Sports figures, drugs and the drug problem in the United States

Recently, there have been many sports figures in the news as a result of drugs. More recently, Alex Rodriguez has been accused of steroid use. This was an important story, as he appeared to be one of the few “clean” baseball heroes of late. Right before the Rodriguez scandal was the Phelps scandal. If you are one of the three people in the country who has not found out, he had been photographed smoking marijuana in a bong. And the drugs and sports making headlines don’t stop there, as recent articles on Fox Sports have discussed steroid use among the ’70s Steelers, and the recent arrest of Corie Blount, a former NBA player, who he was allegedly caught with 29 pounds of marijuana. There was also the arrest of former Jacksonville Jaguar recruit Matt Jones for cocaine possession early in last year’s football season.

An interesting article I read about the Phelps scandal was written by the sometimes controversial sports writer Jason Whitlock. In the article, he challenges what some saw as racial double standards, and even briefly discusses some of the problems of this country’s drug war. Your article is related to some of the materials I use in the course I teach on “The Psychology of Drugs and Drug Abuse.” I show the highlights of a documentary called “America’s Drug War: The Last White Hope.” This movie does a good job (albeit biased at times) of showing the dark side of this war on drugs.

As an example of America’s misperception of the drug problem, did you know that tobacco kills more people than all other drugs combined, including alcohol? According to Hart, Ksir, and Ray, smoking is responsible for approximately 440,000 premature deaths a year. By comparison, alcohol is responsible for at least 20,000 accidental deaths per year, and up to 75,000 in this country when accidental deaths (car accidents, boating accidents, falls, etc.) and deaths from harmful effects on the body are combined. (cirrhosis, heart disease, etc.). And these numbers far exceed deaths from illegal drugs (10-20,000 per year). In fact, illegal drugs kill fewer Americans than the misuse of prescription drugs. (I had a hard time getting accurate data on prescription drug deaths as a result of misuse, but most articles and sources make it clear that prescription drug misuse causes more deaths per year than illegal drugs.)

According to the documentary I mentioned earlier, some of the contributors to the war on drugs are companies in the tobacco and alcohol industries. Furthermore, this documentary uses interviews with former government officials to substantiate the claim that the war on drugs has been a colossal failure. Today, illicit drugs are more abundant, purer and cheaper. So what has the war on drugs accomplished? According to statistics, it has resulted in approximately 50% of the incarcerated population being incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.

The point is, there are some real misconceptions about the substance abuse problem in this country. Maybe we are paying attention to the wrong things. Rather than paying attention to funding cuts for substance abuse rehab, or the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, we seem far more concerned that our designated heroes will gain an advantage in a sport that is paid huge amounts. of money to play. Or someone we’ve chosen to put on a pedestal, (a 23-year-old at that) for disappointing us by using marijuana at a college party. We are concerned about illegal drugs, including marijuana, when prescription drug abuse is causing much more harm. And we would not think of making tobacco or alcohol illegal, even though it causes far more health and wellness problems than illegal substances.

Didn’t we contribute to the sports worship theme? Don’t we turn sports figures into heroes and role models, perhaps even more than worthier role models? Don’t we make sport the business it is today, buying the shirts, paying the price of the tickets, watching the games on television and making sport the market that it is? Don’t we rush to dethrone someone who makes a mistake, as if perfection is the only standard we’ll accept?

I am not pro-drugs. I am not sure if I am in favor of legalization; I would have to give it more thought and I’m not even sure I’m qualified to express an opinion. But I am sure that we are looking in the wrong direction when we look at drugs in this country. I hope it is time for a change: a change that finds all individuals seeking self-realization without the need for a substance; a time when compassion reigns, rather than moralistic outrage. I don’t think many of us are going to catch up or enlighten ourselves by watching sports on television. But sometimes it is a good distraction. How about that Superbowl?

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