The NFL’s Drug Policy & CBD

Are you a fall football fan?

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the fall, I can’t help but think of fall football. The NFL has a place in many of our hearts as the comradery of sports brings people together around the game. There is a long standing tradition of playing football, just as much as there is a tradition of watching and tailgating before games. What is less known, or talked about, is the NFL’s drug policy & CBD. The purpose of the NFL’s drug policy, according to them, is to prohibit the use and abuse of prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and alcohol. This is a standard to ensure that all players are playing on the same playing field (pun intended) and it is deeply interesting how the NFL holds all athletes responsible for anything they put in their bodies.

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What about CBD?

While watching a football game with friends, I became curious about the NFL’s stance on CBD. After some research, I was pleasantly surprised by their tolerance. In 2020, they eliminated suspensions for positive marijuana tests and raised the THC threshold for a positive test. This change benefits athletes who use cannabinoids for pain management. Having played tackle football as a child, I understand the physical toll it takes. Professional players endure immense stress on their bodies week after week.

There’s NFL funded research?

In June 2021, the NFL and the NFL Players Association allocated $1 million for research on pain management and cannabinoids. Just two years ago, players faced suspension for even trace amounts of THC. Now, the same organization is funding research into the potential benefits of cannabinoids, acknowledging the dangers of traditional painkillers and their addictive nature. With an estimated 10.1 million people misusing opioid prescriptions in 2020, a non-addictive method for aiding performance and recovery is highly sought after, especially for top athletes.

What’s so appealing?

CBD’s non-addictive nature makes hemp appealing to the NFL for several reasons. One significant benefit is the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids, particularly CBDa. Bringing histamine production back to neutral could aid muscle recovery, prevent bruising, and boost energy levels. Feeling better often leads to improved performance, even for athletes. Personally, CBD has helped me manage rheumatoid arthritis without the side effects of prescription painkillers. While more research is needed, every step towards progress, like the recent $1 million investment, is significant.

Other benefits?

One potential benefit that I believe deserves more attention, particularly for athletes, is CBD for PTSD. Athletes may experience higher rates of PTSD, with reports ranging from 13% to 25% in athlete populations, due to the demands of sports. Stepping onto the field triggers a “fight or flight” response, enhancing performance with elevated endorphins. Additionally, athletes face increased risks of personal injuries, head injuries, witnessing teammates’ injuries, and enduring physical and emotional trauma both in and out of the sport.

PTSD is commonly treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medications. However, medications used to treat PTSD may cause very undesirable negative side effects ranging from reduced sex drive to worsening insomnia. Researchers believe that CBD could be a promising alternative in helping to aid with PTSD, especially since CBD rarely produces side effects. There have been a few studies conducted that examine the relationship between CBD and PTSD.

  • 2019 study of 11 patients found that 91% of patients experienced a decrease in PTSD symptoms after 8 consecutive weeks of treatment with CBD.
  • 2016 case study found CBD to be an effective and safe treatment for anxiety and sleep issues experienced by a young girl with PTSD.
  • 2015 review of 11 different studies conducted on military veterans with PTSD found that cannabis did seem to help control PTSD symptoms.

While more studies will be needed, the research surrounding CBD and PTSD is promising.

What’s next?

Much more research is needed on cannabinoids for athletes’ potential benefits, but the NFL has already begun taking steps toward that future, recognizing its potential rewards. All we can do is wait to see what the future holds for NFL players and CBD, but it is a very interesting time to be alive to watch football in the fall. Curl up with a blanket, put on your favorite team’s game, and watch the game literally and metaphorically change. If you think CBD might be a good fit for you or you have questions, give us a call at 866-244-4223 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm EST), or fill out our online contact form.  You can also click the “live chat” button at any time!


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