Substance abuse has always been an issue in the NFL. Read any book about ’60s and ’70s era football and you’ll find myriad anecdotes about players who used performance-enhancing or recreational drugs to help them get through the season.
Today, things are a bit different with all of the new information about what different drugs do to these players’ bodies, but substance abuse is still an issue — but with marijuana, it’s an issue both players and some in the medical field are joining.
Ex-NFL player Eben Britton told the New York Post that he would smoke weed before games, and it helped him perform better on the field.
“NFL games I played stoned were some of the best games I ever played. Cannabis cements your surroundings,” he says. “A lot of people say they’re useless when they smoke weed. But hell, I played NFL games [while stoned], dude. My performances were solid and I felt really good after.”
Performance isn’t the only reason players are fighting to remove cannabis from the list of substances illegal in the NFL — they’re allegedly great for alleviating pain. For an unnamed player who was dealing with a torn rotator cuff, Dr. Sue Sisley M.D. says that only cannabis helped with the pain.
“Nothing gave him relief — including opioids,” she said. “He was on the bench because he was nonfunctional on the field. Side effects from the medicine had him so sedated that it was literally dangerous for him to play. He was frustrated and lost his position and lost credibility. He tried cannabis and actually got back in the game. He is currently playing now. That is a common scenario.”
Allowing players to use marijuana to help with pain issues also keeps them off opioids, which can become addictive if used regularly.
Going into Week 2 of the NFL season, 18 players were suspended for substance abuse issues, and sports agent Brian Fettner said that “it’s almost always marijuana.” Estimates on the number of players who smoke recreationally is somewhere between 50 and 80 percent, with many believing that it’s closer to the latter.
Despite the rigorous drug testing, players are still willing to risk it because of the benefits from smoking — ranging from performance and pain relief to team bonding and stress relief.
As of right now, the league has no plan to back down off its stance on its marijuana ban, but it’s something that the players will continue to fight for until it’s allowed in the league’s CBA.