Tag Archives: pot

NFL17 Pre-Play: Cannabis, Chronic Player Pain and a National Conundrum

6 Jul

Mention marijuana (cannabis) to most NFL players and you’re likely to get a positive response, no pun intended.

Classified a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, based largely on marijuana’s psychoactive cannabinoid, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) (One of over 100 canabinoids, including the non-mood-altering cannabidiol (CBD) (Got your fill of biology yet?)) and the Act’s belief in that property’s serious risk for abuse, pot’s possession, sale and / or use are still prosecuted as a criminal offense in twenty-three states, nineteen more (42) if it is possessed outside of prescribed, medicinal usage.

Even so, as an agent for pain-management and escapism, cannabis, whether obtained legally or otherwise, appears to be the drug of choice amongst enough of the NFLPA membership to have spurred Dallas Cowboys’ owner and sport celebrity Jerry Jones to advocate for its allowance while speaking at the owner’s meeting in Phoenix last March.

Currently only eight states have decriminalized ganja for market sale, one of those being Cali-for-ni-a (‘99), the most recent, Nevada, and another twenty-one by prescription only. And don’t expect the former number to grow much beyond the single-digit state (no pun) anytime soon.

Even so, gone forever are the days where tokers took their only solace-in-smoke (or weed-eating, i.e., brownies) by way of High Times and the NORMAL newsletter. Business is booming for Hemp, Incorporated.

Yet, here-to-stay is marijuana’s well-earned status as a gateway drug, not just leading to stronger, more addictive varieties like narcotics, opiods, peer poisons in alcohol and cigarettes, but when engaged in youth can quickly open the door to a whole new lifestyle and not necessarily a better one. It’s one that is non-conforming to a fault while draining enthusiasm or ambition to a low level found in your forlorn basset hound. Been there, done it, woof, woof.

That status was bolstered somewhat on recent release by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s broadest study as yet conducted on cannabis – cannabinoids and their health effects on humanoids.

In January (1.17) the NA released its 468 page report* compiled from human subject studies for findings on the “health effects of recreational and therapeutic cannabis use” and that of its elemental cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.).

With a focus in this write on health issues most pertinent to NFL players and their employers stemming (no pun) from the marijuana issue, there was both good news and bad news to be gleaned from the lengthy report.

The good news is that “there is substantial evidence (p.90)” cannibas can be a beneficial agent in treating chronic pain, a malady concomitant with those who engage athletics over an extended period of years.

The bad news: 1) Marijuana is still a gateway drug; 2) pot can be addictive (“problem cannabis use (333)”), especially as a teen and 3) regular use of cannabis is associated with risks of schizophrenia (“substantial (295)”), bipolar disorder (“moderate (307)”), suicide (“moderate (314)”), memory loss (“moderate evidence of…association between acute cannabis use and impairment in the cognitive domains of learning, memory and attention (275)”), anxiety (“moderate evidence daily cannabis use is associated with increased anxiety (119 / 318)”) and social phobia disorder (“heavy use (120)).”

It’s a mixed bag. The bottom-line: If in chemotherapy (nausea) or afflicted with multiple sclerosis (spasticity), the “conclusive” findings (94 / 103) tilt your risk-benefit balance in favor of marijuana’s use (“oral cannabinoids”) to alleviate suffering, assuming you’ve had your prof’l consult and sorted through the national hodge-podge of legalese. In those more serious, harder to treat medical conditions, cannabis is a proven therapy for relief, and that alone is reason for re-examination of its rather draconian federal categorizing.

But where paid athletes seeking a marijuana solution for chronic pain are subject, a state so common in their bruising professions, whether by smoke or extracts (oral), the risks posed appear too great in the benefit balance, risks arising from uneven permissibility (legality) and, more importantly, from the potential for memory decline, that very same malady central to the ongoing concussion debate that plagues hard-hitting sports like football, hockey and boxing. That’s an irony that hits like Bobby Wagner: Ouch!

And when there exists effective alternatives readily available to pain-sufferers in nutrition supplements (tart cherry & noni juice, magnesium, Co-Q10, curcumin, polyphenolic-antioxidents, Bs, D3, alpha lipoic), diet adjustments ((-) gluten, sugar, cured meats) and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, naproxen)), the so-called marijuana answer to pain management, not without its merits, proves too risky to fire-up or wash-down.

Even as the mental health and cognitive findings on pot’s use and “sustained abstinence (275)” were not based on “conclusive” or “substantial” evidentiary finding (Box S-3, “Weight-of-Evidence” standards (p.7)), it’s doubtful additional NA compilations on the polarizing weed, even with gold standard double-blind placebo controlled structures sought, will reveal the opposite to be true, that memory or bipolar – anxiety disorders are improved with its habitual use.

And keep in mind that whenever federal and state governments are at odds over a national issue of legislation, leading to a broad non-uniformity, that status will trigger Commerce and Supremacy clause inquiries and then eventually end up on the Supreme Court’s docket. So don’t vest too heavily yet.

Marijuana is here to stay, legal or illegal, medicinal or diversionary. And like it or not, Charles Barkley, pro athletes are role models to the nation’s youth. Fire up the bong and make it a public issue with lifestyle or league violations and that segment of the population least able to manage the drug properly will have their lives changed forever in health risks and bad habits.

In 2015 the League (Goodell) and NFLPA (Smith) went all namby-pamby in raising, under their collectively bargained drug policy, the level of marijuana required in test to trigger a violation, essentially telling players and the public that using what is still fairly characterized as an illicit drug is A-okay with them, because lots of the using players want it that way, even as its continued use is also fairly characterized as detrimental to their health. So there’s that.

— — —

This writer is not medically-trained (I was, as George Segal’s character “Mr. Kovacs” termed it in The Cable Guy (96), “on the pot” in my late teens, alcohol and smokes included, of course) and did not read the entire 468 page report, instead focusing on those sections most relevant to NFL player concerns. But I wrote with honesty and thoroughness befitting an 1100 word blog. For the lay-person the report is readable, somewhat unclear in spots but overall helpful by informing on a very broad and still yet under-researched subject.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: marijuana-joint, wc.cca, T.Hansen, 2.23.08; marijuana-costume, SCCE, 10.16.16, wc, G.Skidmore; marijuana-plant, J.Martin, wc, 7.14.15; marijuana-neon, wc, SanFernando-Valley, LA-CA, L.Avocado; NFL-symbol, wikiproject
Posted: 7.6.17 @ 1:03p EST, edit 7.7; Copyright © 2017
*References: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine: http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx

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