Substance abuse in athletes is both prevalent and dangerous, leading to its international recognition as a public health concern. In recent controlled trials, behavioral prevention programs have been shown to reduce alcohol use in collegiate student athletes who are at-risk for alcohol abuse, with outcomes appearing to be enhanced when family members are prescriptively involved. However, no interventions have been found to decrease alcohol or drug use frequency in controlled trials involving athletes who have been diagnosed with substance abuse, and no prescribed clinical interventions for substance abuse have been tailored to accommodate the unique needs of competitive athletes. As an initial step in this development, we review an evidenced-supported behavioral treatment program modified for use with athletes. Optimizing the support of significant others, this innovative treatment approach comprehensively targets multiple areas of mental health while emphasizing cultural enlightenment. Recommendations are offered, including the great need for controlled treatment outcome research specific to substance abuse in athletes.
The authors are with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.