Players in the National Football League are turning from addictive opiate-based painkillers to medical cannabis. A 38-page study surveyed 152 current and former NFL players about cannabis and opiate use, on and off the field. Not only are prescription painkillers widely abused in the league, but often players feel pressured to use painkillers to keep themselves in the game. The survey found that the majority of players believe the NFL should tolerate cannabis as an alternative to dangerous painkillers.
Nearly 91 percent of players said they had taken opiate-based painkillers oxycodone, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone or propoxyphene in the past. Three-quarters of players who had taken painkillers said they have taken them for reasons other than the prescribed dosage. Over 68 percent of players said they had consumed cannabis during their career, and over 87 percent of players said that the NFL should allow medical cannabis as a treatment option in states that have legalized medical cannabis. Nearly 33 percent of players said they believe their coaching staff had consumed cannabis had consumed cannabis during the season.
The survey was conducted by BudTrader. “Our survey shows that without a doubt, NFL players want and need to be able to use medical marijuana to manage pain, BudTrader CEO Brad McLaughlin said in a press release. “These guys are playing at the highest levels of physical expertise, and right now the league is disrespecting them by limiting their treatment options so severely, and pointlessly compromising their health,” McLaughlin added. The NFL’s drug policy explicitly prohibits cannabis consumption.
Forty-five percent of players said they felt pressured by teammates and team doctors to use painkillers. The NFL has swept inconvenient reports of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and other trauma under the rug. Medical cannabis, however, shows promise at treating CTE among current and former NFL players. The survey highlights a few of the conflicts that surrounds cannabis in the NFL.