A new study recently completed by researchers at the University of Michigan shows that teenagers who are involved with sports are less likely to abuse heroin and prescription drugs. With the opioid epidemic that our nation is currently facing, more people are searching out factors that can be applied as a preventative measure.
In the past, researchers have found that children and teenagers in high contact sports are considered more likely to abuse prescription painkillers after being prescribed medications for injuries. In fact, other studies have shown that teenagers that are prescribed prescription painkillers for injuries are 33% more likely to abuse opioids after the prescription runs out.
However, this new study provides an alternate view on teenage sports. According to lead researcher, Philip Veliz, most sports that teenagers participate in are not high contact, high injury sports. These less violent sports provide a protective barrier between drug use and teenagers, and the percentage of those helped by the athletics is far greater than those that are potentially harmed.
“The unfortunate pattern of prescription painkiller misuse to heroin use was not something that was more likely to occur among athletes either moderately or highly involved in sports,” explained Veliz, lead author of the study and an assistant research professor at the University of Michigan.
Before reaching this conclusion, the research team poured over information gathered in the Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey from 1997 to 2014. They found that over 53% of eighth- and tenth-graders reported being highly involved in some sort of sport. Nearly 39% of respondents stated that they were moderately involved in sports and almost 8% reported that they did not participate in sports. The teenagers were then asked questions regarding their prescription drug and heroin use. Those who participated heavily in sports were much less likely to abuse drugs than those that did not participate in sports at all.
While some critics point out that the amount of teenagers participating in violent sports needs to be addressed, the study does show that extracurricular activities can be important in keeping children and teenagers away from drugs.