“Kids are getting addicted following a pattern of sports injury recovery,” a Columbus, Ohio, based athletic counselor, Dr. Chris Stankovich, had told me. It was striking to think about, and it moved me when I had the chance to interview parents who lost their children through opiate addiction. After months of injuries, surgeries, and pain pill prescriptions, some kids turn to a cheaper alternative when they run out of doctor’s scripts. It is another opiate, the same class of drugs as their pain pills, but one that punches a bigger high: heroin.
“We thought we were the only ones that this happened to,” said one father who lost his son, Tyler, who had played for University of Akron. He’s now turned his grief into Tyler’s Light, an organization that educates kids on the real danger of drugs–and that includes prescriptions. You can read his story, “When painkilling becomes an addiction for young athletes,” here.
Also had an interesting talk with former NBA player Chris Herren. He’s written a memoir, Basketball Junkie, and was the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary chronicling his story of an addiction that spiraled out of control. He once left an NBA game right before start to meet his dealer.
Clean and sober since 2008, he speaks at schools across the country now, warning kids of the dangers and risks of drugs, and the hope of recovery. And he cautions that addiction can start early.
“We all start out with red Solo cups in our parents’ basement,” he said. You can read his story here.
I do hope you’ll take some time reading about the risk young athletes take when given pain medication. And please let me know what you think. What do you think could be done to stop painkiller addiction from starting? How far have we come?