Recently, we were reminded of the pernicious reach of substance abuse when we learned that college football star Tyrann Mathieu had been dismissed from Louisiana State University for multiple failed drug tests and that Mathieu would sit out the 2012 college football season in a Texas drug rehab center. Mathieu’s story is a vivid illustration that substance abuse can strike anyone, at any age, and from any walk of life.
Tyrann Mathieu is a talented college athlete who was a finalist for the 2011 Heisman Trophy, college football’s most prestigious award. That Mathieu was only the second defensive player in the last three years to be a Heisman finalist is a testament to his skills and presence on the football field.
Mathieu was expected to dominate again in his junior season at LSU, but after testing positive for marijuana use multiple times in violation of the school’s drug policy, Head Coach Les Miles reluctantly dismissed Mathieu from the team earlier this month. Marijuana abuse has been a long-standing problem for Mathieu, who was suspended for one game in 2011 for a failed drug test.
Naturally, the sports media have been covering this story, mostly speculating when it first broke about where Mathieu would play in the 2012 season. Interested in their ratings and bottom lines, media organizations like ESPN and the major networks only seemed to be interested in where this talented football player would suit up. Few if any wondered about the causes and consequences of substance abuse among the nation’s youth.
Mathieu himself briefly considered playing for another school, but fortunately for him, he made the right decision to enter a Texas rehab facility to tackle his marijuana abuse problem before attempting to tackle any more opponents on the gridiron.
The Definition of Substance Abuse Includes Casual Use that Begins in Adolescence
No doubt, Tyrann Mathieu picked up his marijuana habit either in high school or when he entered college. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, almost one in four high school seniors has smoked marijuana in the last year, and marijuana use among the same age group is higher than cigarette use for the first time in 30 years.
Mathieu has a rare gift and can still make that gift pay off in a lucrative professional career. Indeed, the media is banking on athletes like Mathieu to keep sports popular at almost any cost, even the cost of a young man’s health.
Perhaps that power that gifted athletes have over our culture was a contributing factor in Mathieu’s substance abuse. Power often makes people do things they would normally not do. It can give them a sense of immunity from the usual pitfalls of life. Mathieu seemed to have it all going for him, and he should have been thinking about how fortunate he is instead of how invincible he felt.
He absolutely made the right decision to enter rehab instead of playing for another team for the upcoming 2012 college football season. And he’s in good hands at a Houston, Texas, rehab center run by John Lucas, a former NBA star and substance abuse survivor.
Mathieu could have tried to ignore his problems and cash in on his talents by playing for another school or even turning professional. But that would have been very risky—leaving a substance abuse problem untreated when treatment has been proven to work. His decision to seek treatment means that he will have another honest chance to fulfill his dreams.