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Tackling Opioids Through Prevention Program
Each year, nearly one quarter of the 7.5 million high school athletes in America sustain a sports-related injury. A study of 1,540 adolescents conducted by the Institute for Research on Women and Gender (IRWG) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, found that participating in high school sports made it more likely that young men had taken and misused an opioid prescription within the last year compared to their non-athlete peers.
Young adults who participate in athletics may be at a greater risk to engage in nonmedical prescription opioid use because of their greater risk of injury or because of a greater opportunity to receive diverted opioid medications from teammates. Several studies have found that youth who are highly involved in competitive sports are at a greater risk of being prescribed opioid medications, misusing opioid medications (e.g., use to “get high”), and being approached to divert (e.g., give away) these opioid medications. A national study found that youth who participated in high-injury sports such as football and wrestling were at greater risk to misuse prescription pain medications. The greater risk to misuse opioid medications may be related to the fact that football players and wrestlers have the highest severe injury rates among high school athletes and may be more likely to have been prescribed opioid medications by a physician. In addition, youth who participate in high-injury sports may be surrounded by peers who are more likely to have leftover prescription opioids, making it easier to receive diverted prescription opioids to ease injuries without having to acknowledge to parents and coaches that they need medical attention (e.g., hiding injuries from coaches to participate).
The Tackling Opioids Through Prevention Program is a statewide initiative with a goal to reduce opioid and other drug use among young athletes. This four-year initiative is funded by the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Mercer Council and the Prevention Coalition of Mercer County will be implementing this program in Mercer County and will provide educational presentations for specific schools and/or a countywide audience of coaches, parents, prescribers, school nurses, personnel at sports camps and/or young athletes. This initiative will go beyond providing awareness and education by providing a toolkit that will promote specific policy changes that will strengthen the prevention strategies through the use of the CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) strategies for community change. The materials and technical assistance provided will highlight evidence-based programs, policies and interventions.