Wracked with pain; tormented by homicidal and suicidal thoughts; and suffering from depression, anxiety, acute sensitivity to light and sleep disorder - all exacerbated by the cocktail of painkillers and psychotropic drugs he took to ameliorate his symptoms - former San Diego State University and NFL star offensive lineman Kyle Turley was desperate for relief.
"The years of [prescription drug] use started to manifest in very negative ways," says Turley, a resident of Riverside who was a Consensus All-American at SDSU and the first-round draft choice (seventh overall) of the New Orleans Saints in 1998.
Turley, 40, says he started using prescription medications for football- related injuries in 1996, his sophomore year at SDSU, when he blew out a knee for the first time. It began what he says was a lengthy addiction to the prescription pharmaceuticals he took to deal with the aftermath of multiple injuries and surgeries, plus the effects of what he estimates to be 100 concussions - which the 6'5", 300-pound tackle amassed as a collegian and during nine NFL seasons in the trenches for the Saints, Rams and Chiefs .
"A 20-year-plus relationship with pharmaceuticals sent me on this path to realize there's a better life to be had than the one I [was] currently living," he says.
The life-changing ingredient, Turley says, was cannabis.
He says he discovered the therapeutic benefits of marijuana in 1999, his second season with the Saints. About nine months ago, he stopped using prescription pharmaceuticals altogether and now uses only cannabis to deal with his health issues.
"Since being completely free from [pharmaceuticals], I've noticed a night-and-day difference in cognitive activity," he says. "There are certain [cannabis] strains that I cannot do without. This has totally changed my life."
Hopeful of helping others football players enjoy similar results, Turley founded the San Diego-based Gridiron Cannabis Coalition (gridironcannabis.com) and says its national base is growing.
"Our purpose is to legalize marijuana in America; use our voices to help continue to promote the benefits of cannabis for our community," he says. "I wish I knew then what I know now, because I would still be playing football. There's no doubt about that."