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Drug Rehab for Athletes

Alcohol and drug use occur among athletes in sports of all kinds.1 Many athletes feel burdened by the pressure to perform for themselves, their coaches, and their teams and may turn to substances to escape. Others may be dealing with chronic pain or an injury. 1

If you or someone you know are an athlete struggling with substance use, it’s okay to ask for help. Treatment is available in a variety of settings and can provide the tools to help you achieve and maintain a life of recovery.

This article will help you learn more about drug rehab for athletes and how to find a rehab facility to suit your needs.

Professional Athletes and Addiction

Many athletes are more likely to receive treatment for physical injuries to keep them in the game rather than treatment for mental health conditions, such as depression and substance use disorder (SUD).1 The gap in care for mental health treatment among athletes occurs for various reasons, one of which may be due to a hesitancy to ask for help in fear that it could signify a weakness.1 Unfortunately, a lack of support can result in athletes self-medicating for mental health conditions.2

Athletes may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate for several reasons, including:1, 2

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Injury
  • Chronic pain
  • To improve performance (known as “doping”)
  • To escape from life circumstances (e.g., retirement)

Competitive sports can increase an athlete’s chance of sustaining an injury, which can contribute to several negative mental health consequences, including increased feelings of anger, isolation, and sadness, as well as a loss of identity.2

Athletes may self-medicate to cope with injury or pain from overtraining.2 One-third of NCAA athletes report that they believe there is nothing wrong with using “painkillers” to cope with pain from injuries. Studies also show that many athletes report self-medicating without consulting a doctor first. This includes the use of prescription opioids, which can increase a person’s likelihood of heroin use when misused.2

Retirement from sports can contribute to drug misuse among athletes as well.1 Many athletes retire at a much younger age compared to other professions.1 If retirement is a result of an injury, athletes report a lower life satisfaction score when compared to athletes that retired voluntarily.2 Studies show that many athletes struggle with mental health conditions, maladaptive coping skills (including substance misuse), and criminal activity post-retirement.2

Addiction Treatment for Athletes

No matter how severe your or a loved one’s substance misuse is, addiction treatment for professional athletes is available and offered in a variety of settings. Treatment at a drug rehab for athletes can include the following:

  • Detoxification: Detoxification is the first step in the treatment process for many patients, especially if they are at risk of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. During detoxification, medical professionals help a patient achieve a substance-free state, which can help them more easily transition into ongoing treatment.3
  • Inpatient: During inpatient treatment, patients live at the facility and receive 24-hour care from medical professionals. Inpatient treatment often involves group and individual therapy and medication to help patients learn how to live a life free of substances and integrate back into the community.3
  • Outpatient: During outpatient treatment, patients live at home or a sober living facility and attend weekly sessions. Patients will meet with a counselor or therapist during these appointments in individual and group settings.3
  • Dual diagnosis: When a patient has a mental health disorder (e.g., anxiety, depression) and a substance use disorder at the same time, it’s known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Dual diagnosis treatment is designed to address both disorders simultaneously.4

Substance misuse treatment often takes place in a standard inpatient or outpatient facility, however, luxury drug and alcohol centers and executive rehab options are also available and may benefit athletes. While every facility is different, these options may offer additional accommodations for patients to maintain their career or professional obligations.

Amenities that a luxury or executive rehab options may have include:

  • Gym or fitness center
  • Access to a nutritionist or specialty food options
  • A small number of patients
  • Private rooms
  • Chronic pain management
  • Access to electronics to continue working

Finding Addiction Treatment for Professional Athletes

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance misuse, help may be available at a drug rehab for athletes near you or out of state. You can learn more about your treatment options by contacting your primary care physician (PHP) or a mental health practitioner, or by using the FindTreatment.gov tool from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

If you are ready to learn more about addiction treatment, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is ready to help. AAC is a leading provider of evidence-based addiction treatment with facilities across the U.S. You can call our free, confidential helpline at for more information about treatment, and easily verify your insurance by filling out the form below.

Frequently Asked Questions

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