The Catch-22 of drug addiction and MMA

Hey guys, 

I wrote a piece about the dangers of drug addiction and MMA athletes. Many don't realize it, but the stresses of being a professional fighter, the injuries, the psychological predisposition between drugs and thrill-seekers, and CTE and other brain injuries can lead to a myriad of mental disorders that may eventually lead to some sort of addiction. 

 

Here's the first part of the article, and if you like it please read the rest by following the link: 

For months I’ve wanted to get started on an article discussing drug use among MMA athletes, but just haven’t gotten my fingers to the keyboard. For some reason, after seeing Dennis Siver’s positive test for HCG recently — probably the least worrisome drug I’ve ever seen someone test positive for — I’ve decided to get going with it.

In addition to the positive tests for performance enhancing substances that we’ve seen dozens of times in this sport, there has been an alarming number of positive drug tests for recreational and prescription drugs as well. We’ve also seen countless fighters wage personal battles with substance abuse outside of the ring/cage, with several ending in death — accidental as well as suicide. It’s the recreational drugs and prescription painkillers that have caught my attention as something that may need to be addressed.

After seeing so many fighters struggle with drug abuse over the years like Joe Riggs,Drew FickettKaro Parisyan, along with those that have passed away from drug-related circumstances like Shane Del Rosario and Shelby Walker, I started to wonder: Is MMA leading athletes to become addicted to drugs, or are people who are more prone to drug use entering the world of mixed martial arts?

What I found out is that the answer to both previous questions is yes. Those more prone to use drugs do enter MMA, and MMA in return, leads those to use drugs and subsequently become addicted to them. It’s a hell of a lot more complex than that, but simply put, MMA fighters, as well as boxers, are kind of screwed.

First, lets take a look at the “those prone to drug abuse enter MMA” concept. In a 2009 article for the Dana Foundation, Brenda Patoine wrote,  “There is a well-established relationship between high sensation-seeking and drug use.” Virtually every expert on the subject agrees that there is a relationship between “thrill seeking” — whether that be sex, drugs, bungee jumping or trying new things — and drug abuse. It sure makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re searching for adrenaline you go to a high spot, jump off of it, and pull a parachute. You land, are filled with endorphins, dopamine and serotonin and feel damn good. But, then you want that feeling again. So you go to the same elevated spot and repeat the process, but this time it’s not the same; it doesn’t feel quite as good. So, you find a higher spot or crazier landing strip or whatever you need to do to make the jump more exciting to replicate the same feeling of euphoria as before.

http://www.cagepotato.com/mmas-catch-22-drug-trap-why-so-many-fighters-fall-into-addiction/

ttt

TTT.. Good article Santino Phone Post 3.0

Thanks, Kelly.

ttt

Great article....

I'm a final year Psychology student about to graduate. My honours project investigated factors that influenced risk taking behaviour.

Sensation seeking was the largest predictor. Digit ratio also had in influence.

Digit ratio is a crude indicator of pre natal testosterone which is also significant for fighters... Phone Post 3.0

Great stuff-- couldnt agree more Phone Post 3.0

toddiejasl - Great article....

I'm a final year Psychology student about to graduate. My honours project investigated factors that influenced risk taking behaviour.

Sensation seeking was the largest predictor. Digit ratio also had in influence.

Digit ratio is a crude indicator of pre natal testosterone which is also significant for fighters... Phone Post 3.0
How do you measure sensation seeking? Just curious: Phone Post 3.0

whoabro - 
toddiejasl - Great article....

I'm a final year Psychology student about to graduate. My honours project investigated factors that influenced risk taking behaviour.

Sensation seeking was the largest predictor. Digit ratio also had in influence.

Digit ratio is a crude indicator of pre natal testosterone which is also significant for fighters... Phone Post 3.0
How do you measure sensation seeking? Just curious: Phone Post 3.0

I am by no means a psychologist here, or even a student of psychology, but in my research most "thrill/sensation" seeking was usually categorized as sex, drugs, or adrenaline seeking behaviors. The number of those behaviors would be counted and then categorized as either high or low sensation-seekers.

Take that with a very small grain of salt, though.

Nice article. Drug addiction and the "addict" is still stigmatized like no other disease out there. It's not a matter of low morals or no self control but that's what the average person thinks.

It actually changes your brain chemistry. People are not "BORN" being prone to any addictions. It's not nature but nurture. I won't go into a lot of the science since I'd probably just be wasting my time but when a child is raised in a stressful environment they don't make the proper oxytocin (the love drug) that bonds Mother to child, lover to lover etc. The oxytocin production levels in your brain level off at 3 years of age. Meaning that you're stuck with those levels for the rest of your life.

Doctor's can actually check adult levels of oxytocin and can know if you were raised in a stressful environment as a baby.

This low level of oxytocin is the template for any type of addiction. Be it sex, drugs, shopping, eating. alcohol etc. As far as the brain and endorphins are concerned it's all the same since it triggers the endorphin receptors.

It's not genetic either. Doctors see Granddad was an alcoholic, Dad an alcoholic and son an alcoholic and just draw a straight line and say it's genetic. But it's not.

With Granddad being an alcoholic Dad was raised in a super stressful environment. Wife under stress and the baby is a sponge and picks up on all of this. Same goes for Son. It's nurture. No one is born predisposed to being an addict. It's cutting edge science which the mainstream hasn't picked up on.

Case in point. The University of Vancouver did a study with two sets of Mothers and their babies. One set of the babies were raised in a loving non-stressful environment. The second set the Mothers were depressed. The babies were all brain Scanned via EEG's. The depressed set of babies scans showed spikes up and down. The babies from the stress free Mothers scans showed gentle hills or waves.

So the researchers didn't even have to look at the Mothers to know which ones were depressed.

There might be a correlation between this and others choosing to be a MMA fighter?

Of course it goes much deeper than this.

But the main problem after some has become addicted to pain meds is the altered chemistry in the brain. The brain gets an influx of opiates from the pain pills or synthetic heroin aka Percocet, dilaudid, etc. and this fits the endorphin receptors like a key.

What happens next is how people become addicted so fast. The brain does two things at this pint. It shuts down it's own production of endorphins and also adds many more endorphin receptors due to all the pain medication and extra opiates coming into the brain. These new opiate receptors want to be filled hence the user becomes tolerant to the normal dose so they up the dose to compensate.

When you stop using you're left with an over-abundance of opiate receptors along with NO production of endorphins. That's why the body goes through such terrible withdrawals.

Also after detox you're left with what is called PAWS, (Post acute withdrawal syndrome). Where your legs ache, chills, sleepless nights etc.

What the body has to do is go through what's called receptor reduction. With the brain closing down all the extra opiate receptors that it made due to all the opiates and also has to start production of it's own natural pain killing substance endorphins.

Depending on how long the user has used it could be anywhere between 4 months to a year before the brain is back to normal. Anytime before this is a hard period for people and they usually relapse if they don't have a strong support system.

But the main thing to realize is this is a disease just as much as cancer and a light should be shinned on this as strongly as any other disease.

I could go on but I think no one will read what I wrote in the first place, LOL. Basically the template for any addiction is groomed during the first 2 years of life. that's why most people can drink 2 drinks or take pain meds as prescribed and then stop with no problem whereas others have no control due to their low oxytocin levels and being raised in a stressful environment. Basically when they use they actually feel good for the first time in their life.

That's how strongly the pull is. Enough for some to throw away their family, friends, job, teeth, and live out in the street. It takes a compassionate and caring health professional to bring them back from the brink and even then it's not enough sometimes. This is an epidemic, not just fighters but professionals, house wives, kids and on and on.

Also didn't mean to hijack your post. Just wanted to add to it.

goldenboyart-it is not nature or nurture, you saying it is nurture is fault, its a case of both...even the experts dont know what causes some to become addicted and others not..some neuro-scientists believe many addicts brains are 'faulty' to begin with, meaning their hedonic or pleasure center is malfunctioning right off the bat so they need a higher source of pleasure as compared to most people...in come the drugs or sex addiction or cliff diving or whatever..

oxytocin ive heard of but never heard it related to addiction..

I think there are a lot of things fighters need to be aware of when choosing MMA as a sport--It's stressful, there's little money, there's a lot of injuries, you're getting hit in the head a lot, there may be genetic factors coming in to play. Who knows?

What we need to do is make sure fighters are aware of the dangers of addiction, and that trainers and managers are aware of the signs of addiction.

Partying hard and extreme sports or professions even , go hand in hand. Great article Santino.

GJ Santino

Great article, Santino. I enjoyed reading it.

@goldenboyart: I also thoroughly enjoyed reading your response and opinion. I read the whole thing, too, lol.

I've always been highly interested in human psychology, and this is one of the areas that interests me most. I enjoy reading just about anything I can on this subject... because I usually learn something new every time.

Great thread. Carry on, gentlemen... Phone Post 3.0

Great article man. That was great breakdown of how brain works when addicted. VU Phone Post 3.0

whoabro - 
toddiejasl - Great article....

I'm a final year Psychology student about to graduate. My honours project investigated factors that influenced risk taking behaviour.

Sensation seeking was the largest predictor. Digit ratio also had in influence.

Digit ratio is a crude indicator of pre natal testosterone which is also significant for fighters... Phone Post 3.0
How do you measure sensation seeking? Just curious: Phone Post 3.0

Santino pretty much nailed how it's measured...

I used the SSS-V which is a sensation seeking questionnaire. The questionnaire consists of 40 forced choice statements...

It's not really possible to tell anything about a person just by filling in a questionnaire, self report measures are inherently flawed...

But if you get enough participants the results are valid over a large population...

Quality post OP. Props. Phone Post 3.0

I'm glad you guys enjoyed the article. It's something I'd been wanting to do for a while, but just hadn't gotten around to it.