Opioid Addiction in Athletes

Athletics are a way to connect with people, have fun, and live a healthy lifestyle. But, along with athletics come unexpected injury. Once an injury occurs, one of the first responses is to prescribe pain medications. This commonly leads to opioid addiction. The most widely known effects of CBD are pain-relief and anti-inflammation. This natural pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory molecule is becoming a relevant method in replacing opiods. According to the HelloMD and Brightfield Group study, 37% of people find hemp-derived CBD to be more effective than prescription medications.



Opioid receptors control pain, reward, and addictive-behavior. These are naturally found in the body. Opioids attach to the brain receptors in which blocks pain, slows breathing, and has a calming and anti-depressing effect. Since the chemical structure of a prescription opioid is similar to that of the natural neurotransmitter the drugs activate the nerve cells. Although prescription painkillers mimic the structure of natural opioids, they do not activate the nerve cells in the same way. Messages become abnormal when transmitted.


Cannabinoid receptors are part of the endocannabinoid system. They are located throughout the body in various locations throughout the tissue and cells. Molecules such as cannabinoids bind to specialized receptors in the endocannabinoid system. When attached, these cannabinoids trigger various neurotransmitters that restore the body to homeostasis.


Cannabidiol offers great effects for athletes. CBD has been known to have anti-inflammatory effects as well as pain relieving. Both of these effects are beneficial to the athlete and their body. Not only can CBD provide effects that make injuries more manageable, but the cannabinoid itself can have additional benefits to the body.

One of the most prevalent effects of CBD is its pain relieving effects. The results of a study published by the Journal of Experimental Medicine display suppression of chronic inflammatory and neuropathic pain without analgesic tolerance.

Opioids Roll in Sports

Sports and athletics play a huge role in most lives worldwide. If you don’t play a sport or live an active lifestyle, you’re probably watching sports on the TV, online, in person, or some media outlet. Doesn’t matter if it’s watching the grandkids at the YMCA league, attending your favorite NFL game, or playing in the state championship match, sports are a major part of our day-to-day lives.

Along with athletics come injury. Often times the pain of the injury is so intense that people turn to pain medication; this is often times with a doctor prescription. Taking medications will mask the intensity of the pain to make it easier to push through an injury. Not only is this bad for the injury itself during the healing process, it is common for athletes to become dependent on the painkiller, leading to opioid addiction.

Addiction to opioids has become a problem among all ages in the sports field. Young teen high-school students to seasoned professional athletes and everywhere in between have an opioid addiction. Once you know how you feel without pain, it is easy to continuously “pop” a pill. One after the other. In the long run, this has negative effects of where you want to go with your athletic career.

High School

Although opioid addiction is not most common in high schoolers, the problem with opioid use in high school students is on the rise. In fact, two million of almost eight million high school teens injure themselves each year. Young athletes feel the pressure to keep up their reputation and act “tough” during an injury. This offers a large opportunity for high school students to try opioids which leads to potentially becoming addicted.

Young teens are often times unknowledgeable about pain medication therefore use it as a way to keep pushing themselves, even when the pain is intolerable.


According to the Collegiate Football Fund, more than 20,000 injuries throughout collegiate sports occur each year, and that’s in just football alone. The NCAA has a list of banned substances for college athletes which include marijuana, anabolic agents, stimulants, and more. What this list doesn’t include are opioids, without a prescription.

When a player experiences an injury, it is common for athletes to immediately receive pain medications to turn down the pain one feels. Sacramento State senior, Lennard Cowans reports to the State Hornet that he sees players use opiods regularly to cope with an injury.
“With major injuries, players receive painkillers,” Cowans said “But after you heal up, there’s always the nagging injuries. You have to play through those — we don’t sit out. If you play football, you are going to play injured.”

Even if a doctor has prescribed the medications to an athlete for their initial injury, the effects are addicting and can lead to use afterwards the prescription is done. In 2013, the government estimated that approximately 1.9 million Americans were hooked on opiods.


In a study, 644 retired NFL players were surveyed over the telephone about their prescription medication use and misuse. The results conclude that over 52% of retired athletes used opioids at some point in their NFL career. Of that, 71% reported misusing these prescription medications. This is important information because the study results that retired NFL players are three times more likely to misuse opiods than the general population.

Each day professional athletes push themselves for not only their team but their city. Professional athletes train day-in and day-out to ensure their body is at its best performance, pushing themselves. But once an athlete experiences an an injury, one of the first responses are painkillers, which can be dangerous if misused.