On December 12th, the MLB announced it would no longer be testing players for cannabis, and instead will test for opioids, fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic THC in a new approach to drug use.
Major League Baseball has officially removed cannabis from its list of "drugs of abuse," shifting focus onto fentanyl, opioids cocaine and synthetic THC rather than marijuana use.
Previously, when MLB players were found guilty of marijuana offenses, they could face a fine of up to $35,000 per violation. Now, marijuana-related offenses fall in line with alcohol-related offenses, meaning that if players test positive for cannabis, they will receive treatment and evaluation rather than a fine.
The shifting approach towards cannabis use within the MLB is the result of the death of 27-year-old Anaheim Angels player Tyler Skaggs, whose autopsy revealed that fentanyl, oxycodone, and alcohol led to his death when he choked on vomit.
According to the LA times, "Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid similar to morphine but 50 to 100 times more potent on a weight-by-weight basis. When taken in uncontrolled concentrations by unsuspecting users, or by users whose opioid tolerance has not been heightened by long-term use, the drug is more likely even than prescription opioids to suppress respiration and cause death."
On the reason for the lessened focus upon cannabis and increased focus on opioids, Dan Halem, the MLB Deputy Commissioner stated that "the opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball."
It is our hope that this agreement—which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education—will help protect the health and safety of our players. Dan Halem, MLB Deputy Commissioner
"It is our collective hope that this agreement will help raise public awareness on the risks and dangers of opioid medications and contribute positively to a national conversation about this important topic," Halem concluded.
And when it comes to opioids, athletes often find themselves more addicted than the general public.
Sports often lead to injury, which often leads to a prescription of opiates. A study performed by Washington University's School of Medicine found that 7% of NFL athletes had misused opioid prescription painkillers, a rate nearly four times higher than the general public.
The MLB also released a statement on the updated drug policy, in which they stated their goal of shifting toward a more "treatment-based approach" to tackling drug use.
"In agreeing to these modifications to the Program, MLB and the MLBPA continue to favor a treatment-based approach to Drugs of Abuse, with a particular emphasis on protecting Players from lethal and addictive substances, and providing effective and confidential care and support to Players who need it," MLB said.
The current director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy James Carroll said that "we applaud the efforts of both Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association to prioritize treatment over punishment" and that this "historic agreement is an example of how we can all work toward a common goal and save more of our friends, family members, and neighbors from dying of a drug overdose."
"By coming together, the parties are implementing positive change that has the potential to save lives," Caroll concluded.
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