Opioids have become a very common pain medication today, prescribed by doctors thousands of times each day in this country. Due to the physical strain that many athletes put on their bodies, it only makes sense that many sports and fitness enthusiasts have turned to opioids in order to overcome the pain that they may be feeling from injuries received during their routines.
Those pain-relieving qualities might make some people think that opioids are a way to perform better, thanks to the higher threshold for pain they might be able to tolerate.
Those thoughts, however, are incredibly far from the truth.
Effect of Opioids on the Body
One of the most commonly reported symptoms that opioid using athletes report is that they will steadily require more and more drugs in order to maintain the edge they receive from its use.
“After a while, the drug just doesn’t work, so you need more,” Dr. Clifford A. Bernstein says. “If you don’t have it, you get very sick and your pain is worse, which is withdrawal. Your body convinces you that you need more and more.”
Aside from the vomiting, shakes, and other uncomfortable effects that can take hold during opioid withdrawal, using the drug has also been found to have a negative effect on the synaptic activity in our brains. This interferes with the normal nerve signal transmissions within our bodies, and can potentially even lead to muscle atrophy in certain cases. And not just that, but a report put out by Kaiser Permanente in 2013 found that men taking long-acting chronic pain medications were five times more likely to have low testosterone levels, proving that opioid use had a negative effect on testosterone production, as well as the production of other hormones as well.
Just Say No
According to JDP, many leagues and events require athletes to pass a drug test now before clearing them to play. This is because of these effects on the body, as well as the temporary edge that opioid use can provide to athletes, specifically in sports involving significant amounts of physical contact. This is done for both the health of the athlete, as well as for all of those around them, and can lead to suspensions or even expulsion for those who fail those tests. Because of this, many athletes seek alternative medications to treat their pain, but the specter of opioid abuse still haunts athletes like it does many others.