed up their recovery. Outside pressures, competitiveness, and injuries are some of the many factors that contribute to drug abuse among athletes. Misusing these drugs could easily lead to dependency and many athletes will continue to use painkillers even after their injuries have healed.

At Banyan Heartland, we’ve witnessed the effects of substance abuse and have helped countless people find sobriety. We offer a medically-monitored detox in Illinois as a first step in the recovery process, as well as a variety of other programs in which patients can continue their addiction treatment.

Painkiller Addiction in Retired Athletes

Unfortunately, retired athletes may continue to struggle with substance abuse after years of taking painkillers. Many athletes will open up about their drug use after retirement and shed light on the growing drug problem in the sports world. In 2010, the St. Louis School of Medicine at Washington University interviewed 644 NFL players who retired between 1979 and 2006. After the study, they reported that 52 percent of players used prescription painkillers during their careers, 71 percent misused those drugs, and 68 percent reported they received the prescription drugs from other sources, not doctors.2 The study also concluded that athletes who abuse prescription drugs throughout their careers were more likely to abuse them in retirement.2

Whether you’re a professional athlete who’s in the best shape of their life or a retired athlete with years of competition under their belt, you are not immune to addiction. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we offer a prescription pill addiction treatment that is individualized to meet the needs of people who are dependent on prescription drugs.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse, do not wait to get help. Call us now at 888-280-4763 to find out more about our addiction treatment and program options.


  1. NCBI- Opioid Toxicity 
  2. ESPN- Painkiller Misuse Numbs NFL Pain
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Painkillers and Professional Athletes
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