Saturday, November 17, 2012

Painkillers, Addiction and the NFL: A Year in the Spotlight

For your consideration...attribution below.

2012 has seen extensive press coverage over the use of strong painkillers within the NFL (National Football League). The coverage has been two-fold. First, in a bid to raise awareness and overcome taboo, players, including former Dolphin Ray Lucas, have spoken out about their devastating opiate-based painkiller addictions.

Second, the NFL is facing legal challenges in court over its use of Toradol. It is claimed that this drug, which is used to reduce pain and inflammation levels, has been over issued by the league.
Players challenging the NFL argue that they were pre-emptively injected with the drug, which prevented them from accurately assessing the gravity of their injuries, in turn preventing them from getting necessary medical treatment. As a result, players claim they suffered multiple, and dangerous, concussions.

Painkiller Addiction: Ray Lucas’ Story

Against the backdrop of legal challenges being brought against the NFL and heightened levels of press interest in painkiller addiction surrounding the Olympics, Ray Lucas took the brave decision to speak out. By telling his story, he hopes that others will be encouraged to get the help they need.

In an interview with HealthPop, Lucas described how he spent large sums of money and subjected his family to ‘hell on earth’ in a bid to feed his opiate painkiller addiction.  He also acknowledged how hard he found it to ask for help:

‘The hardest thing for addicts is to ask for help’, stated Lucas. ‘For me to reach that one person out there who thinks they’re alone – I thought I was’.

Lucas explained how he became addicted to painkillers. First, he took only a few painkillers. Then, as his body began to increase in tolerance, he began to take more. Prior to his back surgery, he took in excess of 120 painkillers per month.

Following his back surgery, which considerably reduced the level of physical pain Lucas experienced, the footballer believed he could stop taking opiate painkillers. Instead, however, he discovered that his body had become opiate dependent. Without the drugs, he would violently shiver and sweat.

The NFL: An Uncomfortable Parallel

Though individual players are beginning to speak out about their personal struggles with painkiller addiction, uncomfortable questions must be asked of the NFL. Can the NFL support players withdrawing from opiate addictions when injecting players with Toradol, a powerful anti-inflammatory NSAID, which some researchers believe may have addictive qualities?

Legal actions against the NFL could result massive compensation pay-outs. To date, 50 cases, involving in excess of 1,200 players, have been filed. Of these 50 cases, twelve are specific to the use of Toradol. In each case, the claim is similar. The NFL, despite knowing associated risks, purposely concealed these risks from players. This concealment resulted in repeated head injuries.

Experts believe that winning the law suits will not be easy. First, proving that NFL drug administrators were aware of associated risks will not be straightforward. Second, proving exactly when and where head injuries were sustained will be problematic; while the NFL administered the drug, linking the league to catalogues of historic injuries will pose a challenge.

Finally, and in the NFL’s favour, violence and football are integral. Though tackles to the head are banned, other forms of physical contact, which could also result in head injury, are not.
As with opiate addiction, it is the devastating impact of Toradol usage that has brought the issue into the public domain. The recent suicide of Junior Seau (San Diego Chargers) was directly linked to depression caused by recurring head injury.

Painkillers: Overuse and Addiction: Accessing Help

In their recent testimony to Congress, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians reported that US residents consume approximately 80% of globally produced opiate painkillers. Numbers of long-term Toradol users are also rising.

Recognizing that opiate addiction stretches beyond the sporting world, the society explains that patients usually develop an addiction to drugs following initial use for pain relief. When no longer able to access prescribed drugs, patients turn to internet and back street suppliers. The society highlighted the risk that rising numbers of opiate babies will be born.

Help for this wide spectrum of US residents is developing, with former Dolphin Ray Lucas, pushing it forward. A champion of, Lucas encourages those affected to seek treatment. Further, 

Lucas advocates the use of Suboxone, an anti-addiction drug which can be used, in conjunction with other treatments, to support withdrawal from opiate addiction. Additionally, there are several Florida based opiate withdrawal support services. These services include support groups, group therapy and both inpatient and outpatient opiate detox programs.

-- This piece is courtesy of Evelyn Robinson.  Post comments and responses "below the fold"
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This annoys me the players act as if they had no clue or no choice. Whats the difference between getting a shot so you dont feel the pain to get back on the field to "walking it off" so it doesn't swell up as fast and you can get back out there?

Fans have been watching trainers for years on TV "run" under the shoulder pads of players after they get hurt.

Players run out on the field from the halftime tunnels after being lead to the locker room just 15 min earlier on a cart.

Soboxone is useful, only problem is its 50 times stronger then morphine. If you stay on it long you are trading one opiate for another. Its a little better but it still a problem

Also only 1 company makes suboxone and they just pulled a fast one giving them another 12 years to market the drug at monopoly prices

Thank you for talking about painkillers in the nfl. Its bad. We arrest people left and right for using the same drugs but we allow our athletes to use them so they can continue playing. Players are just as much at fault, they cant really blame the nfl. Yes you need to be on the field for job security and all, but you shouldnt have got hurt in the firt place so dont blame someone else


We really should look at the companies selling us these pain killers, then turning around and selling us more pills to get off the first pills they sold us. And we get ripped off on the pills to boot.