Beyond Athletics

Let’s Talk About Student-Athletes Using Drugs

talking to each other about athletes leaving their comfort zone

(Pedro Ribeiro Simoes)

With the 2016 Summer Olympic Games just around the corner, many athletes are preparing for what we can only assume to be the event and experience of a lifetime.

Unfortunately for the games, a team has made recent headlines for allegations regarding performance-enhancing drug-use – something that is not only against Olympic rules, but is also a total disappointment for the world of sports and spirit of competition.

Even with testing requirements and strict regulations surrounding such banned substances, apparently there are coaches and athletes finding the illegal – and harmful – doping practice worth the risk.

And then, as I was digging further into the issue of athletes and performance-enhancing drugs, I found even more startling facts and figures regarding student-athletes and the growing popularity of recreational drug and alcohol use by college athletes.

Yes, you read that correctly; the number of student-athletes using drugs is on the rise.

What is going on with student-athletes using drugs?

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason or motivation behind student-athlete drug use.

While student-athletes overall seem like the exact opposite type of teens and young adults to be using drugs — with scholarships and both academic and athletic performance at stake — it’s happening across the country, and there are trends in multiple sports.

And unlike the issues aforementioned Olympic teams are having with performance-enhancing drugs, something seemingly more likely to be affecting student-athletes when referring to drug use: we’re talking drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol. These are drugs whose effects can be highly damaging to the body and mind, and cause for dangerous thoughts and behavior.

Not to mention that they’re against the law.

How harmful are drugs to student-athletes?

I would hope it goes without saying that there are absolutely no benefits of using drugs, or spending time with anyone who does.

For teen and young adult student-athletes, the mind and body are still in key development years, and willingly taking a substance that alters both of those areas of development is very dangerous.

On top of major health issues, as a student-athlete fortunate enough to be able to play the sport you love, representing your school and those who care about you, participating in illegal activity that can negatively effect the way you play just doesn’t seem to add up. At all.

What are the repercussions of drug use for student-athletes?

First and foremost, the ultimate repercussions of using drugs involve the harm they can do to your body, your mind, your ability to play your sport at the highest level possible, and the ability to make sound decisions.

If caught using drugs, a student-athlete can be kicked off of the team, kicked out of school, lose his or her scholarship, and potentially go to jail.

You may be thinking that I sound like I’m ragging on you, or like I’m failing to explain what the upside of a student-athlete using drugs is. But–this is the absolute truth–I looked for a long time for someone to try to argue that drugs are good and quite simply, and quite literally, couldn’t find a single article.

What should a student-athlete do if they are aware of drug use on their team?

This is a dark side of going away to a college to play your sport; away from parents and able to make whatever choices they want, some students might do drugs.

The best thing to do is be prepared. Think ahead about why you’re so passionate about your sport, and how risky it would be to jeopardize that future. This will help you fight any peer pressure you might face.

If you’re a parent of a student-athlete, talk about the detrimental effects of drugs with your child. Remind them that there are inevitable effects — on their bodies, and their futures.

And, seriously: If you are on a team where drug use is happening, talk to someone about it. You are not being a tattletale, and it won’t make you unpopular.

It will show your leadership and responsibility. It will show you are someone who’s looking out for the good of your friends and your future.

Saying “no” isn’t easy. In fact, it takes a heck of a lot of bravery. Stop the trend, end the cycle, be the change high school and college sports need.


We know you work hard to play your sport in college. And finding the right school to do it is a major part of that struggle. Our scouts and digital platform can help you match with a school that fits your needs. The best way to get started is with a recruiting profile.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.