Jeff Friesen (left) took a lot of hits during his twelve-year career, including this one in 2006.
Jeff Friesen (left) took a lot of hits during his twelve-year career, including this one in 2006.
Flickr Creative Commons/pointnshoot

Op Ed: How Cannabis Transformed the Life of a Stanley Cup Winner

As a former professional ice hockey player, I endured multiple injuries during my career and am no stranger to pain. Hockey is, after all, a full-contact sport, and the National Hockey League has seen players afflicted with some of the athletic world’s most brutal injuries. Passion for the sport pushes players well past their physical boundaries time and time again, in a perpetual cycle of pain and prescription pills.

At 36, I retired from a rewarding 800-game NHL career, which included winning a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils. I loved my teammates, and most of all, I loved the game — but I had suffered too much to continue down the path I was on. I spent the better part of my NHL years being prescribed powerful pharmaceuticals and opioids in order to withstand the physical suffering. I endured one physical blow after another: multiple fractured bones, concussions, muscle and tissue injury, severe inflammation — and that merely scratches the surface. To continue playing, I required a myriad of drugs — or so I was told by every doctor I visited.

My retirement was my breaking point. I wanted to stop taking harmful medications for the pain. I had inflicted enough damage on my body, and could no longer perpetuate the toxic pattern. Over and over, I experienced serious side effects from the prescriptions that were supposed to remedy my ailments. Each symptom I sought to relieve was replaced by a new one — and worst of all, I was becoming addicted. Fortunately, I soon discovered a successful — albeit unexpected — solution.

Just over eleven years ago, I obtained a medical marijuana card to treat my pain with cannabis. It was a last resort, but truthfully, it should have been my first, potentially saving me valuable time and energy. My miraculous experience with medical cannabis allowed me to stop taking pharmaceuticals altogether, almost immediately. Free of negative side effects or lethargy, I finally felt intellectually and physically focused — I felt like myself again. It was the answer I’d been searching for, and honestly, it transformed my life. Still, despite the clear results, I felt compelled to keep my treatment a secret for years. At that point, marijuana carried a heavier stigma than it does today — even though I lived in California, where it was medically legal.

Friesen now prefers cannabis instead of prescription painkillers.
Friesen now prefers cannabis instead of prescription painkillers.
Courtesy of the Rosen Group

I quickly began immersing myself in the world of cannabis, conducting thorough research and studying the safest and most effective ways to deliver the plant’s benefits without smoking the medicine. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to have researched and found smoke-free products like the Evolve Formulas Transdermal NanoSerum — which is applied topically to provide rapid relief at no risk to lung health. I learned how microdosing is ideal for athletes and non-athletes alike who are seeking to use the minimum amount of the plant to achieve the desired level of relief, free of unwanted psychoactivity.

While the cannabis stigma is undoubtedly still present in society, public perception of the plant is quickly changing — particularly in the sports world. Today, increasingly more athletes are stepping forward to share their story and to advocate for the adoption of cannabis into a responsible recovery and wellness regimen. Organizations like Athletes for Care have been formed to spread awareness of the plant’s remarkable benefits, and to advance cannabis research and education into the future.

As we approach widespread legalization, the momentum is beginning to pick up speed with no sign of slowing down. With Canada recently passing legislation to make cannabis recreationally legal across the country and with multiple states in the United States already on board, it’s clear that athletes and non-athletes alike are finding unprecedented relief in cannabis. Progress toward destigmatization is on track to continue, and we are well on our way to making the medical benefits of the plant globally available.

For those living in legal states and open to making a change: Whether you’re tired of depending on damaging opioids or are simply searching for a more natural alternative to swallowing ibuprofen multiple times a day, cannabis could help. Consider seeing a medical professional or local dispensary staff member to discuss the ways that it can open up a new safer alternative to harmful pharmaceutical medications and promote a safe and natural pain-free lifestyle, as it did for me.

Jeff Friesen played over twelve seasons in the NHL for six teams, scoring over fifty points in the 2003 season on his way to winning the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils. Today Friesen is a medical marijuana advocate and brand ambassador for Evolve Formulas.

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds about issues of interest to Colorado residents. If you have one you'd like to submit, send it to editorial@westword.com.

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