Shaheen Introduces New Legislation Aimed at Preventing Opioid Misuse Among Students and Student Athletes

March 30, 2017

**The Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act is the first major legislative effort to engage the athletic community in the fight against the opioid epidemic**

 **New bill would authorize $10 million for creation of drug prevention programs for students with a specific focus on student athletes**

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced new legislation aimed at preventing opioid misuse among students and student athletes. The Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act would allow schools, communities, and youth athletic associations in the Granite State and around the country to provide prevention programs to reduce the risk of opioid misuse among students and student athletes. Research shows that students, and student athletes in particular, are at risk of opioid and heroin misuse. Senator Shaheen’s bill is the first major legislative effort to target the youth, high school, and collegiate sports communities across the country in the fight to combat the opioid epidemic.

“As we battle this dangerous and deadly opioid epidemic, we must ensure that our prevention efforts are targeted directly at communities that are susceptible to substance misuse, especially young people,” said Senator Shaheen. “Student athletes are particularly at risk for substance misuse due to prescription opioids used to treat sports injuries. Sports teams play an incredibly influential role in the lives of millions of young people across the country and it’s critical that we partner with the athletic community – including coaches, athletic trainers, and athletic directors – in this fight to prevent substance misuse. The Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act would fund new and proven prevention programs to inform students of the risks of opioids and substance misuse before it happens. To stem the tide of the opioid crisis, we must combat it from all angles and my legislation would help protect students and their athletic communities.”

“UNH appreciates Sen. Shaheen’s leadership on this important issue. By providing more resources around evidence-based prevention programming, this bill would help keep student athletes healthy and strong,” said Marty Scarano, Athletic Director at the University of New Hampshire. “This is a real issue with tragic consequences; education, accountability and awareness are needed to address this problem. We stand ready to support this effort and utilize our student athletes, staff and coaches to help educate the state’s younger athletes about the safe use of prescription pain medication for injuries.”

The Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act would authorize the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use to provide $10 million annually to support programs for students and student athletes, as well as training for teachers, administrators, athletic trainers, coaches and athletic directors specifically targeted at mitigating the risk of opioid misuse and overdose.

Recent studies have shown that students and student athletes are at risk for substance misuse. From 1997 to 2012, overdose deaths for those 19 and younger increased by 165 percent. A 2013 study at the University of Michigan found “adolescent participants in high-injury sports had 50 percent higher odds of non-medical use of prescription opioids than adolescents who did not participate in these types of sports.” And a more recent study cited by Yahoo News found that 12th graders who played ice hockey had “substantially higher” odds of non-medical opioid or heroin use. In 2015, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) released a report that found that 23 percent of college athletes reported receiving a prescription for pain medication, and six percent reported using an opioid without a prescription in the prior year.  The report concludes that “student athletes, who in general drink [alcohol] at rates similar to non-athlete student peers, tend to report higher rates of binge drinking than non-athlete students.  Combining alcohol with prescription opioids, significantly increases the risk of overdose and death.”