"NFL games I played stoned were some of the best games I ever played," Britton said. "Cannabis cements your surroundings. A lot of people say they're useless when they smoke weed. But hell, I played NFL games [while stoned], dude. My performances were solid, and I felt really good after."
Britton added he often smoked marijuana to relieve "psychological distress or sciatica or pain in my shoulders." He estimated "over 50 percent and it could be as high as 75 percent" of NFL players use the substance.
The relationship between athletes and marijuana is hardly a new one, but there is growing research to indicate the benefits could go well beyond recreation.
Dr. Sue Sisley, who has been investigating cannabis for an FDA-approved study, shared one anecdote about an NFL player's use of marijuana after a rotator cuff tear, per Kaplan:
Nothing gave him relief — including opioids. He was on the bench because he was nonfunctional on the field. Side effects from the medicine had him so sedated that it was literally dangerous for him to play. He was frustrated and lost his position and lost credibility. He tried cannabis and actually got back in the game. He is currently playing now. That is a common scenario.
And Dr. Marcel Bonn-Miller, a clinical psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania who is helping lead a study on marijuana and the NFL, said of marijuana, per Kaplan: "We think it is a potential alternative to [highly addictive] opiates for pain medication."
Kaplan cited a number of current and former players who use or used marijuana to help manage pain, including Jake Plummer, Nate Jackson, Ricky Williams and Seantrel Henderson, the Buffalo Bills right tackle who is serving a suspension for testing positive for marijuana after using the substance to help treat his Crohn's disease.
Several current and ex-NFL players, including Jim McMahon, Eugene Monroe and Derrick Morgan, are calling for the league to consider more research on marijuana, according to Matt L. Stephens and Kelly Lyell of the Coloradoan (via USA Today).
Marijuana use among football players seems unlikely to end anytime soon. Last week, former Colorado State running back Treyous Jarrells told Stephens and Lyell he was high in almost every game he played before quitting the team early in the 2015 season. He's since obtained a license to grow marijuana in Colorado.
"I practiced under the influence," Jarrells said. "I played games under the influence. This is my medicine. I've seen players at CSU pop five, 10 ibuprofens before practice. Daily. You think that's good? Over the course of two, three years, that's eating your liver away."
The NFL has remained steadfast in its ban on marijuana, though it continues to research the issue.
"At the moment, it's about fact-finding on their part," Bonn-Miller told Nathaniel Vinton, Dustin Foote and Michael O'Keeffe of the New York Daily News. "They want to learn more about where the science is."
As Vinton, Foote and O'Keeffe noted, however, the NFL probably won't be swayed by marijuana advocates in the near future:
But despite the inquiries from league officials, it is highly unlikely that the NFL and its union will rush to embrace marijuana as the answer to its health and safety woes. Pot is still classified as a Schedule I drug, which means the federal government says it has no accepted medical uses, and the NFL has long been governed by men who prefer not to alienate fans and sponsors -- companies that include beer and pharmaceutical companies -- by taking controversial positions on social issues.
Society is slowing changing its views on marijuana. That is evidenced by many states either legalizing the drug or decriminalizing it. But unless the federal government changes its stance on the substance, it's doubtful the NFL will.
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