NBA Coach Steve Kerr Acknowledges Marijuana Use

Golden State Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr said on Dec. 2 that he smoked marijuana to combat chronic pain after he underwent two back surgeries in 2015.

“I guess maybe I can even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried it twice during the last year and a half, when I’ve been going through this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr said on The Warriors Insider Podcast.

Kerr, a five-time NBA champion as a player, underwent back surgery in summer 2015. He went under the knife a second time to alleviate pain experienced after the first surgery. However, the pain continued.

He took a leave of absence that lasted nearly four months. During that time, he used prescription painkillers to fight the pain. He also tried marijuana.

Kerr said neither painkillers nor cannabis eased his pain. However, the experience led him to understand the consequences of prescription drug use.

During the podcast, he sympathized with NFL players, who are not permitted to use marijuana under league policy. Football players endure much physical strain on their bodies and are often prescribed addictive painkillers as a remedy.

Kerr suggested that marijuana is safer than Vicodin for pain relief.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia allow for the medical or recreational use of cannabis. However, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Kerr Expands on Comments

The day after the podcast went live, Kerr expanded on his comments.

While dealing with chronic pain, the NBA’s reigning coach of the year said he’d researched the effects of prescription painkillers and marijuana. He concluded that opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet are dangerous drugs.

Prescription opioids are safe if taken as directed, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, misusing these drugs can result in breathing and heart problems, drowsiness, sleep disorders, overdose or death.

Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 Americans have died of prescription opioid overdose.

Marijuana, the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States, can cause changes in mood, breathing problems, increased heart rate and temporary paranoia.

Kerr said he was surprised by the public reaction to his comments. But he was glad the remarks became a popular topic of discussion. He hopes that talking about marijuana use may help shatter the negative perception surrounding the drug.

Athletes Advocating for Marijuana Use in Sports

In the aftermath of Kerr’s comments, several Golden State Warriors players spoke about marijuana use in sports.

Draymond Green suggested that marijuana is safer than prescription painkillers. Klay Thompson said he supports the medicinal use of marijuana, given its effectiveness against Crohn’s disease, glaucoma and cancer.

Green and Thompson are far from alone in their support of medical marijuana use.

Former Chicago Bulls point guard Jay Williams supports the use of marijuana in professional sports. He also told that 75 to 80 percent of NBA players use the herb.

Eugene Monroe has been an outspoken advocate of marijuana use in the NFL. In a piece published in the Players Tribune, the former Jaguars star wrote about his experiences with prescription painkillers as a player.

“For almost every injury, I was treated with prescription opioids — which is standard operating procedure in the NFL,” Monroe wrote.

He said team doctors prescribed other medications, including Ambien, Topiramate and Toradol, to him. The University of Virginia alum also noted that retired NFL players misuse prescription painkillers at a rate more than four times that of the general population.

He encouraged the NFL and the NFL Players Association, the labor organization representing NFL players, to remove marijuana from the league’s banned substance list, fund medical marijuana research and stop overprescribing opioids.

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