The only thing more paralyzing than athletic injuries is the indescribable pain that comes along with them. For athletes, it’s all too easy to ask the doc to put his “John Hancock” on a prescription pad and continue with training. With Americans using 99 percent of the entire world’s supply of opioids, it’s no wonder that we are in the middle of an epidemic with overdose rates at an all-time high. In fact, the United States prescribes opioids at a rate of six times the rate of countries such as France and Portugal, and in 2015, overdose deaths in the United States clocked in at over 50,000. It is estimated that 91 people die of opioid overdose every day.
Eben Britton, a former NLF player for both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chicago Bears, is just one of the many all-star athletes coming forth to support cannabis’ crusade against opioids. As an anti-inflammatory, pain and anxiety alternative, cannabis is helping athletes recover faster and keep a positive outlook toward recovery. Furthermore, because of CBD and THC components, cannabis also has unique neurological healing properties, which aids in the recovery of many sports-related concussions.
Since injuries occur on the field often, many famous athletes have battled prescription addiction for years and unfortunately, some are still struggling. But how can cannabis become mainstream in a world where drugs, steroids and performance enhancements are strictly frowned upon? More and more athletes are opening up about their marijuana use and how it has helped them steer clear of addiction and get back in the game. Some however, were penalized while others have retired and are more open to speaking about their past and present usage. Ricky Williams, Michael Phelps, James Hunt, Tim Lincecum, Randy Moss, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Josh Gordon and Nick Diaz are just a few examples of those using cannabis and surprisingly, most of them have medical marijuana prescriptions to back them up.
Cannabis is not just for contact sports either. Numerous athletes who run, ski, snowboard, do gymnastics or even do Pilates are all eager to try cannabis with their sport. Variables like endurance, emotion, perception and athletic ability are all being tested while under the influence. Since cannabis is an herb, how will officials view consumption? And in a state where it is recreationally legal, how can they or how will they be held accountable? We don’t have the answers to any of these questions, and of course, as always, more research is necessary. But one thing is for sure, as cannabis continues to become more mainstream and where more than a third of the country favors legalization for both recreational and medical use, it will be interesting to see how this plays out within the athletic industry.