Intercollegiate sports participation and non-medical drug use

Sections

ABSTRACT
Introduction
Method
Results
Discussion

Details

Author: J. V. TOOHEY, B. W. CORDER
Pages: 23 to 27
Creation Date: 1981/01/01

Intercollegiate sports participation and non-medical drug use

Professor J. V. TOOHEY
Associate Professor B. W. CORDER
Health Science, Arizona State University, Arizona, United States of America

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this study was to determine if participation in a competitive intercollegiate sports programme would modify the non-medical drug and substance-use behaviour patterns of the participants as compared with their non-athletic counterparts. Sixty-seven intercollegiate swimmers and members of varsity swim teams at six American universities comprised the athlete population and were compared with 678 non-athletic undergraduates. A chi-square analysis of the data indicated no significant difference between athlete and non-athlete with respect to the most commonly ,used mood-modifying drugs. There was also no significant difference in drug-use behaviour between male and female athletes with respect to non-medical use of the common mood-modifying drugs although there was a significant difference between male and female athletes with respect to anabolic steroid use. A level of significance at the 0.05 level of confidence indicated male athletes more likely to use anabolic steroids than female athletes.

Introduction

In the past the media have been utilized as a tool in an attempt to discourage non-medical drug use, especially among young people. According to Ray, society is in the midst of a fourth pharmacological revolution [ 1] . Whereas drugs were previously primarily utilized to prevent and treat illness, the increasing emphasis on pleasure in today's society has led to the use of drugs in order to alter personality or increase social interaction. Is the highly competitive athlete as susceptible to non-medical drug use as his or her non-athletic counterpart?

The purpose of this study was to determine if participants in an intercollegiate sports programme differ from their non-athletic counterparts with respect to non-medical substance-use behaviour patterns.

Method

Intercollegiate swimming was chosen because of the long length of the season and the continuous training programme. A sport such as swimming is less seasonal than other intercollegiate sports programmes. The participants of an intercollegiate swimming programme would have lengthy contact with the coaches, trainers and fellow participants. In addition, nearly all intercollegiate swimmers have had several years of highly organized competitive athletic experience with American Athletic Union swim clubs. Thus swimming as an intercollegiate sport has the potential for more impact on the personality and values of its participants because of the time and personal sacrifice required.

A questionnaire was designed to measure the existence, if any, of patterns and types of substance use in relationship to the swimmer's age, sex, college, social values and grade point average. The questionnaire was administered anonymously to 67 intercollegiate swimmers: 50 females and 17 males, who were members of their varsity swim teams and in addition swam competitively in national and international competition. The six universities participating in this project were Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona; the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona; the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California; the University of California at Los Angeles; California State University, Long Beach, California; and San Diego State University, San Diego, California.

In order to compare the degree of non-medical drug and substance-abuse behaviour with non-intercollegiate athletes, the same questionnaire was administered to 678 non-athletic undergraduate students.

Results

The chi-square analysis of the 1980 data in table I indicates that there is no significant difference in drug-use behaviour patterns between the inter-collegiate athlete and the non-athletic student with respect to the use of alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine or LSD. Even in the category of those who discontinued use of cannabis the athlete was as likely to discontinue using this drug as was the non-athlete.

The data would tend to indicate that the athlete is behaving very much like his non-athletic counterpart with respect to use of drugs in contemporary society.

One interesting observation on amphetamine use by intercollegiate swimmers was found within the realm of why they used the drug. Like their non-athletic counterparts, the majority of swimmers used the drug for mood modification, weekends and parties or during extended study periods. Only 3 per cent of intercollegiate athletes reported using the drug to improve swimming performance, demonstrating that the sports experience did little to change or shape value priorities with respect to this drug when used in non-athletic realms.

The male intercollegiate athlete was also compared to the female intercollegiate athlete with respect to non-medical drug-use behaviour. Table 2 indicates no significant difference in behaviour with respect to the use of amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, cocaine or LSD. There was, however, a significance in the non-medical use of steroids; this significance at the 0.05 level of confidence indicated that males were more likely to use steroids than females. Not one female in the population of 50 swimmers used the steroid product.

Table 1

Comparison of drug- and substance-use behaviour between athletes and non-athletes in American universities (1980)

 

Amphetamine a X 2=0.31 d.f.=1.p>0.05

Alcohol X 2=0.13 d.f.=1,p>0.05

Cannabis X 2=0.10 d.f.=1,p>0.05

 

Athlete

Non-athlete

Athlete

Non-athlete

Athlete

Non-athlete

Use
e 21.29
e 236.70
e 60.25
e 609.74
e 48.29
e 488.70
 
o 17
o 241
o 61
o 609
o 47
o 490
Non-use
e 39.70
e 441.29
e 6.74
e 70.98
e 18.70
e 189.29
 
o 44
o 437
o 6
o 69
o 20
o 188

 

 

Cocaine X 2=0.24 d.f.=1.p>0.05

LSD X 2=0.13 d.f.=1,p>0.05

 

Discontinued cannabis use b X 2=1.02 d.f.=1,p>0.05

 

Athlete

Non-athlete

Athlete

Non-athlete

 

Athlete

Non-athlete

Use
e 15.73
e 159.26
e 6.29
e 63.70
Continue to use
e 38.85
e 284.14
 
o 13
o 162
o 7
o 63
 
o 35
o 288
Non-use
e 51.26
e 58.73
e 60.70
e 614.29
Discontinue to use
e 28.14
e 205.85
 
o 54
o 516
o 60
o 615
 
o 32
o 202

Note: e = expected number: o = observed number.

a

Some respondents did not indicate whether or not they used this drug.

b

Total number of "non-athletes" was 490.

Table 2

Comparison of drug- and substance-use behaviour between male and female intercollegiate athletes (1980)

 

Amphetamine a X 2=1.228 d.f.=1.p>0.05

Barbiturate a X 2=3.41 d.f.=1,p>0.05

Cannabis X 2=1.842 d.f.=1,p>0.05

 

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Use
e 4.74
e 12.26
e 1.27
e 3.73
e 12.18
e 35.82
 
o 3
o 14
o 3
o 2
o 10
o 38
Non-use
e 12.26
e 31.74
e 15.73
e 46.27
e 4.82
e 14.18
 
o 14
o 30
o 14
o 40
o 7
o 12

 

 

Steroids X 2=4.84 d.f.=1.p>0.05

Cocaine X 2=0.246 d.f.=1,p>0.05

LSD X 2=1.252 d.f.=1,p>0.05

 

Male

Female

Male

Female

Male

Female

Use
e 0.25
e 0.75
e 3.29
e 9.10
e 1.78
e 5.22
 
o 1
o 0
o 4
o 9
o 3
o 4
Non-use
e 14.79
e 41.79
e 13.70
e 40.29
e 15.22
e 44.78
 
o 16
o 50
o 13
o 41
o 14
o 46

Note:e = expected number: o = observed number.

a

Some respondents did not indicate whether or not they used this drug.

Discussion

Other studies [ 2] have compared the drug-use behaviour of athletes and non-athletes using a broad spectrum of sports: baseball, basketball, football, gymnastics, tennis, wrestling etc. In this study, swimming was selected in order to give sport as a learning experience the opportunity to demonstrate its potential for modifying drug-use behaviour. A1 Artoloni, a trainer of Pan American teams, has stated that competitive swimming was a sport requiring great dedication on the part of the athlete, coach and parent, and that it took up most of the free time of the athletes [ 3] .

When a year-round intercollegiate sports programme contributes no measurable modification to non-medical substance-use behaviour one can raise the question as to whether sports programmes of shorter duration and less contact time with coaches and trainers are likely to produce more substantive modification of drug-use values. The role of hobby or leisure-time athletic participation as a factor in drug- and substance-use behaviour was not investigated in this study.

Evidently, some athlete respondents in this study did not perceive non-medical substance-use as having a negative effect on their training or competitive performance. However, the question of such a perception having a foundation in fact was not under investigation in this study.

The cultural conditioning for cannabis use was powerful; 10 per cent of the varsity swimmers reported having used cannabis before the age of 15, and 28 per cent reported that they began using the substance between 17 and 19 years of age.

Cohen [ 4] has developed an "alternative model" that includes athletics as a possible alternative to drug-use behaviour at what he describes as the "physical level of experience". This level is, however, only one of a number of possible levels of experience and does not stand on its own.

The development of this and other approaches (e.g. information in itself can prevent drug-use behaviour) should not ignore the complexity of human needs and behaviour.

The non-medical use of substances which modify mood and behaviour is a complex issue that defies ready and simplistic answers.

References

001

Oakley Ray, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior (St. Louis, C. U. Masby, 1978), pp. 3-5.

002

Jack V. Toohey, "Non medical drug use among intercollegiate athletes at five American universities", Bulletin on Narcotics, vol. 30, No. 3 (1978), pp. 61- 64.

003

Al Artoloni, "Training methods in competitive swimming", Swimming World, March 1980, p. 40.

004

Allan Y. Cohen, "The journey beyond trips: alternatives to drugs", Journal of Psychedelic Drugs, vol. 3, No. 2 (1971), p. 17.