Eugene Monroe's days as an offensive tackle are over, but he's not done with the National Football League yet. Not till the NFL finally allows football players to use medical marijuana.
"Whatever happens in terms of my professional football career, I will never stop pushing for the League to accept medical cannabis as a viable option for pain management," Monroe pledged in a recent statement. "I will do everything I can to ensure the generations of NFL players after me won't have to resort to harmful and addictive opioids as their only option for pain management."
Those opioids -- which include oxycodone and fentanyl -- claimed the lives of over 33,000 Americans in 2015 alone. Meanwhile, nobody has ever died of a cannabis overdose -- ever. That's one reason why Monroe decided to speak out against the NFL's ban on medical marijuana last year before retiring out of concerns for his health (though there was speculation that he was pushed out of the league because of his cannabis advocacy).
Since then, he has sworn off opioids and started treating the lingering effects of old injuries with cannabis.
"I don't take any pharmaceutical drugs," Monroe told Rolling Stone. "I've been managing my pain with marijuana. I've been very open about that. It's been a much better experience. I don't feel like I'm reliant on it. When I do need relief, I can get it almost immediately. I don't experience any of the side effects that the pharmaceutical drugs put me through. The reason why I stopped taking those pills, particularly after my last shoulder surgery, was because I was having issues taking oxycodone. Not only the gastrointestinal issues I had from them, but they started to affect my mind a little bit too. Luckily I noticed that and stopped taking them. And since then, I haven't taken any pharmaceutical drugs."
He came to that decision one day when oxycodone left him so messed up he couldn't recognize his own daughter.
"I remember sitting in my chair, propped up, I had had surgery five days prior and I was taking oxycodone. My daughter approached me and I didn't recognize her. It was really my sort of realization that these pills are no good. I stopped taking them immediately and that's really where I picked up learning as much as I could about marijuana. I was laying around, suffering, taking over-the-counter pain medicine because I had stopped taking the opioids. I really just suffered through the recovery from that surgery. Fortunately, later that year, I retired and wasn't being tested anymore so I started consuming cannabis to deal with my pain."
Like many health-conscious consumers, Monroe prefers using cannabis topicals and edibles over inhaling smoke that could be bad for the lungs.
"Most athletes would probably tell you they'd prefer not to smoke anything, let alone marijuana. I tend to consume marijuana in different ways. I like topical forms of marijuana and the topicals can come in various combinations of creams or different compounds. An infusion of marijuana as pain relief and anti-inflammatory benefits to those products, so I like to rub those in some of my joints that have been injured. I also like marijuana that has been infused in healthy fats like medium-chain triglycerides that are also helpful for your brain, like coconut oil. I'll consume some coconut oil that has been infused in some of my food."
He added that he's most likely to use those treatments in the morning because that's when old injuries ache the most.
"You can speak to any football player and they'll tell you waking up in the morning is probably one of the worst parts of your day. Your body is extremely stiff, it's achy. And if I consume marijuana in the morning, it tends to take away some of that achiness so I feel better. I'm motivated now to get to into my workout and move my body, which hurts — working out certainly can create some pain too — but there is also therapeutic release in exercise."
But this isn't your typical wake and bake. Monroe added that most of his treatments don't actually get him high.
"All of these formulations are available in both CBD formulations, which are non-psychoactive that you can take without getting any high but still maintain those therapeutic benefits, but also high THC formulas that you might take at times where, for example, an athlete needs to get rest and there's a high THC formulation of an edible that he can take at night time before bed. That athlete no longer needs to take Ambien. He can take cannabis and promote sleep without any addictive side effect."
Unfortunately, NFL Commissioner? Roger Goodell refuses to let players use cannabis recreationally or medicinally. And that reeks of hypocrisy to Monroe.
"We don't see the NFL trying to control players' alcohol consumption or tobacco consumption. In fact, the NFL advertises those things. Cannabis is less damaging, less dangerous, less addictive than both of those. However, we see those being celebrated. The NFL is even expanding its hard liquor advertisement."
But he still thinks the league can repair its reputation and improve the lives of players by investing in cannabis research.
"I think the NFL can be a leader in research," Monroe added. "This will improve the game. This will make players healthy. This will reduce the possibilities of athletes becoming addicted to hardcore drugs that these doctors are prescribing."