CBD Oil & Concussions | “CBD Saved Me From Alcoholism” – Cullen Jenkins
Former Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins now turns to CBD oil for pain treatment
The pain was so bad, Cullen Jenkins got to the point where he had to rely on two V***din just to get through an NFL game.
The former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman started to feel the aches and strains of football during his final season at Central Michigan, even before his rookie debut in the NFL in 2003. But by the end of his 13-year professional career, pain was a constant companion, from his torn pectoral that had to be drained of excess fluid to his injured ankle and battered quadriceps.
When the 37-year-old retired in 2016 after playing with the Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, he was regularly using opiates to dull the pain and drinking alcohol to numb the senses. Sleep was elusive.
Jenkins, who came back from a calf injury to help push the Packers to a Super Bowl XLV victory, fell into a deep depression, living with the side effects and hangovers of strong painkillers and alcohol. “I’m not trying to say a sympathy story,” Jenkins said. “Or say it was terrible. When you play football, you know the risk that comes with it. If I could do it again? I would do it again.
“For me, it’s finding ways to deal with it post-career. With football they have all the programs for continuing education, job things. But if you’re in a lot of pain, you’re kind of just cut off.”
So Jenkins has recently turned to a controversial supplement instead: Cannabidiol, better known as CBD oil.
The chemical, extracted from a cannibals sativa plant, is known to have numerous benefits in the form of managing chronic pain, promoting sleep and thereby reducing depression and anxiety.
Jenkins, who now lives in New Jersey, is in Los Angeles this week promoting the CBD oil company he is working with, Fresh Farms CBD, of which he also has become an investor. He talked about his new method of treating his pain in a phone interview with the Journal Sentinel on Thursday.
Playing for the Giants
Jenkins was playing for the New York Giants (2013-’15) when he relied on Vicodin regularly. He would take a full pill right before pregame, then he would take a half of a pill right before kickoff and the other half at halftime. He was a warrior and it took a lot to pull him off the field.
“Like they say you’ve got to be available,” Jenkins said.
There was only one injury in his whole career – a pectoral tear – that put him on injured reserve, in 2008. Otherwise, he endured everything. The most painful injury was in his third year in Green Bay when he suffered a bone bruise on his ankle.
“It never healed,” said Jenkins.
He didn’t get it fixed surgically until a few months after the pectoral surgery in 2008.
He also believes he suffered more than one concussion. When he played for the Eagles on a Sunday night game, he landed a big hit on Giants running back D.J. Ware, who fell unconscious before hitting the ground.
“I was so excited,” Jenkins said. “When I got in to the locker room and sat down, everything was all over the place. They were talking plays but I had to get some of the smelling ammonia.”
Drinking alcohol was always a way for Jenkins to try to relax and sleep. He had young children at home, too, so his work days were hard and his evenings were busy.
“It would help me chill out,” Jenkins said. “It’s not like you can take all of your issues from work and go home and be frustrated. You find ways to relax and to be happy at home.
“I drank about anything. As it got later on in my career, it became a lot more often. Like, you know, a lot. It’s not something I’m very proud about. But it’s something that’s a reality.”
The depression came in 2017, like it does for so many NFL players who retire after long careers. Football wasn’t just Jenkins’ livelihood; it was his identity. It was a part of his family — brother Kris also had a great NFL career (and also struggled with drinking and depression).
“All of a sudden it comes to an abrupt end,” Cullen Jenkins said. “And before, you’re hurting — but there’s a reason why you’re hurting. Games, practice. Now you’re hurting — but there is no football.”
Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins suffered many injuries during his NFL career. (Photo: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Jenkins had smoked marijuana in the past for pain, too, but hated it.
“I was paranoid, my mind would be all over the place,” Jenkins said. “If something happened, am I going to be in the right state of mind to be able to deal with it? With my kids? So I didn’t like doing it.”
So when members of his family suggested cannabis and CBD oil for his pain and insomnia, Jenkins was very reluctant. He associated the chemical with the high he got from smoking marijuana. Convinced they were not the same, he started ingesting CBD oil in January.