A Different Type of Painkiller

Alex Park, Managing Editor

When Native Roots, a marijuana dispensary company, reached out to the Denver Broncos in hopes of receiving naming rights to the Broncos’ stadium, an excessive amount of weed jokes filled the air.

Imagine what names a marijuana company can come up with in the Mile High City.

While it is rather unlikely that Native Roots actually receives naming rights, this does bring up an interesting question: where should weed be in professional sports?

Currently, three out of the four major sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA) all have some sort of punishment in place if an athlete is caught with weed in their system. The NHL tests for recreational drugs, but only monitors the usage.

While it may not be time to completely lift the ban in sports, there’s a strong case as to why it should at least be explored more. Ultramarathon runners compete in grueling races that last anywhere from 30 to 200 miles. Several ultramarathon runners have stepped out and admitted that they use weed during training and competition. Most of the competitors who consume weed say they use it for pain relief.

Relieving pain is something every athlete has to go through but for professional athletes, there’s more to it than just an ice pack. With the overwhelming amount of stress and pressure to perform immediately, there have been plenty of cases where an athlete will do whatever they can to re-enter the game. And of course, that might lead into the next game.

Painkillers have a negative stigma of their own. The makeup of various painkillers can have adverse effects on anyone, such as physical addiction. Depending on the athlete, painkillers are used, which could set up a winding road in their post-sport life.

With the resources these athletes have, it’s not too much of a hassle to get their hands on painkillers such as Oxycontin or other types of opiates to relieve pain. Oxycontin, or simply “Oxy,” is classified as a Schedule II drug that can only be obtained by prescription. With the amount of physical and mental stress professional athletes endure, I’m honestly surprised more haven’t fallen victim to painkillers.

These opiod-based painkillers are derived from the poppy plant, of which heroin is derived. Pharmaceutical heroin is how former NFL player Nate Jackson described these opiod-based painkillers. There are also countless tales of how these painkillers can lead to increased heroin usage. You don’t need a scientist to tell you that the likeliness of heroin use increases after you take painkillers derived from a heroin plant.

Marijuana has been brought up countless times as an alternative to these opiod-based painkillers. While there are only a handful of former athletes who have admitted to using weed as a method of pain relief, former NBA player and Duke star Jay Williams estimated almost 80 percent of current NBA players smoke marijuana while Former Detroit Lions lineman Lomas Brown guessed the going rate was about half for the NFL.

The world is progressing. Get over it. It’s time to take a serious look at the medical benefits of marijuana. Renowned doctor Sanjay Gupta found in 2013 medical studies that only six percent of all marijuana based studies considered their benefits, with that number certainly being higher today.

There are several other hurdles to be cleared, such as if it should be considered a performance-enhancing drug, how this will be addressed in cities that haven’t legalized it yet, or anything else naysayers might want to add on. The fact is, it is an infinitely safer option than these painkillers that currently roam professional, collegiate, and high school locker rooms.

I’m not calling for it to be legalized in sports just yet, I’m calling for at least some sort of scientific exploration.

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