How Athletic Injuries Can Lead to Heroin Addiction

When most of us think of addicts, who need heroin rehab programs, we think of people who have fallen through society’s cracks: Teens prone to risky behavior, or stressed-out adults who self-medicate their anxiety and depression. But increasingly, people who turn to drugs are people who were prescribed opiate painkillers after a severe injury or surgery. So, surprisingly, athletes- praised for their self-control and discipline- are the fastest growing category of people most likely to become addicts.

In 2015, Sports Illustrated published an article about Roman Montano, a young athlete who became an addict and passed away from a drug overdose. Roman’s addiction began with a foot injury in 2008, a minor surgery, and a prescription toOxyContin, a powerful painkiller. Roman was kicked off his baseball team after he and some friends used a stolen credit card. He returned to OxyContin, purchased on the street, to numb his depression. His parents found out and sent him to rehab, and he was put on a detox program, but it didn’t stick. Roman then turned to heroin, and in 2012, died from an overdose.

Roman’s story is typical- the problem starts when athletes sustain injuries requiring surgery. Facing pressure to return to play, athletes turn to doctors who prescribe opiate painkillers like OxyContin. Unfortunately, the same properties that make these drugs attractive to doctors make them addictive.

OxyContin and other opiates relieve physical and emotional pain. They produce a numbing and euphoric effect that make them attractive in stressful situations, like when Roman got kicked off the team. They are also more expensive. So when painkiller prescriptions run out, but athletes still need the numbness and euphoria of opiates to deal with physical and emotional pain, they turn to cheaper drugs like heroin.

Heroin mimics the properties of pain-killing medications, but without the controlled dosage and relative safety of prescription drugs. Roman Montano progressed from smoking “black-tar” heroin, which is a crude and plentiful version of the drug, to intravenous use of the drug. Young athletes may be going to school, getting satisfactory grades, even continuing to play sports, while developing a dependency. In Roman’s case, his family knew he’d developed an addiction toOxyContin, and had sent him to rehab so he could detox from that painkiller, but had no idea about his heroin addiction until he overdosed on it.

National Push For Heroin Rehab Programs

There are specialized rehab programs that work with young athletes, providing not just the chemical detox program, but psychological and social support to help them break their addiction. One resource, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Helpline, helps callers find a rehab and detox program that may work to help a young athlete break this addiction. Call us now: 800-518-5205.