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Applauding MLB’s Efforts: Treatment Is Available





By LVRC’s Chief Medical Officer, Mel Pohl, DFASAM

Under a new drug policy, Major League Baseball announced that their players will be tested for opioids and cocaine. This will take effect at the beginning of spring training. The updated policy comes after the death of 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher, Tyler Skaggs. According to his autopsy, he had oxycodone, fentanyl, and alcohol in his system.

Prior, MLB players were not tested for opioids or drugs unless there was a reasonable cause. Under the new policy, players who test positive for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, or synthetic THC will be referred to treatment.

I applaud MLB and the efforts made to approach this issue, especially treatment rather than punishment. Effective treatment options are available for addictive disease. Professionals can help players learn how to tackle their illness with evidence-based measures. There is a network of people who want to help and care about their well-being.

Many athletes suffer injury and their chronic pain is often overlooked. Rotator cuff tears, elbow and knee injuries, as well as muscle strains, are the most common injuries seen in baseball. If these injuries are left untreated, they can become severe and may need surgery.

Opioid painkillers seem to be an easy fix, but they have the potential to cause more damage. Over time these painkillers become ineffective as the person develops a tolerance. With tolerance, people take higher doses to achieve the same pain relief as before. Higher doses can lead to dependence, withdrawal and an overdose, especially when mixed with other drugs or depressants.

According to the CDC, about 47,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2017. With a significant increase in deaths, the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency.

Chronic pain professionals are offering successful treatment without opioids. Strategies like distress reduction, physical therapy, regular exercise, and mindfulness practices among other treatments, often help individuals better control their pain symptoms and have a better life.

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