Alcohol and Drugs
The link to other forms of addiction are not as strong, but they can be there, Farrenkopf says. No studies have been done into drug and alcohol use among elite athletes. Many sport psychologists and coaches doubt there is heavy drug and alcohol use by professional athletes during their seasons because of the physical and mental toll it would take on their performance. However, in a 1997 article in the New York Times, which interviewed more than 25 former NBA players, agents, and basketball executives, many of them estimated that marijuana smoking and heavy drinking were rampant in the league, involving 60 to 70 percent of the players.
High expectations of talent and pressure of being a celebrity drive many athletes to drug and alcohol problems, said Steven Berglas, a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School. Intense scrutiny keeps them in a chronically-stressed situation, he said. Their success becomes not beneficial to their self-esteem. There’s more pressure on athletes these days, he said To win, to fill the seats, to make the playoffs. Then they try too hard and get stress overload.
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Several research articles have suggested an association exists between athletesself-esteem and alcohol and drug use, contending that they use those substances to try and cope with threats to their self-esteem. At the high school level, a research team at Ball State University reported that 92 percent of the 337 male athletes at a large midwestern U.S. high school had used alcohol and 73 percent had been intoxicated. Both figures were markedly higher than those for the nonathlete male population. In college, a Michigan State study found that 88 percent of2,048 athletes surveyed were drinkers. In professional sports, there have been many well-documented cases of heavy drinkers (Mickey Mantle, Darryl Strawberry, and Dennis Eckersley in baseball, Sugar Ray Leonard in boxing, and Chris Mullin in basketball) and cocaine users (Dwight Gooden and Steve
Howe in baseball, Grant Fuhr in hockey, Dexter Manley and Lawrence Taylor in football, and soccer’s Maradona.) Green Bay Packersquarterback Brett Favre became addicted to painkillers and spent 46 days at a drug rehabilitation clinic in 1996.
Golfer John Daly claims that golf has addictive qualities similar to those of heavy drinking. Daly has hit the highs and lows in his professional and personal life, winning the PGA and British Opens with his booming tee shots and falling into problems with drinking, chain- smoking, and domestic violence. Golf and this disease (drinking) are pretty similar, he said. Golf is an addiction. So is alcohol.
John Lucas said he was so addicted to winning, he transferred that attitude to taking drugs and would try to outdo fellow addicts. It became a game of beating the game, he said. People looked at me like I was nuts, but I wanted to be the best drug addict. If you had a little bit, I had to have more. Lucas, who is now off drugs but addicted to a diet soft drink, opened several drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers for professional athletes.
Of course, such obsessions and addictions can have a serious affect on an athlete’s personal and social life. The same obsessiveness in business is sometimes called workaholism, said John Douillard. These [athletes] become completely dependent on constant activity and can run their health, marriages, and jobs into the ground. Their compulsive nature also makes them especially susceptible to overtraining and, consequently, to injury. In Calgary, Alberta, a woman left her husband because he became obsessed with running every day, according to their physician, Bob Hatfield to the point he let his life and responsibilities fall apart. He was addicted to his running.
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