Drug Intervention for Athletes in Alberta

Drug Intervention for Athletes in Alberta

The benefits of being an athlete are endless, it aids in approving your overall health, it helps build relationships and allows you to gain skills both in sport and in life. However, there is also risk that comes into play. With sport, also comes susceptibility to injury, and with injury can involve a search for pain management. Prescriptions being a common route to seek pain relief. These prescriptions can be in the form of opioids. In Alberta, sport and athletics are priority for most residents. According to the Active Alberta Coalition “More than 82% of Albertans believe that sport contributes to an improved quality of life”, it has also been recorded that “24% of adults and 59% of children participate directly In an organized sport association”.With all these young athletes and older athletes in Alberta participating in sport, this increases the chance for each to acquire some form of injury through their athletic journey. When these injuries occur, the door to pain management tactics will be open and unfortunately, the road of prescribed substances can be one of those paths.

Opioids are a collection of pain relieving drugs which correspond with opioid receptors in your cells. Opioids move through your bloodstream and attach with these receptors. This interaction with the opioid receptors in the brain stimulate the release of signals which then interfere with your perception of pain and increase pleasurable feelings.

With lower doses, opioids may allow you to feel tired, though with higher doses can affect your breathing and heart rate which can result in death. Just because a doctor has prescribed these medications does not necessarily they are safe to used. With opioids and their affects, the feelings acquired when taking opioids can allow the feeling of pleasure which can lead to the desire for a repeated experience, which can then lead to an addiction. This can be avoided by taking medications which have been prescribed exactly how the doctor instructs you to do so.

Opioids can be pharmaceutical-grade and prescribed by physicians and surgeons. Prescription opioids can end up for illegal sale on the street. These can be “cut: or tainted with other compounds, including fentanyl.

calgary sports intervention

Frequency of Substance Abuse in Athletes

According to the World Anti-Doping Agency 38% of athletes use over the counter substances, usually to enhance performance and better there chances of success during competition. This specifically addresses doping, where as 33% of professional athletes become addicted to a drug they began using to assist them in managing their pain usually due to an injury. Substance abuse has become a common accompaniment with sports and sporting events. The acquirement of substances among athletes, whether prescribed or not has become a frequent occurrence in the sporting world and leads to likelihood for the need of an intervention.

Associated Risks with Prescription Substance Abuse

It is a fear among many, post-surgery or a diagnosed medical condition, that they may become addicted to the medications prescribed to them by their doctor. This fear and risks associated with it can be mitigated by following your doctor’s specific directions on how to take these substances. Prescription substance abuse can occur at any age, habitually recurring in teenagers and young adults.

Risks associated with prescription substance abuse include:

  • A history or present addictions to other substances, including alcohol.
  • Family history of addiction and substance abuse
  • The presence of peer pressure or atmosphere where substance abuse takes place.
  • Access to prescription medications, either prescribed to you or someone else.
  • Minimal understanding of prescription substances and their ability to harm

Drugs and alcohol are commonly associated with sports and other athletic events, with the athletes being the ones who are most commonly and frequently exposed to this. Though athletes have the training and focus to perform at their sport, this does not leave them resistant to drug and alcohol abuse.

“Teen sports are notorious for a lot of use of drugs and alcohol and binge-drinking,” (Laurie de Grace, 2017).“(It’s surprising) that they could mask it for so long … that they could perform at a high level while still using.” (Laurie de Grace, 2017). Addiction in athletes usually begins with a prescription after acquiring an injury, and a solution to their addiction is no different than a non athlete, an intervention.

If an Injury is Acquired and Pain Intervention is Required:

  • Talk about the hazard of mixing alcohol with the prescribed medication. This can increase the risk of an accidental overdose.
  • Talk to your doctor and ensure you have all the information about the medications being prescribed, how they should be used, the side effects, and if their are ulterior options.
  • Ask about activities that can assist in pain managements without consumption.
    Talk about the dangers. Make it common knowledge that just because a doctor has prescribed the drug, does not mean that it is safe, especially if it was prescribed for someone else.
  • Set regulations. Make your teen aware that it is not ok to share prescribed substances or take substances prescribed to someone else.
  • Highlight the importance of only taking the dose prescribed by the doctor
    Ensure substances are not being ordered online. You don’t know what you will be receiving.
  • Correct discarding of substances. Get rid of unused or expired substance or substances.
  • Examine the label or patient instructions for proper disposal.
  • Common names for prescribed opioids can include: Oxycodone, OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Tramadol, Fentanyl, Codeine.


Oxycodone is a synthetic pain relieving drug which has similar results in effects as morphine does. This drug and its effects are highly addictive and commonly abused.


Percocet is a opioid medication combined with oxycodone and acetaminophen. This is used as a pain reliever, and has a high susceptibility to addiction.


Vicodin is an opioid medication combined with hydrocodone and acetaminophen. This is used as a pain reliever, and has a high susceptibility to addiction.


Tramadol is an opioid medication, which works by altering the brains nervous response to the occurrence of pain. Tramadol is another drug which is highly susceptible to addiction if abused.


Fentanyl is a very strong, odourless, and tasteless synthetic narcotic. Fentanyl is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Non-illicit fentanyl is typically prescribed to control severe pain.


Codeine is a pain reliever belonging to the class of pain medications of opiates. When used for a long time codeine has the ability to develop a dependency resulting in addition.

Signs of Opioid Addiction:

  • Increase or decrease in appetite; changes in eating habits, unexplained weight loss or gain.
  • A smell of substance on breath, body, or clothes
  • Extreme hyperactivity; excessive talkativeness
  • Needle marks or bruises on lower arm, legs, or bottom of feet
  • Change in overall attitude/personality with no other identifiable causes
  • Change in friends; new hang-outs, avoidance of old crowd, new friends are drug users.
  • Change in activities; loss of interest in things that were important before.
  • Drop in school or work performance; skips or is late to school or work.
  • Changes in habits at home; loss of interest in family and family activities
  • Difficulty in paying attention; forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation, energy, self-esteem, and discipline. Bored, “I don’t care” attitude.
  • Defensiveness, temper tantrums, resentful behaviour (everything’s a hassle)
  • Unexplained moodiness, irritability, or nervousness
  • Violent temper or bizarre behaviour
  • Unexplained silliness or giddiness
  • Paranoia – overly suspicious
  • Excessive need for privacy; keeps the door locked or closed, won’t let people in.
  • Secretive or suspicious behaviour
  • Car accidents, fender benders, household accidents
  • Chronic dishonesty; trouble with the police.
  • Unexplained need for money; can’t explain where their money goes; stealing.
  • Unusual effort to cover arms, and legs.
  • Change in personal grooming habits
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia

Athletes are known to be driven, stubborn, and competitive, even with themselves. So as a loved one watching from the outside, it is important to know the signs your loved one is experiencing addiction. Athletes will do whatever it takes to perform well, and sometimes this can even mean abusing drugs to manage pain from injuries to continue playing.

alberta sport injury intervention

Teenage girl sitting on a bench with her rugby ball at one side. Dirty with mud after her match. Female coach sits close supporting her as the girl looks sad.

Intervention Alberta, British Columbia

Drug Addiction is one of the most serious and dangerous dependencies your loved one can grow accustomed to. The dangers that present with the addiction to opiates go well beyond a simple chemical reliance.

You are at the point where you have identified there is a problem, so where do you go from here? For those with any kind of addiction, the first step to beginning treatment and detox, is to first want help and agree to treatment. Opiates are often much stronger than an individual’s desire to recover, so the first thing that is often required is an intervention. An intervention allows everyone to get on the same page. Everyone, including family members, friends, the person who is addicted, and the hired interventionist. This is when the addiction treatment plan is explained and the individual is presented with what their road to recovery will look like. We would then explain to the individual our plan and goals for their recovery at this point:

What Intervention Services Offer in Alberta, British Columbia?

  • Ensure a drug/alcohol-free environment, this includes private homes, personal vehicles, work offices, hotel rooms, etc.
  • Mobile drug and alcohol testing services
  • The sober coach can perform periodic drug testing/breathalyzer testing to hold the client accountable.
  • A companion can provide safe reliable transport to private detox and private treatment centres in Alberta or elsewhere. (For air or land travel).
  • Help the client identify areas that may be present triggers that could lead to relapse and discuss roadblocks that could hinder continued abstinence.
  • A companion can accompany clients to social, family, work gatherings, vacations, conferences, or anywhere that could pose a threat to their sobriety/abstinence.
  • Assist in locating and attending recovery meetings in North Vancouver or in the area where the client will live and work.
  • Work in conjunction with the clients’ professional recovery support team. The team may include counsellors, therapists, psychiatrists, and physicians.
  • Help with the placement of clients with appropriate clinicians, treatment, and detox centres in Alberta or elsewhere if needed.

Performing our job as discreetly as possible to ensure the client’s confidentiality is of utmost importance to everyone at Andy Bhatti Addiction Services and Interventions in Alberta, British Columbia.

We do our best to place clients with age-appropriate, gender-appropriate sober coaches and sober companions at all times. Input and suggestions by concerned family members are always taken into consideration.

There are a wide variety of addictions and drugs abused in athletes. These can be as a result of pain management from an injury in order to “play through the pain” but the physical pain felt from the injury is just a different type of pain that an individual may feel later after growing a dependency on a drug. At the end of the day, there are different drugs and addictions but our goal is the same, Long-Term Addiction Recovery.

Call us today and let us help you set up a treatment plan that has succeeded as the long-term goal, for someone you care for.

An intervention is not about how to control the substance user; it is about how to let go of believing you can. Our professional addiction therapist and interventionist work closely with families to reach a successful intervention. Our interventionist work all over Alberta.


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