Teens Who Play Sports Less Likely to Say They’ve Done Heroin

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Teens who play sports are less likely than those who don’t to say they’ve ever used opioid painkillers without a prescription or heroin, according to a new U.S. study. Researchers also found that opioid and heroin use declined among teen sports players between 1997 and 2014, a period when overall use of these drugs was increasing in the U.S. Young athletes, in general, are less likely than their nonparticipating peers to use illicit substances like cocaine or LSD, said lead author Philip Veliz of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Past research has found that athletes have a higher than average likelihood of being exposed to opioids as a result of injuries. Although that puts them at risk of abusing the drugs, little is known about whether it also raises the risk of using heroin, the authors write in Pediatrics. The researchers studied eighteen groups of eighth and tenth graders participating in the Monitoring the Future study between 1997 and 2014. More than 191,682 kids reported their sports or exercise participation over the previous year and whether they had ever used heroin or “narcotics other than heroin, such as methadone, opium, morphine, codeine, Demerol, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet . . . without a doctor telling you to take them.”

Overall, about seven percent of kids said they had ever used opioids without a prescription and two percent had used heroin. Both proportions decreased over time, however. In 1997-1999, 10 percent said they had abused opioids, compared with five percent in 2012-2014. Similarly, 2.3 percent reported ever having used heroin during the first period, compared with one percent in the second period. Half of teens said they had been involved in sports and exercise almost every day, with 39 percent participating once a week at most and eight percent not participating in sports at all. Playing sports appeared to have a protective effect, researchers said. Among kids who played no sports, 11 percent said they had used opioids without a prescription, compared with 8 percent of those playing sports at most once a week and 7 percent of those playing sports every day. Sports also provide structure in daily life, and there is usually some adult present watching these young athletes at all times, he said. Athletes in high-contact sports that are high injury and hypermasculine may be more likely to self-medicate with opioids or try heroin, he added.

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