ALBANY, N.Y. Giants offensive tackle Shane Olivea admitted last
week he developed a dependency on prescription drugs that required a
stay in a rehabilitation center to correct.

He is not alone. Addiction to prescription drugs is a growing problem throughout society.

drug abuse is the most rapidly rising addiction in people 40 years and
older, but also is increasing rapidly among those in their 20s," said
Dr. Lawrence Brown, executive senior vice president of the Addiction
Research and Treatment Corporation in New York. He cited data from both
the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration.

One reason, Dr. Brown says,
for the increase is advances in modern medicine that have produced more
potent and effective drugs for treatment of pain.

"That’s the good news," he added.

The bad news, however, is the availability of these drugs, which are
supposed to be dispensed only by prescription. "There is the Internet
market," Dr. Brown said, "but the most substantial sources are the
medicine cabinets around the country."

Dr. Brown would not say athletes are at greater risk of developing
the dependency. "But professions where injuries occur lend themselves
to the use of pain killers," he added. "Athletes certainly have
legitimate reasons for their use. But with those reasons must come
proper precautions."

When proper precautions aren’t taken,
results can be disastrous. Brett Favre found out early in 1996 after he
collected Vicodin pills from his Green Bay teammates, taking as many as
13 in one night. He had a seizure after undergoing off-season surgery
to remove bone spurs from his ankle. 

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