Prescription drugs perform optimally if used as per the medical practitioner’s recommendations. They differ from their over-the-counter counterparts in that the latter can be bought and consumed without a doctor’s intervention. When used minus a piece of advice from the doctor, contrary to instructions given, or for a different purpose for which it’s meant, it’s right to say that prescription drugs are abused.
From their definition, prescription drugs are anti-doping classified, and athletes have found a way of using them to gain a competitive advantage. Legal Doping is the nickname given to this course of action, but it can also lead to very severe health issues. WADA has stringent rules against any drug that;
a). Has the potential to enhance the performance of an athlete;
b). It poses a health risk to an athlete.
The Main Reasons For The Use Of Prescription Drugs Among Athletes.
We can say that the primary reason is that they provide a perfect alternative to doping drugs, without having to pass through a test. However, the specific reasons for their use remain the same as;
a). To relieve pain;
b). To manage stress;
C). To gain a competitive advantage over the rest;
d). To mitigate pressure.
Use Of Prescription Painkiller Drugs As Rest And Recovery Alternatives.
One of the most pointed out uses of prescription drug cases is this, and Tramadol is the primary victim. It mostly happens with cyclists, some of whom have confessed that it’s an excellent doping agent. They (cyclists) use this drug to mask the effects of biking on the body. A study by Loraschi et al. (2014) confirmed this, but WADA hasn’t yet listed Tramadol among the prohibited drugs for athletes. In fact, there’s even more evidence from more bodies that confirm the competitive advantage provided by Tramadol to cyclists.
Oxycontin and codeine are other painkillers that are also often prescribed by doctors to mask pain experienced by athletes. Their use under a doctor’s prescription in the short run isn’t inherently an offense. Some athletes are protected by the Therapeutic Use Exemption so that they are allowed to use even banned meds for therapeutic purposes. However, some use it in the long run and end up as addicts.
Use Of Prescription Drugs To Enhance Blood Flow.
Maria Sharapova, Russian tennis star, reported in March 2016 that she had been found guilty of using a heart drug known as Meldonium, which improves blood flow in the body. Due to this, she got banned from participating in the following Olympics. It used to give her an edge over the rest, so she couldn’t continue with the competition.
Apart from her, 100 other athletes had been found using the same drug since her report.
Use Of Prescription Drugs To Offset Pressures.
Intense pressures characterize high-profile performances like global championships finals. Some athletes use prescription drugs like Adderall with amphetamine contents to overcome this pressure. While it works, it has a lot of adverse effects as well.
Are There Addiction Risks?
Yes, there are, and several cases have been reported. Some of these athletes may have used a prescription drug for quite a long time (legally, though) such that they can’t afford to part with them. For the love of sports, they may just continue using these drugs so that their performances remain great.
Robert King, a high school wrestler, was once interviewed by CBS News over cocaine addiction after long-term use of Percocet. He had a broken foot; thus, he was using Percocet to relieve the pain. He later resorted to cocaine, citing that it was a cheaper option. This is how he got into addiction.
What’s The Reaction Of Athletics Regulatory Bodies?
The World Anti-Doping Agency has banned some prescription drugs with content that is believed to give athletes a competitive advantage. Telmisartan is one of the drugs that have been banned, but there are a lot more.
Likewise, WADA monitors the prescriptive use of banned drugs for therapeutic reasons. This is done by the administration of a Therapeutic Use Exemption document to those under strict medication. For one to be issued with it, s/he has to pass the laid out International Standards for Therapeutic Use Exemptions.
Are There Negative Effects?
The adverse effects of using prescription drugs for some advantages in athletics are in no way different from the negative effects of abusing other drugs for the same reasons. An athlete may be suspended (that is if the prescription drug is banned by WADA), get into addiction, experience side effects, and face jail terms due to abuse of prescription drugs.
Are There Efforts To Reduce This Problem?
Luckily, yes. One doesn’t have to struggle with prescription drug addiction forever. There are numerous holistic rehabs programs to help victims avoid or quit abusing prescription drugs. There’s also ongoing research by many bodies (including WADA) on the possibly mostly abused prescription drugs.