In today’s society it seems like young athletes are experiencing more and more pressure to be the best at their sport. They practice year-round, participate in club leagues when they’re in the off season, take private lessons and more. Despite the increased work ethic and desire to succeed, young athletes are already more prone to injury because their bodies are still growing and developing.

What typically comes along with sports-related injuries? Prescription pain killers.

When these athletes are injured, it is natural for a doctor to treat the pain as well as the injury. “Young athletes who become addicted to pain pills (or heroin) almost always start out using simply wanting to get back on the field; it is only later that they become addicted to the drug,” Dr. Chris Stankovich, “The Sports Doc”, said. A study found in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse states that 12% of male and 8% of female high school athletes reported abusing painkillers in the last year.

Young athletes and their parents need to understand that although the teen’s pain is temporarily relieved by painkillers, it doesn’t mean their body is in the right condition to get back to their sport. The longer you postpone the healing process, the longer it will take to get back to 100 percent. Masking an injury this way can only lead to the risk of a greater injury and consistent use of painkillers can lead to a lifetime of addiction.

Accidents happen, but there are ways to prevent injuries in these athletes. The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness recommends that young athletes should limit their sports-specific activities to five days a week with one complete rest day from all physical activity. In addition, the same council recommends young student athletes take at least 2 months off a year from a specific sport to properly rest and rebuild their bodies.

Addiction in athletes is not a myth; it is a problem that can be found at high schools all across the nation. Read From Athletes to Addicts, an article that tells the stories of real high school athletes in Albuquerque, New Mexico who were prescribed painkillers after suffering sports-related injuries and later became hooked on less-expensive and more easily attained opiates like heroin.