Jay Williams: Pro Leagues Should Allow Marijuana to Prevent Addiction to Painkillers

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(Photo: Getty)

Before he was a college basketball analyst for ESPN, Jay Williams was a highly touted rookie for the Chicago Bulls.

But after one season, a motorcycle accident ended his playing career.

In a piece for The Players' Tribune, the former Duke star admitted to developing an addiction to painkillers after the crash:

It began innocently enough: I was in pain, so my doctors prescribed me pain medication — powerful prescription drugs including OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.

Soon, reliance turned into addiction. I wanted to numb not only the physical pain, but also the emotional and psychological trauma of coming to grips with a life without basketball. The medication had vicious side effects, like frequent chest pain, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing and swallowing, extreme drowsiness and more.

The piece, titled "Double Standard," calls for professional sports leagues like the NBA, NFL, and MLB to stop punishing athletes for marijuana use, particularly when used for limiting pain. It echoes a sentiment similar to that of former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who recently claimed marijuana helped end his addiction to painkillers.

The ban on pot, according to Williams, causes athletes to seek more harmful remedies for their suffered pain, such as OxyContin.

Our culture is progressive about a lot of things, but in some corners, marijuana is still vilified and misunderstood. I believe that marijuana, which many experts agree is less addictive and less prone to overdose than pain meds like OxyContin​, must be an integral part of the conversation about how we treat pain in our everyday lives.

Pain is part of sports, too. Always has been, and always will be. Athletes put their bodies on the line day in and day out, and they will always be looking for ways to get back out on the court or field.

Today, marijuana is punished with steep fines and suspensions in our sports leagues.​ But pain isn’t going anywhere. Seeking to keep playing the sport they love, many athletes suffering from injury become dependent on the same types of doctor-prescribed painkillers I did in order to cope.

Williams never claims in the piece that he himself uses marijuana. 

He also attached a video that admonishes private institutions that produce painkillers for their demonization of weed.