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06-08 America’s favorite pastime marred by drug addiction

America’s favorite pastime marred by drug addiction

Baseball is known as America’s pastime. Warm summer days, “the wave,” jumbo hot dogs and fireworks are just a few of the reasons why baseball is loved by most Americans. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, Major League Baseball generated over $8 billion in 2013 alone.

Baseball has extremely strong roots in American history. This sport dates back to the 18th century, has remained steadfast in American culture throughout the Civil War and two world wars, and played a major role in racial segregation. Baseball is an integral part of American history, to say the least.

Unfortunately, with every professional competitive sport comes controversy, burnout and the increasing pressure to perform better, stronger and faster. That pressure sometimes leads to the use and abuse of illegal performance enhancers.

Recovering from crack cocaine

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball superstar, Josh Hamilton, is a five-time All-Star and was named MVP for the American League in 2010. He is a role model to many young men and boys nationwide.

“It was 2 a.m. when Josh Hamilton, strung out on crack cocaine, his once-robust 6-foot-4, 230-pound body withered to 180 pounds, most of his $3.96-million signing bonus squandered on booze and drugs, staggered up the steps to his grandmother’s house in Raleigh, N.C.,” wrote Mike DiGiovanna for the Los Angeles Times.

Unfortunately his story is among many others on the baseball playing field, but he is one of the lucky ones. A recovering drug addict today, Hamilton spends a lot of his free time speaking at functions and reaching out to those in need.

Illegal drugs such as cocaine and narcotics are not the only substances used by professional athletes to take the edge off of pressure. Performance-enhancing drugs are a growing trend.

Career boosting steroid use

Steroids are a type of performance-enhancing drug that have been used by many professional ball players to make them stronger and perform better. Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, who holds Major League Baseball’s career and single-season home run records, was convicted in 2011 for obstructing a U.S. probe of steroids in professional sports. Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids when he broke the home run record in 1998. Former Major League Baseball outfielder, Jose Canseco admitted on the television show “60 Minutes” and in his tell-all book “Juiced” that as many as 80 percent of players used steroids and that he credited steroid use for his entire career.

Performance-enhancing drugs have been used among major league baseball players since 1889, but the crackdown did not come into effect until the MLB banned steroid use in 1991. The testing for these illicit substances was not enforced until the 2003 baseball season.

Trendy human growth hormone

Growth hormone, commonly known as GH or HGH, is a newer, trendier performance-enhancing drug used among major league baseball players. Because it cannot be differentiated from the natural growth hormones that are found in the body, this substance does not test positive in the urine, making it the performance-enhancing drug of choice among athletes. Similar to anabolic steroids, HGH builds muscle and cuts down fat, leading to stronger hitting and faster running among these professional ball players.

In 2012 the league began testing baseball players for HGH using blood samples and, as a result, many players tested positive for this substance.

Protecting the next generation

This addiction to illegal substances and performance-enhancing drugs has led to a sad era for America’s favorite pastime. Many people now question the natural talents of these athletes and instead attribute their record-breaking stats to steroid or HGH use.

This not only affects these professional athletes and their fans, but also every boy or girl who looks up to these role models. In fact, narcotic abuse and steroid use are now seen in collegiate athletes and even high school athletes. The pressure to perform at a top-notch level is trickling down to America’s youth and taking the fun out of baseball. Can we just go back to the days when the highlight of the game was hoping to catch a fly ball and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch?

Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego specializes in treating adolescents with substance abuse problems, including steroid use and numerous other addictions. To learn more about our programs, please call toll free 866-615-7266.

Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group writer

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