Many players feel like they have given their heart and soul to the NFL only to have the organization completely turn its back on them when they needed support the most. Because lost time equals lost money, players often resort to medicine to help numb the pain of injuries so that they can quickly get back in the game. And the NFL, they say, is doling out these pain medicines to its players like candy.
Ray Lucas, Former quarterback for the NY Jets, is no exception. Lucas blames the NFL for his addiction to painkillers, citing that the NFL encourages the use of such medicines without fully explaining all the risks. Lucas felt exploited by the NFL after reading that the organization was shifting all the blame for his painkiller addiction onto him, glossing over its role as supplier and the devastating effects that the addiction took on his personal and family life.
When Lucas realized he had a problem, he turned to the Player’s Association for help but was shut down. He was advised that the organization couldn’t do anything for him. It was at this point that Lucas reached rock bottom, even seriously contemplating suicide.
William Focazio, founder of Pain Alternatives, Solutions and Treatments says that the NFL is a breeding ground for painkiller addictions. Because athletes medicate on a regular basis to numb sports-related injuries, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of addiction. This is especially true as injuries worsen over time because the body’s pain response is not being heeded.
Lucas cautions others in the sport to watch for increasing tolerance levels, which could be a sign of a problem. Lucas wishes he had known this information sooner before his need for painkillers got out of hand.