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Painkiller abuse in the NFL

Posted on 03-11-2015 Posted in Drug Abuse - 0 Comments

pain killers in NFL

By its very nature, football causes many injuries. At the NFL level, each player is a valuable asset and it is in the team owners’ best interest to keep their “investments” on the field. The players are very highly paid and the team owners make millions of dollars.

According to Forbes’ annual valuation of franchises in the NFL, the Miami Dolphins are currently worth $1.07 billion and have a 36 percent debt/value ratio. Overall, the team pulled in $268 million in revenue last year and had an operating income of $24.8 million.

Federal drug agents conducted surprise inspections of several NFL teams’ medical staffs as part of an ongoing investigation into prescription drug abuse in the league. The inspections entailed bag searches and questioning of team doctors by DEA agents. They were based on the suspicion that NFL teams dispense drugs illegally to keep players on the field, violating the Controlled Substances Act.

The medical staffs joined travel parties whose teams were playing at stadiums across the country. The law enforcement official said DEA agents, working in cooperation with the Transportation Security Administration, inspected multiple teams but would not specify which ones were inspected or where the inspection took place. The DEA had reason to look at the teams inspected, but the investigation is not just restricted to these particular teams. An anonymous official said the investigation focuses on practices across the 32-team league, including possible distribution of drugs without prescriptions or labels and the dispensing of drugs by trainers rather than physicians.

Federal law prohibits anyone but a physician or nurse practitioner from distributing prescription drugs and these individuals must meet stringent regulations for acquiring, storing, labeling and transporting the medication. It is also illegal for a physician to distribute prescription drugs outside of his or her geographic area of practice. It is illegal for trainers to dispense or even handle controlled substances in any way.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed the existence of the investigation and said it was triggered by a class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in May by more than 1,300 retired NFL players. In the lawsuit, the DEA alleges that NFL medical staffs regularly violate federal and state laws in plying their teams with powerful addictive narcotics such as Percocet and Percodan, sleeping pills such as Ambien and the non-addictive painkiller Toradol to help them play through injuries on game days.

Agents began interviewing NFL physicians in several locations after reviewing material contained in the lawsuit. Players described being given unlabeled medications in hazardous combinations, teams filling out prescriptions in players’ names without their knowledge, trainers passing out pills in hotels or locker rooms and medications handed out on team planes after games while alcohol was consumed.

In 2011, a study by the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine found that:

  • 52 percent of the retired players said they used prescription pain medication during their playing days. Of those assessed, 71 percent said they misused the drugs and 15 percent of the misusers acknowledged misusing the medication within the past 30 days.
  • Those who misused prescription painkillers while playing were three times more likely to misuse the drugs today than those who used the pills as prescribed while playing.
  • 63 percent of the retired players who used prescription pain pills while playing obtained the medications from a non-medical source. Sources included teammates, coaches, trainers, family members, dealers and the internet.

Robert Silverman of The Daily Beast says: “If you’re asking yourself why a team would practice such shoddy and potentially criminally liable so-called medicine, well, you’re getting to the problem that’s at the heart of pro football: the league is not financially incentivized to keep its employees healthy over the course of their lives. The players themselves are faced with the no-win choice of taking whatever pills are put in front of them, not asking questions, or, in the case of former tight end and wide receiver Nate Jackson, not even being allowed to see his own medical records, or risk being cut and/or branded as a ‘troublemaker.’”

Silverman also said that what happens to the minds or bodies of former players is not the concern of the NFL and that those men have enough money to make their problems go away.

Patrick Hruby at VICE Sports writes: “As currently written, the settlement isn’t designed to help hurting former players. To the contrary, it’s designed to save the NFL as much money as possible, to the tune of billions of dollars of potential brain damage liability. If the deal goes through, many sick retirees won’t get paid. Most of those who do will receive miniscule sums.”

The following athletes are currently in the process of suing the NFL:

  • Jim McMahon: The former Chicago Bears quarterback said he became addicted to painkillers during his playing career, a habit that peaked with more than 100 Percocet pills per month. He said the painkillers were administered by team doctors without a prescription, without official record keeping and with no explanation of potential side effects.
  • Keith Van Horne: The former Chicago Bears offensive lineman said he played an entire season with a broken leg but wasn’t told about the injury for five years. During that time, Van Horne said he was “fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain.”
  • D. Hill: “I became addicted and turned to the streets after my career and was homeless,” the former Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions wide receiver said, “never took a drug in my life and I became a junkie in the NFL.” In addition to financial damages, the lawsuit asks the NFL to develop a program to help prevent drug addiction, short-term injuries and long-term disabilities related to the administration of painkillers.

Sovereign Health in Fort Myers, Florida is a treatment center specializing in the treatment of addiction and mental health disorders. Our facility treats both men and women. Sovereign utilizes dual diagnosis treatment, detecting underlying, simultaneously occurring conditions. If you would like further information, please call 866-269-2493 to speak with a member of our team. They will be happy to assist you.

Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer

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