Drugs in sport: support available, APS

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) will offer psychological assistance to sportspeople and sporting organisations to deal with drugs in sport as part of a new government initiative.

As part of the Australian Government's $20.1 million Illicit Drugs in Sport - National Education and Prevention Action Plan (IDIS), the Australian Psychological Society will deliver a range of services to help combat drugs in sport, including working with national sporting organisations (NSOs), providing psychological assistance for athletes with substance abuse issues and delivering training and education for counsellors and psychologists to increase and improve services to sportspeople in the area of addiction.

"The Ben Cousins documentary has again highlighted the issue of drugs in sport and the effects on the wider community, so it is timely that we are working to increase understanding of substance abuse issues, change sporting cultures and increase services for professional and non-professional athletes struggling with drug and alcohol issues," said APS President Professor Bob Montgomery.

"Access to professional treatment services is vital," he said, "so increasing the capacity of the addiction workforce and creating closer links between NSOs and psychologists is a good way to ensure athletes in need get early access to appropriate services."

Professor Montgomery said the Cousins documentary highlighted a range of issues that were relevant to NSOs and to the delivery of drug and alcohol education and prevention services in the sporting context.

"We are a great sporting nation but the Cousins documentary illustrates sometimes people pay a high price for excellence," he said. "The better you are, the more pressure there is to achieve and to move on from non-professional to professional sport and to take up responsibilities. But sometimes a person's maturity level doesn't match their ability level.

"You can have a brilliant player who can cope with the physical and skill demands of sport but who can't deal emotionally with the pressure, the attention, the responsibility. This mismatch is common in young people and we really need to protect them, or they can become vulnerable to taking up unhealthy coping measures such as excessive drinking or drug-taking."

Professor Montgomery said that the APS had identified that a number of measures were needed to combat illicit drug use and alcohol abuse including prevention and early intervention services. 

"The sporting arena is important culturally to Australians at a grassroots and elite level so it a good setting to initiate drug and alcohol initiatives," he said.

People seeking assistance for an addiction issue can contact the Australian Psychological Society's Find a Psychologist service on 1800 333 497 or log onto the website at www.psychology.org.au


For more information about the Illicit Drugs in Sport - National Education and Prevention Action Plan, go to: www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/sport-natillicitdrugs

For a copy of the Australian Psychological Society's position statement on substance use, go to: www.psychology.org.au/publications/statements/substance

The APS is the largest professional association for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 19,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to peoples' lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.


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