Survey: 87 percent of players say NFL should OK medical cannabis

Emily Gray Brosious

May 9, 2017: 4:41 PM CT

Survey: 87 percent of NFL players say the league should allow medical cannabis(Photo credits: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Roland Martinez/Getty Images)

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Survey shows the majority of NFL players use opiate-based painkillers, and most would rather try medical cannabis for pain relief.

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A recent survey sent to current and former National Football League (NFL) players shows 87 percent of players think the league should change its stance on cannabis and allow players to utilize the drug for medical purposes.

Findings also show 89 percent of players think medical cannabis could be used to effectively treat pain, if the league allowed it.

The 38-page survey was conducted by the online medical marijuana marketplace BudTrader.com and includes answers from 152 respondents. BudTrader CEO Brad McLaughlin created the questionnaire with the help of pain management experts and drug counselors. The questions are aimed at uncovering problems with prescription and chemical painkiller use in the league.

According to the survey, nearly 91 percent of current and former NFL players said they have either ingested or injected opiate-based painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Approximately 74 percent of players said they experienced negative side effects from painkillers and nearly 65 percent said they were concerned that they might become addicted or had become addicted to pain medication. Approximately 45 percent of players surveyed said they felt pressured into using chemical painkillers by team doctors, staff and teammates.

“These guys are national heroes, yet they are being given harmful and addictive substances by league doctors so that they can have a good day on the field,” McLaughlin said in a press release. “The saddest thing is that there’s a better alternative — but the league is senselessly dragging their feet on allowing medical marijuana for therapeutic use for players. It’s causing a lot of harm, and a lot of players are really unhappy with the state of things. Our survey shows that.”

Nearly 88 percent of players said they would consider using medical cannabis for pain relief if the league permitted them to do so, and 86 percent said they would consider using cannabis to treat stress, anxiety or insomnia if the NFL allowed it.

The league currently bans all marijuana use among players in every state, regardless of state marijuana laws. Players who miss drug tests or test positive for cannabis can be suspended or fined.

“Our survey shows that without a doubt, NFL players want and need to be able to use medical marijuana to manage pain,” McLaughlin said. “At this point, any doctor you ask will tell you that marijuana is extremely effective for pain management, and that there is literally zero risk of physical dependency.”

A number of peer-reviewed studies have found medical cannabis to be an effective treatment for pain and chronic pain. Many states with medical cannabis programs now consider pain a qualifying condition for medical cannabis treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 183,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2015. There has never been a death attributed to cannabis overdose.

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