May 3, 2016
Combatting Prescription Drug Abuse

Earlier this week, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Medical Advisory Committee announced recommendations to decrease prescription drug abuse among athletes, as reported by

“When it comes to our nation’s young people, this is about as serious as a problem can get,” Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA said. “Lives are being ruined – and in many cases ended – at an unprecedented rate. As an organization dedicated to the well-being of student-athletes, the NJSIAA is taking a proactive role in addressing what amounts to an outright crisis.”

Some, altough not all, of the recommendations include favoring alternatives to opioid medications. And when opioid medicines are necessary, there are guidelines on iinforming student-athletes, their coaches, and their parents or guardians about the potential risks of addiction.

“I applaud the NJSIAA and anybody who pulls their head out of the sand and looks around,” said Phil Hossler, Athletic Trainer at East Brunswick (N.J.) High School. “Their stance is really a home run in the sense that it starts with physicians and ends on the parents. I don’t think it’s safe to ask the adolescents to police themselves.”

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reports that eight percent of female student-athletes and 12 percent of male student-athletes have been prescribed highly addictive medications in the past year. According to other studies by the NJSIAA, 83 percent of all adolescents have unsupervised access to their own narcotics prescriptions, including those that are the most commonly abused. The NJSIAA’s Medical Advisory Committee said that in 1994, 3.5 percent of all adolescents were prescribed opiates, a rate that rose to 6 percent in 2007.

“Studies indicate that about 80 percent of heroin users started out by abusing narcotic painkillers,” John Kripsak, chair of the NJSIAA’s medical advisory, said. “That statistic makes it frighteningly clear what the stakes are in this battle. It’s an emergency now, and there’s no doubt we need to implement new strategies in our schools to turn the tide.”

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