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Synthetic Marijuana is Still a Problem for the NFL

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Synthetic Marijuana is Still a Problem for the NFL

A series of incidents linking National Football League (NFL) players with synthetic marijuana could impact future regular season and Super Bowl games.  Since January of this year, two NFL players have already been in the media spotlight for alleged possession or use of synthetic marijuana. Although smoking marijuana is considered an impropriety before suiting up for the big game, the recent spike in use of synthetic weed by players is equally concerning to the NFL. While the NFL bans the use of steroids, heroin, cocaine, marijuana and other controlled substances, according to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, synthetic marijuana falls within the purview of the policy although it is not currently on the list.  Even so, based on the league’s substance abuse policy, a program run jointly with the NFLPA, if a player is charged with possession or trafficking of the drug, he can be suspended.

Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a sharp rise in the number of deaths caused by synthetic marijuana since 2015. In fact, between January and May 2015, there have been approximately 15 deaths linked to the use of this drug and a 229% increase in the number of calls received by poison centers across the nation. The National Drug Control Policy, which analyzed a shipment of synthetic marijuana that had been seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, describes this designer drug as a compilation of dried herbs and plant leaves that has been laced with chemicals to simulate the effects of natural cannabinoids.  To curb the growing popularity and use of these drugs, the “Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act” was signed into law by the Obama Administration in 2012.  This initiative prohibits the sale and possession of these drugs. Synthetic marijuana mostly sourced from China and marketed in the United States through a number of vendors under names such as Sexy Monkey, Black Mamba, Spice, K2, Twilight, Mr. Happy and other similarly catchy brands. These products are sold with the caveat “not recommended for consumption” and consumers are cautioned by the Drug Enforcement Administration that synthetic marijuana is not the same as natural cannabis.  According to Professor Andrew Monte of the Colorado School of Medicine, the chemicals found in this designer drug can be as much as 1000 times more potent than natural marijuana and cause severe adverse effects and symptoms such as paranoia, hallucinations, confusion and accelerated heart rate, to name a few.

The NFL Players Linked to the use of Synthetic Marijuana

  1. Chandler Jones of the New England Patriots who was hospitalized as a result of a bad reaction to synthetic marijuana. Allegedly, Jones arrived at a Fox borough, MA police station shirtless and without provocation where he reportedly got down on his knees and put his hands behind his head.
  2. Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman was arrested by Bellevue police for use of the drug about one hour before he allegedly got in his car and was charged with vehicular assault and a hit and run.
  3. Ole Miss standout Robert Nkemdiche who is supposedly a possible top-10 pick at this year’s NFL draft, fell 15-feet out a window in Atlanta and was found to have the drug in his system after being treated for the fall.
  4. Kellen Winslow as a tight end with the New York Jets was arrested in New Jersey for possession of the drug.
  5. Defensive lineman Marcel Dareus was arrested for allegedly possessing the designer drug.
  6. Tyrann Matthieu was suspended for testing positive for Spice.
  7. Spencer Ware was suspended for testing positive for synthetic marijuana.

Synthetic marijuana has become a serious issue for the NFL and its players that may necessitate changes in the future relevant to testing and penalties.  Unfortunately, synthetic marijuana continues to be trendy among young adults and its use is expanding on a global scale. If you know someone who is addicted to this drug or needs drug abuse treatment, reach out to a drug treatment center for help. Caring addiction professionals can help you find the right program to suit the patient’s needs. 

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