It has been awhile since the NFL has had to discuss their drug problems, so it may have been a surprise when the DEA started with surprise inspections of NFL medical staff this past week. Several months ago it came to light that the NFL may be illegally prescribing narcotic painkillers to their players. Some former NFL players claim that they were given large quantities of prescription narcotics so they would be able to continue to participate in games. Some players even insisted that through these interactions with NFL doctors they developed an addiction to prescription pain pills.
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the players that were affected by this negligence and it appears that the DEA is following up with some inspections of their own. Agents conducted searches of the team doctor’s bags and questioned doctors regarding prescriptions for painkillers.
“Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found,” said the NFL spokesperson in a statement about the searches.
While everyone may have complied with the most recent searches, there have been problems in the past. In 2010 the DEA visited the San Diego Chargers after one of their players was found with over 100 Vicodin pills. It was unclear where the pills came from, but the agents had reason to believe the team doctor may have been involved. The New Orleans Saints agreed to a fine after one of their coaches was caught stealing narcotic painkillers out of medical cabinet. The fine was authorized because medical doctors did not properly store the pills in the first place.
With the lawsuit that was filed by over 1,000 former NFL players alleging that prescription drug abuse is perpetuated by the medical staff, it is likely that the surprise inspections will not stop anytime soon. The NFL is arguing that the individual teams should be the defendants in the lawsuit, not the NFL, the judge has not yet ruled on that, until a ruling comes down the NFL will continue to be named as the defendant in the lawsuit.
Given the number of people sharing similar stories, it appears that there has been an ongoing problem with prescription drug abuse in the NFL for many years. Hopefully these forms of interventions will help prevent future players from becoming addicted and help correct any risky behavior on the part of the league.