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Drug And Alcohol Use By Student Athletes

The topic that I have chosen is student athletes’ use of drugs and alcohol. I’m interested to see if the old theory that student athletes tend to stay away from these things still holds true today. From my own personal experience as a former high school and college football player, I doubt that this is true. I’d also like to find some studies that may compare student athletes to the general student body to see if there is a correlation of usage between these two groups.

With the many stories of athletes being arrested for alcohol and drug abuse, I feel this information may be helpful in setting up a drug prevention program at the high school or middle school level. Carr et al. (1990) looked at the frequency of alcohol use, intoxication, and attitudes concerning adolescent alcohol abuse. They found that male high school athletes both use and abuse alcohol more frequently than do non-athletes. Also male non-athletes tend to abstain from alcohol use more than the athletes do.

They found no difference in the frequency of use or abuse of alcohol by female athletes and non-athletes. There was also no difference in the frequency of alcohol consumption between male and female athletes. But three fourths of the male athletes reported getting intoxicated when consuming alcohol compared to half of the female athletes. The study by Tricker and Connolly (1997) examined the attitudes of athletes who were at risk for using steroids, amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana.

They found that seventeen percent of the athletes surveyed felt that marijuana use was an acceptable way to cope with the pressures of sport. Also the main reason for athletes abstaining from drug use was their fear of getting caught, rather than personal health risks. Another big influence of athletes using or not using drugs was peer pressure from teammates. Shields’ (1998) study looked at the in-season and off-season use of alcohol by high school athletes and also compared it to a similar study done w/ the same population in 1988.

Overall, athletes are using alcohol less both in and off-season in the current study compared to 1988. Also they used less alcohol during their in-season than off-season. It was found that white athletes are 2. 5 times more likely to use alcohol both in and off-season compared to black athletes. Hayes and Tevis (1977) looked for significant differences or relationships between high school athletes and non-athletes with respect to drinking behaviors and attitudes about alcohol use and abuse. They found non-athletes used alcohol more and were more tolerant of others using it compared to athletes.

Overall, males had a more tolerant attitude than females toward temperate and irresponsible use of alcohol. There seemed to be a correlation between attitudes of irresponsible drinking and who drinks the most, being the more they drank the more tolerant their attitudes were. Overman and Terry (1991) compared the patterns of use and attitudes toward alcohol by college athletes and non-athletes. There was no significant difference between the drinking behaviors of athletes and non-athletes, though athletes did report drinking more beer.

Athletes tended to limit drinking to weekends and special occasions, and seemed to think of it more as a celebration. Differences in drinking behaviors were found between black and white students with regards to choice of drink, frequency of drinking, problems caused by drinking. Ewing (1998) wanted to see if high school students who participated in athletics and a different pattern of marijuana use compared to non-athletes. He found male athletes are more likely to try marijuana and have used it more than their non-athlete counterparts.

Female athletes are the opposite in that they use marijuana less than non-athletic females. But female athletes are more likely than non-athletes to wait until post-high school before trying it for the first time. Green et al. (1995) researched if there were psychological factors associated with alcohol use or non-use by high school athletes. They found that anger was a significant difference between athletes who use alcohol and those who don’t. There were no other significant psychological differences found.

The three main reasons athletes gave for drinking were to have a good time with friends, to celebrate, and to make one feel good. Tricker et al. (1989) looked at why college athletes are at risk for drug abuse and effective drug prevention programs. They felt that drug prevention programs should try to improve the overall health of the student athlete along with deterring drug use. Also the drug education process should include more than just giving information and threatening athletes with negative consequences of drug use.

Its been found that using sanctions and rules as a deterrent only influences a small number of athletes while the majority continue their drug use patterns. Leichliter et al. (1998) compared alcohol use, binge drinking, and substance abuse related consequences among non-athletes and athletes (including intramural athletics). Male and female athletes consumed significantly more alcohol per week, engaged in binge drinking more often, and suffered more adverse consequences from their substance abuse. Team leaders were found to be no more responsible in using alcohol compared to their teammates.

In fact male captains drank more alcohol, binged more often, and suffered more consequences than their team members. Evans et al. (1992) investigated possible psychological factors associated with drug use by college athletes and compared athlete drug users to non-users. They found high alcohol users had significantly higher score on anger, fatigue, and vigor tests. When compared to females in the high use group for alcohol, those in the low/no use group felt more pressure from coaches to perform well.

Overall, high alcohol users had higher self-esteem score than did low/no alcohol users. I felt that all of the research was beneficial to finding what the rate of drug and alcohol use is among student athletes. I also found that many of the articles had suggestions for improving drug and alcohol prevention programs, though most of these ideas were not very specific as to how to implement a program. I think this will be helpful to me when I become a guidance counselor and have to deal with these problems on a daily basis.

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