Athletes For Care is a registered not-for-profit helping professional athletes recover physically and emotionally after a career in sports.
Founded by professional athletes, Athletes For Care advocates for alternative health and wellness options, including cannabis and cannabis products.
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Athletes For Care ambassador and former NFL running back Reuben Droughns recently sat down with Leafbuyer to explain why he believes cannabis is a revolutionary alternative to pharmaceutical opioids.
Q&A with Reuben Droughns
Leafbuyer: “Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with Athletes For Care.”
Reuben Droughns: “I have a friend named Jake Plummer, who I obviously played with. He established all the athletes and connected us with Ryan (Ryan Kingsbury, executive director/co-founder for Athletes For Care). It took me a while, but eventually I got in, and I love it.
“It's great to see how this program can help guys (former athletes) – just the fact that CBD and other aspects of the 420 brand can help guys out in the long run, especially with pain and depression.”
Leafbuyer: “When did you first discover CBD for pain?”
Reuben Droughns: “When I did When the Bright Lights Fade, I didn't really know what CBD was, and I didn't understand it at the time. When I was introduced to CBD, it was a lifesaver – a blessing in disguise. I love the topicals because the topicals really sink in. If you want that immediate relief, they help tremendously. When I hooked up with Ryan Kingsbury, I jumped into the CBD brand.”
Leafbuyer: “What are you using CBD for?”
Reuben Droughns: “I was using it for pain, you know, just overall health. I think, in the long run, it's doing things that I can't explain. It's helping me heal from the inside out. When I take the topicals, it helps me in relieving pain. When I take the oils, it's for depression and for an anti-inflammatory.”
Leafbuyer: “Can you tell a difference between the effects of CBD versus Western medicine?”
Reuben Droughns: “Here's the deal: What most of us athletes are stuck on and what we're pushed toward are the opioids, the painkillers, the things of that nature. (CBD) is more of a natural remedy that's going to help us in the long run and not cause any more damage than what these opioids would do to us.”
Leafbuyer: “Is this something that a lot of former football players experience?”
Reuben Droughns: “When you're playing ball, you're pushed toward that way (toward opioids). They're pushing the opioids and those types of medicines, the Western medicines, toward you. Obviously, marijuana and CBD are illegal in the NFL, so they're not going to push those natural remedies toward you. They're going to push the things that they're capable of getting. And that causes problems because guys, after they're done playing, are hooked on these drugs.
“Obviously, the opioid epidemic that's going on right now is not good. That's why, for me, I wanted to get into this to push the natural CBD and the natural remedies to athletes, so they don't have to depend on opioids or Western medicine.”
An Up-hill Battle
Leafbuyer: “Did you struggle with opioids?”
Reuben Droughns: “I did at one point in time, especially when I was playing. You don't think it's a struggle. You're in pain, you take a pill, then you go out that night and you're drinking, and you say, "Hey! We’ll take another pill!" or something like that, which causes problems.
“There's a story I've told before, where I was taking Darvocet. I was coming home from practice, and I fell asleep on the road! I'm sure you're not supposed to drive, but I'm an athlete and I've got to get home. I finally made it home safely, but I could have caused a lot of damage.
“There was another time, I was actually playing ball. I took a Darvocet, then I took a Toradol shot in the neck. I had no idea who I was on the football field. This was right before a game. I had no idea who I was, and it caused more problems after that.
“I was just like, ‘I just can't do it, I have to stop taking these pain pills, even if I have to do treatment, or sit in the hot tub, or smoke marijuana.’ I'd do whatever I needed to do to take away the pain.”
Leafbuyer: “Do you think football players suffer more pain while they're playing during their careers, or after their careers are over?”
Reuben Droughns: “When you're playing, you're still working out, so you're still trying to strengthen the muscles around your joints that are in pain. But when you're out of football, you tend to stop working out. The pain factor starts setting in. So, I think after football is when the pain really takes over.”
Athletes For Care Gives Hope
Leafbuyer: “That's where you come in, because you want to educate these players on, ‘Hey, there's another option.'”
Reuben Droughns: “Yes. You don't have you go through the opioids or Western medicine system. A lot of the guys come out, and the (drugs) aren't given to them anymore, so they have to go buy them on the streets. You don't want guys overdosing on opioids. As a former ball player, these guys are like my fraternity brothers. You want them to be taken care of as well as you want to be taken care of.”
Leafbuyer: “Why did you decide to go public with your support of THC, CBD and cannabinoids?”
Reuben Droughns: “To be honest, the NFL isn't doing anything for us. We're dropped. They drop medical (insurance) after five years. You know, I'm 28, 30, 35 years old. I'm feeling all sprite, I'm still feeling fine. And then three years, four years, five years later, I don't have medical anymore, but the pain is starting to set in.
“There are options – We don't have to go out and chase the pills and things of that nature. There are ointments and oils and topicals and things that will help you out and substitute for opioids.
“I wanted to come out because I wanted these guys to know that they have help.”
Leafbuyer: “Why did you choose to compete in these 420 Games?”
Reuben Droughns: “If anything, it's to help raise awareness. And to get together with my buddies. It's fun to see new football players or guys who are just retiring come out and enjoy these games. And, actually, you feel like you're in the locker room again. It's about awareness and having fun with your friends.”
Leafbuyer: “When you see these guys, how do you get the word out about your love for CBD and your support of it? Do you share your story?”
Reuben Droughns:” I just try to give them examples. I have some sample bottles. I have my own bottle, and I will give it to them just to tell them to try it. I say, ‘If it works, then come talk to me. You know, it's not going to help everybody. Some things work differently for everybody, but if it helps you, come back to me.’
“I give them the contact for Athletes For Care and make sure they're contacting those guys, so they can get involved in this because this movement is great.
“In the long run, especially in the sports world, (cannabis) would help tremendously. You're not getting guys who are hooked on opioids. You're getting guys who are able to treat their pain in different ways. They'll have a choice. If you want to go out there and continue to get opioids or pain pills or any of that stuff, you can. But you’d have the option.”
Leafbuyer: “What do you think draws you to athletes for care and to stay involved?”
Reuben Droughns: “I really want professional sports to be aware of this and really think about how (cannabis) can help and how it can transition into the NFL. You just need to give guys options. Most guys don't want to put these medicines in their bodies. If they can take something natural, it's better for them.
“It's fun for me to be able to speak to these ex-athletes and try to gather all these guys together as one group and one voice.”
Life After the Pros
Leafbuyer: “For people who really have no clue, what is life like as a former athlete?”
Reuben Droughns: “It all depends. When I first retired, I was very depressed. I was so used to playing football and being around the guys. Then all the sudden I'm here. I'm not doing anything. I'm doing family time and stuff like that. So, it's a big adjustment, especially when you first start.
“But now I'm transitioning into being a father and enjoying the father life and taking my kids to play sports and seeing them excited about me. So, being a football player is fun, but I think being around my family is a lot more fun. This is real life.”
Droughns grew up in Anaheim, Calif., then played for the University of Oregon before being drafted to the Detroit Lions in 2000. He played professional football for the Lions, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns, and earned a Super Bowl ring during SuperBowl XLII with the New York Giants. He now lives with his family in Denver, Colo.
This article has been edited for length and clarity.