NIDA: Cannabis May Have A Role In Reducing Opioid Use

Late last week NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made the claim that cannabis has no medical benefits, and stated that the NFL would continue to prohibit the use of cannabis by players, even when the use is for medical purposes, even in states where cannabis is legal for medical and/or adult-use purposes. The hard-line stance by the NFL against cannabis is not new, and therefore not surprising, but it is still extremely frustrating.

As Team Cliffy pointed out last week, cannabis has been proven to help treat all types of ailments, including brain injuries. That alone should be enough to convince the NFL and other leagues to end cannabis prohibition. Brain injuries are a big problem in professional sports, and if a substance that has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol can help, then leagues should have some common sense and compassion and harness the substances’ wellness properties.

Another major issue that is plaguing professional sports is the widespread use of harmful opioid painkillers. Cannabis has been proven to help reduce the use of opioid painkillers. Some cannabis opponents such as Commissioner Roger Goodell may scoff at such a claim, but it is backed up by a number of studies. Even the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has recognized cannabis’ ability to reduce opioid use. The federal agency recently updated its website with information about cannabis and opioids, as first reported by MassRoots:

In a new update to a webpage on cannabis’s medical uses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that “medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.”

Reporting the results of studies that the agency funded, the revised NIDA page says that one “found an association between medical marijuana legalization and a reduction in overdose deaths from opioid pain relievers, an effect that strengthened in each year following the implementation of legislation.”

A second federally-funded study “showed that legally protected access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with lower levels of opioid prescribing, lower self-report of nonmedical prescription opioid use, lower treatment admissions for prescription opioid use disorders and reduction in prescription opioid overdose deaths.”

Many opponents in professional sports will point to federal cannabis prohibition as the main reason to try to keep players from using cannabis. But as you can see from the NIDA website update, the federal government recognizes that cannabis does indeed possess medical benefits, and that a major benefit is cannabis’ ability to reduce the use of opioid painkillers. It’s beyond time that professional sports leagues freed the plant and allowed players to take advantage of the wellness benefits that cannabis can provide.

“The NIDA website update reflects what many of us have already known for years – that the cannabis plant can help athletes reduce their reliance on harmful opioid painkillers. Pro sports leagues like the NFL and NBA need to look at the facts and let science determine league cannabis policies, instead of the outdated political views of a handful of league officials and owners. No athlete should be forced to use harmful opioid painkillers. Not when there is a safer, effective alternative.” said Cliff Robinson about the federal agency website update.

Cannabis is one of the most studied substances out there, having been the subject of more studies than common opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and toradol – combined. The mountain of evidence that cannabis can help athletes, and that prohibition has failed, is growing by the day. Professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis need to take a meaningful look at their policies, and realize that cannabis prohibition is literally hurting players’ health.