Former NFL Players Misuse Prescription Drugs at a High Rate
Results Reported on SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, ESPN.com
January 28, 2011
Starting on Friday’s 9 a.m. ET SportsCenter, ESPN and its Emmy-award winning journalism program Outside the Lines (3 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. Sundays) will report on results from a ground-breaking scientific study on retired NFL players’ use of painkillers.
The findings of the study show that former players misuse prescription painkillers at a rate more than four times that of the general population. The results are scheduled to be published online on Friday in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
The study of 644 former players, commissioned by ESPN with additional funding by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was led by Dr. Linda Cottler, PhD, and colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The study marks the first time researchers have explored the extent of the use and misuse of prescription pain medications by former NFL players. Painkiller abuse in the general population has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, according to experts.
Researchers found more than half of the retired NFL players surveyed reported using prescription painkillers during their playing days and, of that same group, 71% admitted misusing the drugs during their time in the NFL.
Study Results on ESPN Television Platforms
ESPN will report on the published study’s results Friday on SportsCenter and Outside the Lines. Sunday’s Outside the Lines will present in-depth pieces by reporter John Barr on former players who have struggled with the use of prescription painkillers
“I was taking about 1,000 Vicodins a month. People go ‘That’s impossible. That’s crazy.’ No, it’s exactly what I was taking. I mean, believe me, I’d love to be off medications. That’s my worry everyday, to make sure I have medication.” — Dan Johnson, Dolphins tight end (1983-87)
“This is the most frightening epidemic I’ve seen probably since the methamphetamine epidemic in the beginning of the early ‘90s. All the professional sports that involve physical combat create guys who need pain treatment.” — Dr. Alex Stalcup, Medical Director of New Leaf Treatment Center in Lafayette, Calif. Stalcup says he’s treated two dozen current or former NFL players for prescription painkiller abuse
“Never, ever would I have thought one of these days I (would) be taking over 100 pills a day and spending over $1,000 a week on painkillers. I think if I would have given it another two or three months it probably would have killed me.” — Sam Rayburn, Eagles defensive tackle (2003-06), who says he used prescription painkillers to mask his NFL injuries, developing an addiction ultimately leading to a conviction on two counts of attempting to obtain a controlled substance.
Study Results on ESPN.com
ESPN.com on Friday will publish stories exploring painkiller use in the NFL today, and the possible link between concussions and addiction as evidence mounts that head injuries could affect players’ impulse control, which some experts cite as a possible reason players struggle with painkiller use.
“I know guys that have bought thousands of pills… Tons of guys would take Vicodin before a game.” — Kyle Turley, an offensive lineman for the Saints, Rams and Chiefs (1999-2007)
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