As far as most Westerners are concerned, there is no greater evil than tobacco, especially where athletic prowess is concerned.

An issue of Tobacco & the Elderly Notes from 1998 examplifies the anti-tobacco stance with its feature which deplores past sports stars advertising cigarettes. Yet, my post yesterday showed that a number of top athletes enjoyed their smokes and still went on to break records during their satisfying careers.

I wonder what the editors of Tobacco & the Elderly Notes would think of the increasing drug use prevalent among high school, college and professional athletes? Is that a better proposition than tobacco?

I used to support the legalisation of cannabis until I saw what it did to a friend of ours. He never quite recovered from his use of skunk during the 1990s. What started out as recreational led to divorce and estrangement from his child, by now an adolescent. Even now that he’s gone straight, he’s still irritable, excitable and paranoid.

For those my age and older, it’s impossible to get the old strains which are now so last century. Every variety of cannabis on the market today has some psychotropic element to it. It’s no longer a case of a happy or sleepy high. It’s affecting people like our friend adversely.

Furthermore, use of other drugs, including K2, is on the increase by athletes.

College athletes and marijuana

Recreator has a series of excellent graphics and NCAA statistics which everyone should have a look at.

It will surprise many.

The survey is taken every four years. Results published are from the 2013 survey.

More than 20% of athletes smoked dope in 2005 (21%), 2009 (23%) and 2013 (22%).

One quarter of male athletes smoked it in 2013 versus 17% of women athletes.

Use by NCAA division statistics are as follows: Division I is 16%; Division II is 20% and Division III shows a significant 29%.

Statistics for marijuana use by sport revealed that 46% of lacrosse players smoke. Next are swimming (32%) and soccer (31%), followed by football (23%) and, finally, basketball (19%).

A 2012 article in Time on American football players states (emphases mine):

What is surprising is the frequency, proliferation and seeming constancy of the confessed drug useESPN The Magazine‘s Sam Alipour begins with a detailed scene of an Oregon football player, fresh off this year’s Rose Bowl victory, kicking back by rolling a joint. The unnamed player (there are many unnamed sources in the article, which isn’t surprising given the content) estimates that about half of the team smokes marijuana on a regular basis. The magazine also cited interviews with 19 current and former Ducks going back a decade and a half who put that number at between 40 and 60%.

The article states that, even more unusual is that, generally speaking, some football players get high before practice — or a game.

It used to be that such activity could harm one’s chances for a professional career. Today, it’s less of a problem:

For many athletes, the only downside to being caught using marijuana is a drop in their draft status, but there is an interesting catch-22 in which NFL scouts and executives assume that because so many athletes have used marijuana, they don’t believe those who claim they haven’t.

An article on draft picks on NFL.com, also from 2012, looked at the same ESPN Magazine report that Time did. We learn the following:

Four out of 10 draft-eligible prospects from the 2012 class failed at least one school-administered drug test for marijuana; two in 10 failed multiple times, per a CBS Sports report from April.

“About 70 percent” of prospects at the combine admitted to using marijuana, per an ESPN report.

NFL players

The NFL.com article considered the ESPN report alongside three marijuana-related arrests in the Detroit Lions that year:

Lomas Brown, now an ESPN analyst, claims at least 50 percent of NFL players likely smoke marijuana, according to a report in the Detroit News

“I just don’t think you’ll be able to curb this,” Brown told the newspaper.

In Brown’s eyes, this is actually an improvement. Brown claims up to 90 percent of players league-wide smoked marijuana when he began his career with the Lions in 1985.

K2 — undetectable — popular with youths and pros

Three years ago I wrote about the dangers of synthetic drug K2, which is widely available and legal. It is sold in filling stations and malls.

K2 looks like a little packet of potpourri and all packets say ‘not for consumption’.

ThePostGame has an excellent article on the increased popularity of K2 with athletes, from high school to professional level.

K2 is smoked and mimics cannabis. It is also undetectable in drug tests:

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 14 cases of K2 exposure in the 48 states plus the District of Columbia in 2009. In 2010, that number exploded to 2,888. Already this year, there have been nearly 1,000. In the last four months alone, 151 Navy sailors have been accused of using or possessing the drug.

The U.S. Naval Academy expelled eight midshipmen last month for using K2.

Jay Schauben, director of the Florida Poison Control Center, warns:

The possible side effects include significant hallucination, cardiac effects, seizures, rapid heart rate, hypertension, severe agitation, passing out, and panic attacks.

Anyone who takes K2 is playing Russian roulette.

Secondary school use

ThePostGame‘s article opens with a profile of an 18-year-old K2 user who committed suicide. David was a notionally all-American boy living with his mother and father. He ended his life just after attending a high school graduation party. His parents had no reason to believe their son was using any sort of unusual substance until his girlfriend spoke with them a few days later.

My aforementioned post from 2012 recapped a drowning incident involving a 19-year old high school football player in Florida who took K2 with a friend. He didn’t want to go home and the friend left him alone, never imagining the youth would drown himself in a nearby creek.

University use

Athletes at university level like K2 because drug tests cannot detect it. Consequently, it is being heavily marketed on campuses all over the US:

“We’re receiving more reports of its use in the athlete population,” says Frank Uryasz, director of the National Center of Drug-Free Sport … ‘We’re getting reports from colleges, where athletes are asking about it.”

One such report to the Drug-Free Sport hotline, from an NCAA athletic trainer, reads:

“Three student-athletes were breaking apart cigarettes, mixing it with K2, rolling it back up into papers and then smoking. One young man, who had NO past medical history, had a seizure and lost consciousness. He was found outside the dorm by campus security convulsing. His heart rate was elevated above 200 for enough time that he was admitted for 24 hours of observation … When asked why he did it: “I didn’t think it would be that much of a rush, I had no control over my body in that I could see but could not talk or speak.”

Just because they are young and fit does not mean that university athletes are immune to harm from K2, especially when combined with another substance:

Performance-enhancing drugs may add yet another layer of risk. “If you combine these products and steroids, I can’t begin to predict the negative consequences,” says Anthony Scalzo, director of toxicology at St. Louis University. “If you add these stresses to the heart, someone’s probably going to have a heart attack from it.”

NFL use

One pro explained his drug-taking strategy:

I go straight weed in the off-season,” one NFL veteran told ThePostGame.com on condition of anonymity. “Then, in-season, when they test, I go to [K2].”

It is highly possible that within the next few years we might see unexpected deaths in fit athletes — including professionals — using K2.

And people rail against tobacco and nicotine!

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