Houston Rockets assistant coach John Lucas is someone we should listen to when it comes to substance abuse issues in the professional sports world.
A former No. 1 overall pick of the Rockets back in 1976, Lucas dealt with cocaine and alcohol addiction during his playing career.
Cocaine itself was a major issue in the United States at the time, directly impacting several teammates of Lucas with the Rockets. In fact, both Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis Lloyd were banished from the NBA for their use of the drug.
Now completely sober and working to help athletes overcome chemical dependency, Lucas himself has first-hand experience regarding drug use. His stance is much different than what we have seen in mainstream America with multiple states legalizing marijuana for medical use.
“A lot of kids are picking schools based on the (marijuana) smoking policy because the rule can get you in trouble. The education for now has been changed because people are investing in buying drug companies, marijuana farms because it’s legal,” Lucas said in an in-depth interview on ESPN’s The Undefeated. “It’s being legalized, but it’s still like nicotine and alcohol. It can kill you. It won’t kill you from smoking it, but it creates a big form of depression.”
It’s the argument that marijuana itself acts as a gateway drug and does indeed impact the mental stability of those who use the organic substance. It’s also an argument that the mainstream has gone away from in recent years.
In the NBA specifically, this has been somewhat of a hot-button topic. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who is currently sidelined with a back ailment, recently admitted to using medical marijuana to cope with the pain of his post-surgery reality (more on that here).
In the NFL, the idea of medical marijuana has been a paramount feature of recent debates. Former Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe retired at the young age of 29 following the 2015 season. He’s since become an advocate of medical marijuana on the gridiron.
The league itself is potentially in the midst of changing up its drug policy, likely leading to the inclusive use of medical marijuana as an alternative to traditional painkillers.
Some might take Lucas’ comments out of context. They will look at his quote there and conclude that he’s out of touch with reality. But like in all facets of life, personal experience plays a role in your thought process.
For Lucas, his rock-bottom days of the mid 1980s is a central theme in what he views to be the issue with athletes today.
“In the early morning of March 14, 1986, John Lucas was found blacked out in downtown Houston. He was wearing a suit, athletic socks and no shoes,” the ESPN feature read. “Cocaine and alcohol shut the then-Houston Rockets guard down before the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense had a chance to do it.”
It’s this type of give and take that is needed when debating the legitimacy of marijuana as either a medical alternative or a recreational drug choice for professional athletes.
We applaud Lucas for opening up. In no way does this mean that all of our stances should remain the same. In today’s world, getting out of your own little echo chamber could work wonders. Lucas’ comments may help in that aspect.