Former NFL Player Says Marijuana Helped Him Cope After ALS Diagnosis

Former NFL player Steve Gleason held an audience at a Louisiana committee meeting riveted as he gave testimony recently on how cannabis helped pull him out of a downward spiral that started when he learned he had ALS.

ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease. It impacts nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. ALS leads to the brain losing the ability to initiate and control muscle movement. The condition became known to the general public when New York Yankee player Lou Gehrig received an ALS diagnosis in the 1930s.

In his testimony, posted on his Twitter feed, Gleason wrote about the “downward spiral” he went through after he received the ALS diagnosis and how medical marijuana helped pull him out of it when prescription drugs could not.

He said after using cannabis, “I felt good physically and my head was much clearer. I felt free – free from the downward spiral.” Recent studies show that many people feel the same, using fewer prescription painkillers in places where cannabis is legal.

The Side Effects of Prescription Drugs

Steve Gleason played for the New Orleans Saints from 2000 to 2006. He famously blocked a punt in a game against the Atlanta Falcons that lead to the Saints scoring their first points since the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A statue capturing the moment is outside the Superdome.

Gleason received his ALS diagnosis in 2011. He recently spoke before the state’s Medical Marijuana Commission. The state legislature created the commission to explore ways of improving the state’s medical marijuana law. Recreational marijuana is not legal in Louisiana.

Gleason arrived in a wheelchair and spoke to the commission using a computer that tracks his eye movements. He said doctors initially told him he could die within three years. Over the next two years, he lost the ability to move or talk. Soon, he started to lose the ability to breathe.

“The experts prescribed anxiety pills and I got more sleep, but during the day I felt like a zombie. I was ultra lethargic, I started to feel purposeless, and I became mostly unproductive,” he said. He said the side effects of anxiety and pain pills – including headaches – helped push him toward a “psychological downward spiral.”

Then, a friend suggested medical marijuana.

Cannabis Helped Gleason Improve Significantly

Gleason ended up using a cannabis tincture. He said using the extract helped him regain his purpose. Gradually, he felt well enough to move out of the single bed where doctors had suggested he sleep. He began to sleep in a king-size bed once again with his wife.

He also found the energy to expand his foundation, Team Gleason, that has given more than $18 million to care services to more than 20,000 people with ALS.

“This new solution allowed me to ween off prescription pharmaceuticals completely,” Gleason said. “I felt good physically, and my head was much clearer. I felt healthy, I felt energized, I felt free.”

He later added, “From my experience, medical marijuana is a much better solution than pills.”

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