Drug scandals occur at all levels of the celebrity world, including Hollywood, modeling, the music industry and even among top politicians in Washington D.C. Lately, however, much of the concern surrounding drug addiction has centered on athletics. Frequently busted for steroid use during drug tests, athletes are also coming forward with crippling addictions to alcohol, heroin and prescription painkillers.
A primary example of the addiction’s impact on athletics involves Erik Ainge, former quarterback for the New York Jets. A star player in high school and college, Ainge showed the potential to go all the way. Unfortunately, his academic and athletic careers were supplemented (and eventually supplanted) by drug and alcohol abuse. This crippling addiction began early on, when Ainge was only twelve years old. Introduced into the world of drugs by a simple hit of marijuana, Ainge soon moved on to harder drugs, including cocaine and painkillers. That dependency strengthened while Ainge was playing for the University of Tennessee — especially after he began taking painkillers to deal with a broken finger.
Although he was able to mostly keep his addictive behavior under wraps (mostly, because he received a brief suspension for breaking the NFL policy on steroid and drug use), the issue ultimately proved too severe. In a tell-all piece written for ESPN, Ainge later revealed that he had been under the influence of drugs at nearly every Jets practice. This included taking handfuls of Percocet before the start of any practice or game. Ainge claims that few team members made mention of the constant drug use, although he did receive some help from punter Steve Weatherford.
While the support of friends proved helpful at times, it was ultimately only rehabilitation that helped Ainge move past his deadly drug addiction. The athlete spent a short amount of time in Boston’s McLean Detox Center during the spring of 2009. Managing to break the cycle of addiction for a short time, he returned to athletics for a few months before once again falling prey to drugs. Following a two-week bender, Ainge found himself in trouble with the law. While he was able to avoid arrest, the athlete knew it was time to get help before his addiction killed him. This time, recovery proved more successful, with Ainge receiving a diagnosis and treatment for bipolar disorder. While addiction ultimately destroyed his career, Ainge has proven that it is possible to move past drugs to enjoy a fulfilling life.