Co-Use of Opioids and Sedatives Among Retired National Football League Athletes

Zachary L. Mannes, Deborah S. Hasin, Arbi Ben Abdallah, Linda B. Cottler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective:Among the general population, co-use of opioids and sedatives is associated with greater risk of overdose compared with opioid use alone. National Football League (NFL) retirees experience higher rates of opioid use than the general population, although little is known about their co-use with sedatives. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence and risk factors of opioid and sedative co-use among NFL retirees.Design:Retrospective cohort study.Setting:Professional American football.Participants:NFL retirees (N = 644).Independent Variables:Self-reported concussions, pain intensity, heavy alcohol use, physical and mental health impairment, disability status.Main Outcome Measure:Any past 30-day co-use of opioids and sedatives.Results:Approximately 4.9% of the sample reported past 30-day co-use of opioids and sedatives, although nearly 30% of retirees using opioids also used sedatives. Greater pain was associated with co-use of opioids and sedatives (adjusted odds ratios [aOR] = 1.58; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.23-1.98), although retirees with moderate/severe mental health impairment (vs none/mild; aOR = 2.47; 95% CI = 1.04-5.91) and disability (vs no disability; aOR = 1.35; 95% CI = 1.05-1.73) demonstrated greater odds of co-use compared with retirees not using either substance.Conclusions:Given the high rate of sedative use among participants also using opioids, NFL retirees may be susceptible to the negative health consequences associated with co-use. Interventions focused on improving pain and mental health may be especially effective for reducing co-use of these substances among NFL retirees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-328
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Journal of Sport Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • co-use
  • National Football League
  • opioids
  • pain
  • sedatives


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