The NFL is now under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration for the abuse of prescription medication by athletes in their locker rooms. Federal drug agents began looking into the abuse of painkillers and other drugs after attorneys representing about 1,300 NFL retirees accused the league of illegally handing out medication without warning players about the possibility of addiction and health problems.
The DEA is looking into the specific circumstances of the abuse of painkillers and sleeping pills by athletes in the NFL and how they were provided with these kinds of drugs. The allegations against the NFL could mean serious consequences for the league if the DEA determines that the accusations are true.
Prescription Addiction in the NFL
Former NFL players such as Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and a number of other plaintiffs have come forward to accuse the NFL of causing drug addiction among its athletes. The retirees’ attorneys assert that they were given prescription drugs illegally without being told of the risks. McMahon in particular has claimed that because of the medication he was given by the NFL he eventually became addicted to pain pills and at one point was taking more than 100 Percosets each month.
Because of these kinds of accusations the DEA is reaching out to former players to learn exactly how NFL doctors and trainers get access to dangerous narcotics like Percodan and Vicodin or anti-inflammatories such as Toradol which is considered a non-addictive pain killer. The DEA is searching to find out who provided and distributed the drugs to the football players that have made these allegations.
Health Problems Due to Use of Painkillers
The retirees who prompted the investigation have filed a class action lawsuit in San Francisco federal court against the NFL for providing prescription drugs to keep players on the field without informing them of the long-term risks. Over 1,300 players have confirmed that the NFL violated state and federal drug laws by giving them medication for their injuries so that they could quickly return to the field.
The NFL distributed powerful painkillers and sleeping pills to numb the pain so that athletes could continue playing leading to many aggravated injuries and long term health problems among the plaintiffs in the case. According to the statements of the lawsuit, Keith Van Horne of the Chicago Bears played an entire season with a broken leg because he was constantly taking prescription drugs to cope with the pain. Another player, Richard Dent, now suffers from permanent nerve damage after playing eight games of a season with a broken foot because he was given painkillers instead of necessary surgery.
The period between the 1980s and 1990s was a time when the NFL did little to monitor the medications that were provided to its players. For the NFL in those years, doctors would pass out medication freely and players could easily access the drug cabinet to help themselves to pain killers. The amount of pain medication taken during these years led to many players developing severe addictions.
Players like Ray Lucas of the Jets eventually turned to street drugs to deal with painful injuries after developing an extremely high tolerance for pain medication while in the NFL. Those involved in the allegations are hopeful that the DEA will uncover evidence that has been unavailable to lawyers pursing a civil suit. However in spite of plenty anecdotal evidence from former players, it may be difficult to prove that league officials played a role in the athletes’ abuse of prescription drugs. The ongoing investigation could reveal helpful evidence for the case but it remains to be seen how the NFL will respond to the allegations. NFL Locker Rooms