Sleeping pill addiction is ‘widespread’ in football, according to a psychologist, according to Dele Alli.

According to former Oxford United psychologist Gary Bloom, sleeping medication addiction in football is “much more widespread than people realize.”

Dele Alli, the Everton midfielder, admitted to spending six weeks in rehab for sleeping medication addiction and mental health difficulties.

Bloom was the first psychotherapist hired by an English club.

Chris Kirkland, a former Liverpool goalkeeper, agreed, adding, “Addiction is a massive problem in football.”

During an emotional conversation with The Overlap podcast, Dele discussed his trauma as a child before being adopted at the age of 12.

In discussing his personal addiction to sleeping pills, he noted that “misuse of the tablets is something that goes around more than people realize in football.”

“I was taking a lot,” stated the 27-year-old. “I don’t want to get into numbers, but it was definitely way too much for me, and I had some scary moments.”

Former commentator Bloom, who left Oxford last year after five years in the post, spoke to the BBC World Service about the link between peak performance on the field and difficulty sleeping.

“Addiction to sleeping pills is much more common than people realize,” he stated. “Caffeine stimulants are also widely used in matches.”

“Players are pretty wired during games because they want to give themselves a legal buzz while playing – but they can’t sleep at night.”

“As a result, they are prescribed sleeping pills, and the cycle continues.”

Former Rotherham and Northampton defender Ryan Cresswell admitted last summer that he was “gripping on for dear life” due to his addiction to the drugs.

Bloom stated that additional psychological assistance was needed within clubs.

“Football clubs are only now realizing that when people have off-field issues, these inevitably end up on the field,” he explained.

“In my opinion, more clubs should hire psychotherapists who can freely mix and mingle with players while also warning them of the consequences if they do not clean up their personal problems.”

‘Clubs must do more.’

Kirkland shared details of his own 10-year painkiller addiction in June 2022.

He believes it is the responsibility of clubs to provide far greater support to players.

“My wife still does random drug tests on me,” he explained to BBC Radio 5 Live. “Football clubs see their players every day, and now they must put things in place both inside and outside the stadium.”

“Whether it’s gambling, alcohol, or drugs, addiction is rampant in the game.”

“Hopefully, Dele’s coming out will encourage others to seek help in order to make big changes.”

In reaction to Dele’s interview, Dr Michael Bennett, the Professional Footballers’ Association’s (PFA) director of player wellbeing, stated that the union “regularly supports” members who have acquired addictions, including to sleeping pills.

“Prescription medications, even in small doses, can be habit-forming,” he added.

“If players are using sleeping pills or any other prescription medication and are concerned that they may have developed a dependency, we encourage them to speak confidentially with the PFA and take advantage of the assistance we provide.”

Kirkland went on to say that society might be more tolerant and accepting of those suffering from addiction.

“Instead of hammering people and making them feel worse, why not offer to help?” he suggested. “We live in a culture where it is acceptable to heap more pressure and abuse on people, [particularly those in] the public eye.”

“I don’t think that will ever go away, but we could do more to prevent it.”

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