Sports Figures, Drugs, and America’s Drug Problem

There have been a lot of sports figures in the news recently as a result of drugs. More recently, Alex Rodriguez has been accused of steroid use. This was an important story, as he seemed to be one of the few “clean” baseball heroes of recent times. Right before the Rodriguez scandal was the Phelps scandal. If you’re one of three people in the country who didn’t know, he had been photographed smoking marijuana out of a bong. And the drug and sports news doesn’t end there, as recent articles on Fox Sports have discussed steroid use among the 1970s Steelers and the recent arrest of Corie Blount, a former NBA player, who was allegedly caught with 29 pounds of marijuana. There was also the arrest of former Jacksonville Jaguar first-round pick Matt Jones for possession of cocaine 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 in this country’s drug war. His article is related to some of the material he used in the course he teaches on “The Psychology of Drugs and Drug Abuse.” I’m showing highlights from a documentary called “American Drug War: The Last White Hope.” This movie does a good (if sometimes biased) job 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 an estimated 440,000 premature deaths each year. By comparison, alcohol is responsible for at least 20,000 accidental deaths per year, and as many as 75,000 in this country when accidental deaths (car accidents, boating accidents, falls, etc.) and deaths from harmful effects are combined. in the body (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 prescription drug abuse. (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. Additionally, this documentary uses interviews with former government officials to substantiate the claim that the war on drugs has been a colossal failure. Street drugs today are more abundant, purer and cheaper. So what has the war on drugs achieved? According to statistics, it has resulted in approximately 50% of the prison population being incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.

The point is that there are some real misconceptions about the substance abuse problem in this country. Perhaps we are paying attention to the wrong things. Instead of paying attention to cuts in funding for substance abuse rehabilitation, or incarceration of non-violent drug offenders, we seem far more concerned with our designated heroes getting an edge in a sport they get paid to do. large quantities of money. Or someone we’ve chosen to put on a pedestal (a 23-year-old) for disappointing us by using marijuana at a college party. We are concerned about street drugs, including marijuana, when prescription drug abuse is doing far more harm. And we wouldn’t think about making tobacco or alcohol illegal, even though they cause far more health and wellness problems than illegal substances.

Do we not contribute to the theme of the cult of sport? Do we not turn sports figures into heroes and role models, perhaps even more than worthy role models? Don’t we make sport the business that it is today, buying the shirts, paying the ticket prices, watching the games on television and making sport the market that it is? Aren’t we quick to dethrone someone who makes a mistake, as if perfection is the only standard we accept?

I’m not pro-drugs. I’m not sure if I’m in favor of legalization; I’d have to think more on the subject, and I’m not even sure I’m qualified to express an opinion. But I’m sure we’re 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-fulfillment without the need for a substance; a time where compassion rules, instead of self-righteous indignation. I don’t think many of us get updated or enlightened by watching sports on TV. But sometimes it’s a good distraction. How about that Super Bowl?

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