Professional athletes put their bodies under grueling conditions in order to be the best. There is no question regarding the heavy tolls placed on the human body to achieve success especially in full impact sports like football. Athletes, in many cases, have to play injured aided by cortisone shots and pain medication. After years of abuse and having damaged one's body from the rigors of the sport, it is very difficult for some players to stop taking pain medication. A new study commissioned by ESPN found that retired NFL players misuse painkillers at a rate of 4-to-1 compared to the general public.
Known by his teammates as the "King of Pain", Miami Dolphins tight end Dan Johnson suffered throughout his career from 1983 through 1987 from a number of injuries. After undergoing two back surgeries Johnson became addicted to his pain medication, his addiction has led him to contemplating suicide. "I was taking about 1,000 Vicodins a month," Johnson told ESPN. "People go, 'That's impossible. That's crazy.' No, it's exactly what I was taking. I mean, believe me, I'd love to be off medications. That's my worry every day, to make sure I have medication."
Dr. Linda Cottler and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis managed the study of 644 ex-players:
- More than half reported using prescription drugs during their time in the NFL
- 71 percent admitted misusing the drugs during their time in the NFL
Prescription drugs have fast become the largest addiction problem in the world, with more and more people being prescribed every day it is almost hard to believe how many people require pain medication. Just because something is prescribed does not mean that it is without side effects or consequences. "This is the most frightening epidemic I've seen probably since the methamphetamine epidemic in the beginning of the early '90s," Dr. Alex Stalcup said. "All the professional sports that involve physical combat create guys who need pain treatment."