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NFL star reveals how medical cannabis helped his ALS – “I felt it was worth the risk”

Steve Gleason spoke about how medical cannabis helped his motor neurone disease and saved him from a downward spiral.



Gleason retired from the NFL in 2008 after eight seasons
Gleason retired from the NFL in 2008 after eight seasons

Former NFL star for the New Orleans Saints, Steve Gleason spoke publicly about using medical cannabis to help his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neurone disease (MND).

Gleason, who was testifying before the Medical Marijuana Commission set up by the Lousiana legislature, summarised his statement on Twitter on 27 August.

The state is currently exploring options for improving the limited market created since legalisation in 2015. Gleason retired from the NFL in 2008 after eight seasons, although the league have since relaxed their policies on cannabis and CBD.

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Gleason said cannabis saved him from a ‘downward spiral’ following his diagnosis, after he was given a tincture by a friend from a state where cannabis was legal.

Gleason was diagnosed with MND in 2011 and is now in a wheelchair as a result of the neuromuscular disease. Motor Neurone Disease (MND) (ALS) is a condition that affects the brain and nerves.

It is a progressive disease that gets worse with time causing pain, weakness leading to severe paralysis and breathing difficulties. It is caused by a problem with cells in the brain and nerves called motor neurones that gradually stop working overtime.

While it is an uncommon condition, it is thought to affect 5000 in the UK. Gleason revealed his diagnosis in a documentary in 2016.

He spoke through a computer that tracks his eye movements to describe a dark point in 2013. His doctors suggested that he move a hospital bed into his home to sleep in while prescribing him pain medication. He spoke of the anger and resentment he felt at having to use a hospital bed designed to stop people from falling off when he had no movement.

“The irony was here I was staring at the ceiling without any ability to move. I was angry and resentful… This was something of a downward spiral.”

Feeling the difference

The side effects of his medication made him feel worse. The physical discomfort brought ‘overwhelming fear’ to his mind. It was then that a friend offered him a cannabis tincture despite its illegality in Lousiana.

Gleason described the effect the cannabis had on him. He noticed he had more energy, productivity and was better able to function. “I felt it was worth the risk of committing a crime, but just for safe measure, I did bring our attorney. I felt good physically and my head was much clearer. I felt free—free from the downward spiral.”

Cannabis and the law

There was just one problem, the law.

“I felt it was worth the risk of committing a crime… I felt good physically and my head was much clearer. I felt free—free from the downward spiral.”

Gleason said that cannabis gave him the ability to find a new purpose in his life. He went back to sleeping in his regular bed and began working on his ALS advocacy foundation, Team Gleason.

In a closing statement, the former NFL star said: “I’m not saying it all happened because of the help of medical marijuana, but I can say with 100 percent confidence that those accomplishments, the inspiration, nor the tens of thousands of people that we serve—none of it happens if I were still on those prescription pills.”

NFL and cannabis

Gleason is not the only NFL star to speak about the benefits of plant-based medicine in recent weeks.

In August, during a Pro-Football Hall of Fame speech, former NFL athlete, Calvin Johnson praised cannabis and said it’s time to invest in research.

Johnson revealed that he spent most of his career suffering from back pain after an injury in his rookie season. He revealed he treated his pain with cannabis after every game before retiring at the age of 30. He now runs a cannabis company with other NFL players.

“To the NFL, college football and all major sports, including the Olympics, it’s about time that we recognise the potential of phytomedicines, plant medicines, to aid and improve the mental health and quality of life for so many.”

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