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How the NFL Developed a Dangerous Prescription Drug Problem


When most people think of the National Football League, their thoughts turn to exciting and fast-paced action on the field. Whether it’s the Dallas Cowboys taking on their arch-rival Washington Redskins or the New England Patriots looking to win yet another Super Bowl, fans can’t get enough of the long touchdown passes and hard-hitting defenses. However, what fans don’t usually hear or see much of is the growing concern many have over the league’s use of prescription drugs with its players.

Current and Former Players

While there have always been allegations of players misusing prescription drugs over the years, the past decade has produced more and more evidence of just how prevalent the problem may actually be among players. With a class-action lawsuit currently underway with more than 1,300 players, various stories have started to leak out showing how common the use of these drugs is among teams. For example, one former player reported being given a large bottle containing 150 Percocet pills, which are considered to be one of the more addictive painkillers on the market. In another instance, one team reportedly passed out manila envelopes containing painkillers to any player who raised his hand in a meeting.

Surprise Checks

In an effort to find out just how much prescription drugs are used by NFL teams, the Drug Enforcement Administration has recently started doing surprise checks of random NFL teams after games in an effort to find out how their physicians, trainers, and other medical personnel are using prescription drugs to help players overcome injuries. Rather than focusing on individuals, the DEA is instead more concerned with how the use of these drugs is leading to addictions, abuse, and even possible drug trafficking.

Federal Law Violations

While investigators are concerned with many aspects of this potential problem, one of the main areas of focus involves violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Under this federal mandate, only licensed doctors and practitioners are supposed to dispense drugs, and only in states where they are licensed to do so. However, numerous players have reported athletic trainers giving these types of drugs to players while playing road games, which if true violates federal law on many levels. In addition to this, investigators are also concerned with finding out how team physicians, trainers, and others have been able to acquire, store, and transport drugs from game to game.

Different Teams, Same Habits

Whether talking with current or former players, one thing that appears to have become clear to investigators is that no matter what team a player was on at the time, the ways in which prescription drugs were handled appeared to have little if any variation. While teams from the NFC or AFC all had different rules when it came to player conduct, dress, and other topics, they had little if any variation when it came to giving out prescription drugs to players before, during, and after games. To make the situation even more serious, drugs were said to be passed out on buses and airplanes where players also had access to alcohol, creating an even more potentially serious situation.

What’s Next?

As this issue continues to be investigated by federal, state, and even local officials, most players agree that little if anything has changed or is expected to change over the course of this season. Whether it’s former players alleging physical and emotional problems resulting from years of prescription drug use or current players wondering how their drug use will affect them later in life, it’s clear the league has a situation that needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.

Learn more about Dangerous Prescription Drugs.



Principal & Founder
This article was written by Mark Sadaka, a seasoned trial lawyer in nationally significant cases. He fearlessly champions clients impacted by fatal or severe injuries caused by others or corporations. Renowned for his expertise in complex litigation, he's featured in books, sought after by media for interviews, and a highly sought speaker. Notably, he exclusively represents individuals facing life-changing injuries or substantial financial losses.

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