Tag: Health & Medicine

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Ricky Williams on Eugene Monroe’s Inspiring Cannabis Journey

In the last article I wrote, I explored the efficacy of cannabis as medicine for professional football players.  In this article, I offer an inspiring example of the healing power of cannabis at its best.  Although this is a story about a famous person, it deals with an unavoidable life process that we all have suffered in one way or another.

The process of loss and transition is captured poetically by a Joseph Campbell quote I recently came across: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” In a time where our country is divided and struggling with a transition and the potential loss of a dream, maybe the story of how Eugene Monroe recently transitioned out of the NFL can offer some guidance.

A year ago, not many people would have recognized his name.  But today, Eugene Monroe’s name is sure to be mentioned in any discussion about the cannabis movement and the NFL.  His steady and continuous chant, “Remove cannabis from the NFL’s banned substance list,” seems to be finally crumbling the walls of the NFL’s draconian stance on cannabis.  In the past few weeks, two articles, one about the NFL Players Association pushing for the NFL to take a less punitive stance on marijuana, and another about the Commish being open to the suggestion, hit the national media.

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Photo courtesy of EugeneMonroe.com

Eugene’s influence and interest in cannabis quickly extended far beyond the NFL upon his retirement.  Eugene is now a cannabis consumer, connoisseur, advocate, activist, and entrepreneur.  All of this from someone who, not that long ago, was still under the spell cast by anti-marijuana propaganda!   “I had all the bad ideas of what marijuana was.  I believed the commercials and the teachers and all the people who said it was a dangerous drug and would fry your brain. Those are things I thought were the truth, so I wanted nothing to do with it,” Monroe told me in a recent conversation.

So what changed his mind?

Something assured to get people to open their minds: pain, and making it go away. Playing in the NFL is painful. A string of injuries turned into chronic pain found Eugene in need of daily pain medication.

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If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, you can get a clue by reading my February 2nd article.

He tells a story similar to so many current and retired players. “I got to the point where I was needing to take opioids and anti-inflammatories to manage pain and push through, and I felt like it was a bad thing.”  A voracious reader, Eugene started looking for “alternative ways of dealing,” which, in turn, led him to “try many things, one of which was studying cannabis.” So initially, not using it.  Just learning about it.  Eugene told me he was “deathly afraid” of failing a test and facing the repercussions of what he saw happen to me during my time in the NFL.

So Eugene’s relationship with cannabis really came about in an organic way. After a great deal of inquiry, plus the ongoing lack of attractive alternatives, Eugene was convinced to give it a go.  You can probably guess whether his experience was a positive or negative one.  Today, he tells me with a tone of gratitude that you can’t but smile when you hear him talk about it, “cannabis has changed my life, man.”

Post-NFL, Eugene’s a regular user of cannabis and feels sharper than ever, only now in business meetings instead of on the football field.  He wants to “understand every aspect” of not just the plant’s medicinal effects, but the industry at large and its ever-evolving network of players.  He said that the experience has been “f—ing incredible,” especially as he finds himself with the good fortune of getting to work with “people who have great values.”

marijuana-football-cannabis-reefer-ganjaPretty cool how a plant can naturally alleviate the pain of a body taking hits on the professional football field — where Eugene says, “you make one mistake, you lose.”  Really f—ing cool how that same plant can sharpen/center/ground a mind, as that football player now runs through the web of cannabis business, real estate, consulting and lobbying worlds — where Eugene also says, “you make one mistake, you lose!” He might have a point.

Something I’ve found so inspiring in Eugene is his passion when he’s advocating for what he believes in: improving the quality of people’s lives.  The cause he’s been championing this past year has been on behalf of NFL football players.  And now it sounds like more people are listening to Eugene’s message.  Maybe because it’s a message whose source is a solid and foundation of research and thoughtful analysis.  Next time I’ll talk more about this, and what I’m hoping to see in the NFLPA’s proposed changes to the NFL’s drug policy — you know, that one that got me into a bit of trouble back in the day…

 

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Peru Considers Medical Marijuana

It all started with a drug raid in Lima, Peru. Police entered a home where a group of parents were growing marijuana to make oil in order to treat their children who suffer from epilepsy and various other diseases.

Like many other countries, the lack of medical cannabis legislation combined with the world’s newfound knowledge of available treatments forces otherwise law abiding citizens to do what is necessary for their families.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski

This sad situation has not been lost on Peru’s leader, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who has recognized the necessity of medical cannabis. He will be presenting a plan to legalize medical marijuana in the South American country to his opposition-dominated legislature.

In the proposal, trafficking and the use of marijuana for purposes other than medicine would remain a crime. At the very least, however, if the plan is adopted the people who need cannabis will be able to gain access through their medical system.

Aida Farfan was among the group of parents growing marijuana for more than 80 members whose sick children benefit from the medicinal properties of cannabis. She pointed out that the collective has been petitioning the government for years to get medical marijuana legalized. In the absence of that legislation, the parents have had no other choice but to take matters into their own hands.

President Kuczynski is expected to have an uphill battle against an ultra-conservative political party that controls 72 out of 130 seats in Congress. However, if this proposal manages to become law, Peru will join other South American countries that have legalized medical marijuana. Those countries include Colombia, Brazil, Chile and of course the one that starred it all, Uruguay.

As Peru contemplates the future of medical marijuana, the parents of these children in need will continue to do anything they can to give their kids relief from diseases that no human with a beating heart would wish on anyone.

The cannabis world is watching and hoping alongside them.

Photo courtesy of Roberto De la Parra

 

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Why Cannabis is the Best Medicine on the Planet for Professional Football Players

Perhaps you may think my title for this article is a bit absurd.  Or, you may totally get it. I hope that you will take it seriously.

Considering what I have given up because of my choice to use cannabis, I have had to ask myself some serious questions about why I use cannabis. I believe that some of the answers I came up with apply specifically to me, some of them apply more generally to anyone playing football in the NFL, and some which apply even more generally to anyone who is interested in being really good at doing something challenging.  

In this way, I like to view football as an analogy to life. We are all trying to win in our lives against a multitude of internal and external resistance — whether it’s our own unhealthy habits, unresolved pain or a boss who’s a bully. We all have things we have to overcome to get what we desire in life. I know I have.

More importantly, it appears that our country is on the verge of a major cannabis revolution, one that we are, in my opinion, currently ill-prepared to handle.  Why do I believe that?  Because of the combination of too many people being too afraid to reveal their cannabis use (and thus what they’ve gained from using it), coupled with an outdated negative stigma that is keeping people and groups — like the NFL — from educating themselves. This combination has created enormous confusion, ignorance and useless suffering where clarity, compassion, and healing should be. As I watched the football players performing during this year’s NFL playoffs, it felt timely that I, in this spirit, shared the fruits of my relationship with cannabis and how I think it can possibly be of benefit to you.

marijuana-com-111During my years as a football player, I tried all of the pain medications my doctors have prescribed me to manage the pain inherent in playing running back in the NFL. My typical visits with NFL team doctors uniformly consisted of the doctor giving me anti-inflammatories and telling me that the pain I was experiencing was either chronic (arthritic) or due to an acute injury suffered while playing. The prognosis and prescription was always the same for both. For arthritic joints — something I have to get used to as it will likely get worse as I age, and for the acute injuries — 4 to 6 weeks.  The prescription: anti-inflammatories and taking it easy in practice. Neither of those worked very well for me, so I took my healing and recovery into my own hands. A combination of an anti-inflammatory diet, cannabis, yoga, and bodywork kept me on the field and out of the doctor’s office.  

More importantly, my health regimen went from merely popping a pill every night before bed so I was comfortable enough to get in a good day of practice the following day, to a nightly self-care routine. I have no doubt that those changes are the reason I was able to walk away from a 12-year professional football career with my body and mind still functioning at a high level. I have seen too many former NFL players who walk around wearing the accumulated wounds from years of masking pain. That could have been me.

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To make this relevant to a larger swath of the population, I will assume that most of us incur some collateral damage to our bodies, minds and/or souls as we endeavor to reach our personal and business goals. We all suffer minor and sometimes major setbacks. Quote books and coaches’ mouths are full of sayings about the importance of being able to get up and try again or, as I’ve heard million times, “you gotta have a short memory” and “let go of the last play and move on.”  Sound familiar?  

The logic is simple and sound. If you are holding onto something that occurred in the past, you are not fully present in the only place where you can do something about what has you so upset. If I fumbled early in a game and couldn’t get over it, I tended to be less effective for the remainder of the game. If I had a bad game and couldn’t get over it before the next week of practice started, it affected the way I prepared for and performed in the next game. Our bodies have to go through a similar getting-over-it process. Doctors call it homeostasis — the ability of the body to seek and maintain an equilibrium or stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes.  

s-l300Supporting the body and mind’s homeostasis processes have been the goal of healing practitioners for thousands of years. They realized what I realized: the harder you work, the harder you have to relax and recover. The Chinese called it the balance of Yin and Yang. They recognized that if there was too much Yin in the system, it would lead to some form of pathological inertia. Too much Yang results in an eventual burnout of some kind. So they believed their jobs were to help people find the balance in their lives. It is no coincidence that cannabis originates from the same lands as these medical and philosophical ideas of balance.  

We seem to be slowly catching up here in the West. Since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (the system that mediates the medicinal and psychoactive effects of cannabis), researchers have started to understand more about how cannabis works in our bodies. They have discovered that “the ECS [endocannabinoid system] regulates many aspects of homeostasis, including neuroprotection and neural plasticity, and inflammation.”

Remember the absurd the title to this article? It popped in my head almost immediately after reading the above quote about the ECS from the medical journal “Endocrine, Metabolic, and Immune Disorders—Drug Targets.” The beneficial nature of anything that not only promotes neuroprotection — the preservation of the structure and function of the brain — and neuroplasticity — which allows nerve cells in the brain to compensate for injury — but also decreases inflammation, is obvious to anyone who has ever watched the frequency and intensity of the hits a player takes during a professional football game.

Speaking of professional football players — and one who may not find this article’s title so preposterous — I recently spent some time with Eugene Monroe at a fundraiser organized by Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, an inspiring group of American physicians dedicated to the advocacy of cannabis legalization and regulation. Eugene and I talked about some of his own personal experiences on the topic of cannabis and brain functioning, and I was deeply impacted by our conversation.  I’ll share them with you next time…

Photo courtesy of NFL News Desk Admin

 

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