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NCAA drug-use study shows large majority have not used banned drugs

By Brian Hendrickson

A newly released NCAA report of student athletes’ drug and alcohol habits shows a continued decline in usage of some drugs and an overwhelming majority of athletes who have never used banned substances.

The NCAA’s Study of Substance Use Habits of College Student Athletes, which surveyed 20,474 student-athletes at 1,076 NCAA institutions in 2009, found that less than 4 percent of respondents had ever used anabolic steroids (0.6 percent), ephedrine (0.9 percent) or amphetamines (3.7 percent). Those responses indicate a 0.5 percent decrease in amphetamine usage, and 0.7 percent drop in use of anabolic steroids from the previous survey conducted in 2005. Ephedrine was a new addition to the 2009 survey.

 Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, Connecticut’s head physician and chair of the NCAA’s Committee on the Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, said the results of the survey presented no surprises to CSMAS members, who received copies of the report to review during their meeting in Indianapolis Dec. 11-13. But Anderson said that even positive trends, such as decreases in performance-enhancing drug usage, will have to continue being tracked before progress can be celebrated.

“I don’t necessarily see anything in here that was so alarming that it needs to be addressed (immediately),” Anderson said. “You have to see how it bears out over time.”

An overwhelming majority of respondents also reported never using cocaine (98.2 percent) or other narcotics (96.7 percent). But use of social drugs and alcohol showed increases since 2005.

Use of marijuana within the last 12 months was reported by 22.6 percent of respondents, a 1.4-point increase over the 2005 study. More than half of the respondents reported using the drug less than once per month, and the majority indicated their usage was limited to the offseason.

Anderson said he believes those results reflect trends found in other studies of general society. A study released in December by Monitoring the Future, which performs an annual survey of eighth, 10th and 12th graders, found that 1 in 15 seniors smoked marijuana almost daily – a 30-year peak among high school seniors.

The NCAA’s report also showed a 5.6-percent rise in alcohol consumption over the 2005 report, with 83.1 percent of respondents reporting drinking alcohol in the previous 12 months. Of greater concern to Anderson was the 38.8 percent of respondents who reported consuming six or more drinks in a single sitting.

 “It’s something that we have to pay attention to,” Anderson said. “Once you get above what’s considered binge drinking, five and above, you’ve got half of the respondents (49 percent) saying that it is typical that they binge drink on a regular basis. That’s pretty striking. We talk a lot about drug testing and stuff like that, but our most concerned drug is alcohol.”

Other actions taken by the committee during its December meeting in Indianapolis:

  • Testing protocol changes were approved by the Drug Education and Drug Testing Issues subcommittee to address potential breaches by student athletes, such as manipulating or tampering with a sample. The changes provide for a full panel of tests (including marijuana and stimulants) in the vent of such a breach.
  • CSMAS asked Drug Free Sport to present an education module at its June meeting to address issues related to human growth hormone testing such as protocol, costs, feasibility and membership education.
  • The subcommittee also asked Drug Free Sport to present a report in June that identifies marijuana levels in NCAA samples between 5-10 and 10-15 nanograms per milliliter. The report is intended to assist the subcommittee with making a potential recommendation to lower the threshold for a positive test for marijuana.
  • The committee will review NCAA supported research by UCLA on validating a test for synthetic cannabinoids in advance of considering a recommendation at the June meeting to add the substances to the championship testing panel. Synthetic cannabinoids are a designer drug that does not produce a positive results in tests for cannabis.



Substance Use Report

This report provides summary information concerning substance use behaviors of men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics programs at NCAA member institutions for the years 2005 and 2009. Read More