To start off, let me just say, I am not a student-athlete, however, the majority of my friends are. I have grown up around athletes my whole life, my family is heavily involved in athletics and it is only through 19 years of observation, experience, and my own personal friendships that I can write this article.
Regardless of whichever sport you play, your dedication to your teammates, the division you play in, or how great of an athlete you are, drugs and the ease of succumbing to the temptation to use abound in college. Obviously, all illegal drugs are against NCAA rules and federal law and you will be kicked off your respective team for use, if caught. The operative words in the previous sentence were “if caught.” I don’t know what it is about us college kids, but many of us seem to think we have this shield of invincibility encasing our every move. Truth be told, no such shield exists.
If I am to be perfectly honest, drugs and collegiate athletics go hand-in-hand a lot more than I thought before college. Even centers that treatment drug abuse would agree. It wasn’t until I was completely immersed in the college life that I realized just how many people do drugs. Friends that I never thought would never touch a drug in their life turned out to be the biggest pot-heads and vice versa. One of the most important things to realize is that no one is above habitual or occasional drug use and that usually, it’s the ones you never thought would do it.
Usually on college campuses the most popular drugs of choice are marijuana, Adderall, and various hallucinogens. Most use marijuana to de-stress and relax - others use it as anti-anxiety in place of prescriptions such as Zanex. There are a lot of arguments one could make about weed; however, that is not what this article is about. No athlete goes to smoke ignorant of the consequences – the rules of engagement clearly state that such a substance is illegal; therefore, reminding your friend(s) that the activity that they are participating in is completely futile. When your friend(s) is getting to a place where excessive amounts of weed is being smoked (you be the judge on what your definition of ‘excessive’ is), that is the time to have a talk with your friend. Having other teammates enforce your message is also helpful.
If there is one drug that is rivaling marijuana in its popularity on college campuses and especially with athletes, it is Adderall. Adderall is a prescription drug given to people with ADD or ADHD. Although its main purpose is to help students with attention disorders, many people (not just athletes) use it for its caffeine-like side effects, especially during finals week and midterms. Students use Adderall because it works and it works fast. However, when taken in amounts above the suggested dose, it can become addictive. In my experience, a few of my athlete friends crush it up and snort it (like cocaine), claiming it made them ‘suck weight’ and ‘focus better for games/meets’. Here’s the somewhat tricky part about Adderall: It is not an illegal substance – but if you are taking Adderall that is not prescribed to you, then it becomes illegal. At the end of the day, drug abuse is still drug abuse, legally possessed or not. As always, have a talk with your friend about their developing issue. Involve their teammates and, if necessary, their coach.
If there is anything I have observed more in the attitude of athletes struggling with drug abuse, it is their lack of regard, care, or respect for teammates and coaches. It seems as though they think that their actions don’t affect the rest of the team, the program they have committed themselves to, or the coaches who invest their time and effort into them. When you are talking with your friend, the most vital thing to remind them of is that there are teammates, coaches, friends and family that love, support, and care about them who are willing to help. No man is an island, despite how much one would have themselves believe it.
My own personal stories of talking with friends struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, run the spectrum of conversations that started with “Do you really need to smoke two bowls before class?” to “I am honestly concerned that one day I will get a call for someone telling me you died of a drug overdose.” I know you may feel like you want to stay out of those issues, and in some cases you need to, but when you see a friend struggling the natural inclination is to want to see resolve for them. You may feel as though it is not your place to say something, that it is too big an issue to tackle, or that someone else will take care of it. If I have learned anything it is this:
If you do not consider this person to be very close to you, do not get involved. Often times you are entering into a bigger issue that many others already have a watch on. Regardless, still keep a close eye. Only get invested into such a loaded issues with those you believe to be best friends and confidants. Do not hold back on helping your friends because you feel that they will resent you if you call them out on their problem, but think about this: Would you rather lose a friend trying to save them or lose a friend due to a problem that could have been solved had it been addressed?