Drug use by college athletes is largely social and experimental and may be exaggerated, a nationwide study of more than 2,000 college athletes indicates.
The study, financed by a $25,000 grant from the NCAA and covering 11 large and small unidentified schools nationwide, was conducted by William Anderson and Dr. Douglas McKeag of the Michigan State University College of Medicine.
There was a 72% response rate to the study, which covered men's football, basketball, baseball, track and tennis and women's swimming, basketball, softball, track and tennis.
"We found no evidence of heavy drug use by any of the athletes surveyed," Anderson said Friday. He said that for 10 of the 14 drugs studied--which ranged from marijuana, hashish, cocaine and alcohol to painkillers, coffee and cigarettes--most athletes reported they used none of the substances.
Those who did report usage appeared to favor alcohol, the study showed. Asked if they had used alcohol in the last 12 months, 88% percent of the athletes said either they had or they had but stopped. The next highest response was for marijuana and hashish, reported having been used by 36% of the athletes; anti-inflammatories, 31%; major pain medicines, 28%; cocaine, 17%, and psychedelics, barbiturates and amphetamines, all below 10%.
Tennis players "seemed to come out on top" in terms of numbers using drugs, Anderson said, and the two coasts appear to have higher drug-use rates than the Midwest.
The use of anabolic steroids among athletes appears to be lower than estimates appearing in the news media, the study said. The research showed that 9% percent of football players reported using steroids--by far the highest rate of any sport studied.