Tackling Opioids: Youth Athletics and Reducing Overdose

Fall’s kickoff of high school football season is an exciting time for teens filled with energetic pep rallies, talented marching bands, and amazing athletics. The games give individual athletes the spotlight and give them the chance to take their school to victory or defeat. The pressure to perform can be intense and pushes the young athletes to the edge of their abilities. With the entire student body’s attention on a handful of players, the pressure to perform cause some player to over exert themselves causing injury. In some cases the injury can be severe. Like with the New York Jets Quarterback Aaron Rogers, teen athletes may sustain serious injury requiring months or even years of physical therapy and pain management. Studies show up to 46% of former high school athletes have lifetime opioid use, significantly higher than any other student population. With ongoing medication use, injured teen athletes are at serious risk of dependance and even overdose.


Unfortunately, many young athletes are completely unaware of the risks of using pain relievers like opioids but there is hope. In a recent study commissioned by Song for Charlie, data indicates that after reviewing targeted information about fentanyl in fake pills, 65% of young Americans are less likely to consider misusing prescription drugs. In our extensive work to end medication misuse, DisposeRx knows that educating young people about reducing the risk of overdose through in-home medication disposal requires an engaging comprehensive strategy.

Education from Trusted Peers

Anyone who has talked to a teenager knows that getting through to them can be a challenge. Giant brands like Nike understand that a sports celebrity is the most effective type of endorsement and youth prevention programs are no different.

To connect with teens, DisposeRx’s message of substance misuse prevention is communicated via celebrity endorsements to student athletes who then carry the message through-out schools. Simply, high-risk youth athletes learn the risks of medication misuse from the pros and then amplify that message to the rest of the student body. The end result is that all high school youths are aware of the risks of medication misuse and less likely to misuse prescription drugs.

In practice, in Texas, DisposeRx helped establish the Coaches vs. Overdoses program and leveraged Texas youths’ love of football to spread the word about reducing overdose via in-home medication disposal.

The Coaches vs. Overdose partnership

The Coaches vs. Overdoses program engages all the key players in overdose prevention. Before the games, coaches and parents receive a prevention playbook that contains loads of useful information. The playbook includes statistics that show the critical importance of the program, conversation starters for parents, and practical tips like how to spot dangerous counterfeit pills. During the games, prerecorded PSAs featuring NBA and NFL legends like the Cowboys’ Randy White, Chicago Bears’ Mike Singletary, and Slam Dunk Champion Spud Webb shared tips on medication disposal. At the end of the game, attendees received complimentary DisposeRx drug disposal packets. At home, parents and teens discuss topics in the playbook and use DisposeRx to dispose of unneeded medication in the home.

See an excerpt of the Prevention Playbook on CoachesVsOverdoses.com.

    On the field… in the diamond… and on the court

    DisposeRx’s youth prevention programs are not limited to just football. In Delaware, DisposeRx and Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long tipped off basketball season with the Bench Opioids Initiative. As part of the campaign, Delaware’s most decorated football player, NFL Hall of Famer Randy White, shared his personal story of loss through overdose.

    Youth athletics often introduce teens to opioids and other prescription drugs.

    Related story: Opioid Prevention and Disposal Program to Tip Off at Delaware High School Basketball Championships

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    Tackling Opioids Together

    Between 2020 and 2021, drug overdose deaths among youth aged 14-18 years increased 20%, and researchers identified fentanyl as the primary cause of this increase. Without intervention, overdoses among young people could continue to rise. DisposeRx knows how to engage, educate, and improve family safety through drug disposal.

    If you’re a coach and want to help your team reduce the risks of medication misuse, visit the Coaches vs Overdoses website for a sample of the prevention playbook and learn more about how these youth prevention programs are easily tailored and deployed at school, county, and state level.

    Ready… Set…

    Even if you’re not a coach, you can help. Contact DisposeRx today to find out how combining youth athletics and drug disposal education can reduce medication misuse or ask your participating pharmacist about DisposeRx in-home drug disposal packets.

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