The battle between the NFL and medical marijuana has long been documented. The league's zero tolerance police towards pot is a stark contrast with their blind eye towards players abusing painkillers. Now another former pro football player is speaking up about how marijuana helped him from the damage caused from the league's drug policies.
Ryan O'Callaghan is a former offensive lineman who retired from the NFL in 2010. During his playing days, O'Callaghan says he developed an addiction to prescription painkillers that nearly ruined his life. He said in an interview that he began abusing drugs such as Vicodin not only to help deal with the injuries sustained while playing, but also to help deal with anxiety of playing football as a gay man. O'Callaghan didn't come out until after his playing days were over.
O'Callaghan believes that his anxiety mixed with painkiller abuse drove him to very dark places. He says he considered committing suicide on multiple occasions, and the Kansas City Chiefs organization needed to convince him not to.
After retiring from the NFL, O'Callaghan began using marijuana to deal with his anxiety and chronic pain. He says his mental and physical health greatly improved as a result, and he believes that the NFL needs to re-consider their drug policies to prevent players from experiencing the same issues he did.
"For people like me, marijuana is a godsend because you don't want to take these pills,'' O'Callaghan said. "Marijuana is not addicting. People who say that have never smoked it. I have an addictive personality. It's not addictive."
The NFL in recent months has seemingly become more open towards loosening restrictions on marijuana. They agreed to participate in a study about the possible benefits for NFL players of using medical marijuana and several important figures, such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, have publicly stated their support to dropping the ban on marijuana.
At some point the NFL will have to realize their hypocrisy in letting players pop Vicodin like Tic-Tacs while preaching about the dangers of marijuana. But that will probably require an NFL commissioner who isn't obsessed with deflated footballs and covering up players' domestic violence.