Ex-NFL Player Says Weed Helped Him Kick Pills, Suicidal Thoughts

"I’m getting myself back."

Former All-Pro offensive lineman Kyle Turley has said he sustained over 100 concussions in his playing days, but it’s the argument around which drugs should be used to treat the subsequent pain that he’s truly concerned about.

Turley, who played for the New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs during his decade-long NFL career, has become an equally loud critic of painkillers and proponent of medicinal marijuana since his retirement from the game in 2007. During an appearance on "Highly Questionable" on Thursday, Turley opened up about his past suicidal tendencies, which he blames squarely on pharmaceutical drugs.

“My relationship with pharmaceuticals brought me to where I am today,” he said. “About eight months ago having had an episode where I really just got to my lowest point in life. Thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety were mounting, never going away.”

“Suicidal and homicidal tendencies became a part of my daily living, in that I couldn’t be around a knife in my kitchen without having an urge to stab someone, including my wife and kids,” he added. “That was highly disturbing to me.”

These thoughts of suicide confused him. He thought to himself, “I’ve got it all. So why am I sitting around contemplating suicide all the time wondering if this life is worth living?”

Turley takes a break during summer training camp with the St. Louis Rams in 2004.
Turley takes a break during summer training camp with the St. Louis Rams in 2004.

Turley said he isn’t taking pharmaceutical drugs anymore, and that his life is exponentially better as a result. “I’m getting myself back." For that, he credits marijuana. Turley remembered that on the day of his induction into the Hall of Fame at San Diego State, he stepped out onto a balcony to smoke marijuana, only to have a sudden desire to jump.

“If it weren’t for cannabis I don’t think I would have made it back to my hotel room,” he said.

This is where we should note that Turley spoke to "Highly Questionable" as part of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, which is dedicated to the advancement of marijuana research. He has a stake in this game. Also, Turley is not a medical expert, simply an advocate for a treatment that he believes worked better for him than the pharmaceutical drugs that led to rampant abuse around the league.

There could be other reasons for his suicidal tendencies aside from pharmaceutical drugs -- like, sadly, those 100 concussions he said he suffered during his playing career. Those are enough to do the job. But interest in whether marijuana could either reduce painkiller abuse among NFL players or even counteract the effects of CTE has become an increasingly popular question of late. Former NFL player Nate Jackson credits smoking during his playing career for keeping his “brain clean.” Bennet Omalu, the doctor who discovered the first case of CTE in an NFL player and the basis of Will Smith’s character in “Concussion,” recently joined the board of a medical company researching whether marijuana could help treat brain injuries.

Whether marijuana can play a role in making football a safer sport remains questionable, at best. There is still much research to be done, and it’s doubtable marijuana or any other drug will ever make the inherently dangerous sport safe. But Turley said Thursday that shouldn't stop us from learning as much as we can.

“This [marijuana] could potentially prevent and postpone any damage done from concussions,” Turley said. “There is no excuse for us to say we don’t know enough anymore about a plant that has grown from the ground for thousands of years and used as medicine around the world.”

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