The National Football League has a drug problem and more and more of its players are speaking out about it.
Jack Brewer, a retired safety who played for four NFL teams, is the latest to address the league’s apparent hypocrisy. Brewer, who endured nine surgeries and countless opioid treatments as a result of his chosen profession, wrote a thoughtful, first-person story for CNBC under the headline “Why isn’t marijuana an option for professional football players?”
Good question … and one that has been asked quite a bit lately. The NFL, this year alone, has fined 20 players more than $10 million for violating its substance-abuse policy — and most of those of these incidents are marijuana related.
Crohn’s Disease? Too Bad
Just this week, Seantrel Henderson, an offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, was suspended for the second time this season for using cannabis to help combat Crohn’s disease, a debilitating inflammatory bowel disease that caused Henderson to have two operations.
- RELATED STORY: Can Cannabis Treat Crohn’s Disease Symptoms Effectively?
According to a Washington Post report:
In January, 2 1/2 feet of [Henderson’s] colon were removed and in April he underwent surgery to reattach his intestines. In the interim, he wore an ileostomy bag and lost 50 pounds. He chose not to appeal the four-game suspension he received in September, his first of the season.
But Henderson is expected to appeal what would be a 10-game suspension for this second offense for using a banned substance. The NFL is expected to decide his punishment this week and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that Henderson may take the matter to court.
According to an ESPN survey earlier this season, more than 60 percent of players believe the use of pharmaceutical opioids would be reduced if the NFL OK’d marijuana for pain.
- RELATED STORY: 71% Of NFL Players Want Marijuana Legal
Still A Nope From The NFL
But the league is reluctant to budge. “Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director of external affairs, said in a statement. “And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains. We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on.”
- RELATED STORY: Can Cannabis Treat Concussions And Save Football?
In his CNBC story, former player Brewer is dubious. It was his experience that the league’s primary focus was the product on the field, not the players’ safety. He writes:
Keep in mind that, in the NFL, we didn’t pick up a prescription from the local CVS, or have a doctor consultation to discuss side effects. We were asked if we could take the pain of a needle, we pulled down one side of our pants, took the shot of Toradol in the butt and hustled out to the field following the national anthem.
The NFL’s reliance on opioids to treat its employees is starting to create problems. More players are retiring earlier than normal in order to prevent long-term damage to their brains and bodies.
And it’s not just a problem for high-priced athletes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2014.
As Brewer relates in his piece:
The facts relating to cannabinoids as an alternate are pretty clear: “You can’t directly die from taking a cannabinoid, the way tens of thousands of people are directly dying from opioids each year in the U.S.,” says Dr. Daniel Clauw, a professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan. If you ask me, pushing addictive pain meds on young pro athletes should be criminal.
This Is Unacceptable
“It is absolutely unacceptable that Roger Goodell and the NFL Players Association continues to punish players for using medical cannabis to treat severe pain and other state approved illnesses, while turning a blind eye to far more serious issues such as prescription drug addiction and domestic violence,” said Sam Chapman, who runs New Economy Consulting. “Players should be allowed to use medical cannabis in states that have legalized it, period.”
Brewer concurs. “It’s well past time for the NFL to get with the program and consider marijuana as an option for the treatment of pain.”
Highway is an essential source for cannabis science, how-to stories and demystifying marijuana. Want to read more? Thy these posts: The Majority Of Americans Now Want Legal Marijuana, Seattle’s Swankiest Marijuana Store Opens Its Doors, and Opioids Out, Cannabis In, Top Medical Research Journal Says.