Ray Lucas: Painkiller addiction my problem, not the NFL’s problem

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At a time when close to 2,000 former NFL players are suing the league over health problems that they blame on their playing days, it comes as something of a surprise to hear from a former NFL player who dealt with a health problem that started with a football injury, but who pointedly does not blame the NFL.

Ray Lucas, who played quarterback in the NFL for eight seasons, says that the painkiller addiction he struggled with in retirement stems from medication he was prescribed while recuperating from injuries suffered on the field. That does not, however, mean he thinks the game of football is responsible.

It was after a series of injuries playing in the NFL that I was taking prescription painkillers,” Lucas told Toni Monkovic of the New York Times. “After having major back surgery, I tried to stop taking the painkillers, and that’s when I first experienced withdrawal.”

For Lucas, part of beating his addiction was taking personal responsibility for getting the right treatment for it.

“I don’t think of my addiction as an NFL problem,” he said. “It’s my problem. It’s true that my tolerance grew because I took painkillers when I was hurt, but the fact is that I chose to take those pills. I want other people to know that if they see their tolerance growing, rather than just upping the number of pills, talk to a doctor to figure out what’s really going on and what the best steps are for you.”

And Lucas said he doesn’t agree with those who suggest that football is a dangerous activity for children.

“I’m an athlete, and football opened doors for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t change my past for a moment and wouldn’t be where I am today without football. Competitive sports are good for kids; there are life lessons that go far beyond the football field.”

Lucas deserves credit for speaking out about his addiction. And for tackling his problem himself, rather than looking for someone to blame.

26 responses to “Ray Lucas: Painkiller addiction my problem, not the NFL’s problem

  1. To think a former pain killer junkie is the voice of reason in all of this…

    Sounds like the dude has a pretty level head though.

  2. God be with you Ray, I am also fighting a pain Killer addiction, and it’s pure hell. If you’ve never been addicted to something, be careful what you say about this guy.

  3. Finally! thank you sir for taking the personal responsibility grown-ups need to exhibit. While greatly believe the NFL should be helping these guys out, I don’t think the NFL deserves to get the flak they get. No body forced these guys to do anything, they had personal choice and following the NFL, many of them could have done things differently to help themselves.

  4. I don’t go to one party whether family or friends or friends of friends where someone isn’t addicted to prescribed medication. Oxy Roxy hydro morpho and whatever happy pill they are scripting today are a scourge. They talk about fat asses being a burden on society but I can argue that one day soon it will be these meds that are the biggest burden of society. I’m dead serious when I tell you it’s easier to get off heroin than oxy.

  5. I admire Lucas a great deal. As a former high school and college football player, I know how easy it is to become dependent on painkillers. And how hard it is to get things under control. Lucas went far deeper than I ever did, and came out of it.

  6. There is a great drug called suboxone that works miracles for anyone fighting an addiction to painkillers or other opiates. I urge anyone looking to clean up to speak with a doctor about a program involving it. Having battled myself I’m not sure if I would have been able to do it without the help of that drug. I’d like to thank Ray for speaking out and owning up to his problem. Hopefully this will inspire others to own up and face their own demons.

  7. Sounds like a stand up guy which is rare compared to all the others trying to do a money grab.

  8. I was waiting for the first person to stand up and say something of this nature. Way to stand up and take responsibility for ones own actions.

  9. It’s great that Ray Lucas has taken personal charge of his addiction. For his sake, it appears to have helped in his recovery. But why are fans of the game so indignant when guys who played way before any knowledge about the long term medical consequences of brain injuries were available to them, come out and say they are upset with the NFL? Do you blame a person who smoked cigarettes prior to the scientifically proven information that they kill? No, you mostly get mad at Big Tobacco for being evil.

    Some of these former players have a right to be angry since their decision to play was not a completely informed one. And now they are dealing with medical issues which aren’t completely addressed by the pension and benefits provided by the league. Keep in mind these guys from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s weren’t paid that much.

  10. I’ve seen first hand what addiction to painkillers can do. Let them smoke herb to help dull the pain. It’s not addictive and doesn’t destroy your body.

  11. Good comments. Looks like we have a few folks in the concussion lawsuit reading the comments and giving a thumbs down.

    A few of you have shared your story via comments and it is pretty classless to give a thumbs down for a positive statement overcoming an addiction.

  12. You show me someone who has never been addicted to painkillers and I will show you someone that has never taken them. I wish Mr. Lucas well.

  13. It is so refreshing to hear someone to be accountable and not blame others. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how you react after the mistakes that define you.

  14. for those that have pain killer problem try getting suboxen prescribed my friend was hooked for years took it for three months and was straight no withdrawls or relapses it’s up to you to stay clean after .

  15. “I’m dead serious when I tell you it’s easier to get off heroin than oxy.”

    Not really, because chemically there’s basically the exact same thing.

  16. Chemically may be the same but mentally in your head when you try to get off scripts you know a doctor is right around the corner or believe me when I tell you it’s quite easy to order online send western union and next day you have your pills but there are only so many heroin dealers around so thoughts in your head fade quicker with H. That makes it a hell of a lot easier to get through.

  17. You can only get so many scripts filled, but can call an H dealer anytime as long as he’s willing which most dealers are. But congrats to this man dealing with his own problems and mistakes instead of placing it all on the NFL. I doubt there are many of us that wouldnt take the risk in the NFL to make millions to play a game despite the risk.

  18. If you were to RTFA, you’d see Lucas actually did take suboxone. And I agree, it is an effing miracle drug. There’s no other way to put it.

    But saying that beating a heroin addiction is easy, compared to anything, is dead wrong. I know girls who tell me that childbirth is nothing compared to withdrawals.

  19. Hey Folks….
    If you or anybody you know has an opiate addiction.
    have them research ” Soboxone Therapy ”
    Soboxone is a Life saving drug.
    No joking here….pain killer addiction is brutal. Soboxone saves lives and families..

  20. Standing applause to you Ray!

    I hate how former players are blaming the NFL with the excuse we didnt know BS! My grandfather worked construction and lost an arm and he didn’t sue or say he didnt know about the dangers of the work. He also didn’t make money anywhere close to what these clowns make. He knew what he was doing going into the job knowing full well what some of the outcomes could be. It’s not like people who were drafted 20 years ago are the first players to experience these problems its been around for ever, but the saw the $$ and didn’t care. Now their presumably bankrupt and want to get some cash. Their depressed not because of hits to the head but cuz that dont live the life they once had.

  21. dtr3e-

    Your grandfather lost his arm at a construction site and his employer didn’t pay anything over it? Cause I’m gonna go out on a limb and say he got disability and workmans comp.

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