Former Denver Bronco Admits to Using Pot to Manage Pain

By Paul Gaita 01/23/14

Ex-wide receiver Nate Jackson's admission added fuel to the fire over whether or not the NFL should allow medical marijuana into the locker room.

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Nate Jackson in 2008. Photo via

Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Nate Jackson’s admission that he used marijuana to manage the pain from injuries incurred by in-season play has further opened the door to discussing the possibility of medical marijuana use for NFL players.

In an interview for HBO’s "Real Sports," Jackson told Andrea Kremer that he used marijuana to contend with debilitating pain incurred during his six seasons with the Broncos between 2003 and 2008. His statements echo ones made in a recently published memoir, Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile. “Pain is a big problem in the NFL,” Jackson wrote. “Pain management is necessary. Weed is the least harmful and least addictive of the painkillers players use to cope with the violent demands of the game.” Jackson went on to note that “drug use in the NFL mirrors drug use outside of the NFL: Pills reign supreme.”

A 2013 feature in the Washington Post underscored his assessment, citing the NFL’s seven percent rate of opioid use, which is three times higher than the national average. A poll of more than 500 retired players also revealed the startling fact that one in four football pros were uncomfortable about the pain medication that they felt pressured to take by team doctors.

Both Jackson and medical marijuana advocates must have felt some sense of encouragement, if not vindication, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made a recent pronouncement on the subject to When asked about the possibility about using marijuana to treat pain in states where it is legal, Goodell said while he could not predict the future of medicine and pain management, he did note that “we will continue to support the evolution of medicine.”

Here's a teaser for the "Real Sports" segment:

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites. 

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