OT: Erik Ainge and Drug Problems throughout NCAA and NFL career

Submitted by mgokev on March 29th, 2011 at 2:29 PM

I found this article on ESPN.com about Erik Ainge, former UT quarterback and 5th round draft pick by the NY Jets.  This article gives an in-depth account of his struggles with drugs, painkillers, alcohol, and heroin to be specific.  It is also mainly a piece that he wrote himself to bring awareness to athletes with substance abuse problems.

Here are some things I found interesting/appaling:

Throughout that process, I became hooked on pain killers. I got them from the team doctor. I went through the prescriptions pretty fast. After he had been giving them to me for quite a while, he said he couldn't give them to me anymore.

I was hooked on them and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab. I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street. I wasn't the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people. It wasn't, like, super sketchy or anything. We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us.

I hope the above isn't a widespread issue with NCAA athletes across the nation.

I was under the influence pretty much every day, every practice. I mean, I was a drug addict, so it's not like I stopped using drugs for any reason. Did the Jets know? I don't know. That's all they knew me as. I was a drug addict from the first day I stepped foot on the Hofstra campus [site of the team's training base until 2009].

Now the present:

A normal day for me consists of therapy with my psychiatrist and/or NA or AA meetings. Five nights a week, I go to meetings. I had four recovery groups, but I can't afford them anymore because of the NFL lockout.

The lockout has caused a lot of problems for me. My substance-abuse insurance through the NFL and CIGNA got canceled as a result of the lockout. If I were a normal player -- let's say I had a broken leg and I was in the hospital -- they'd have forms they would've sent me to continue receiving insurance through the NFL. Since I'm a drug addict in the drug program, my insurance just got canceled, and I didn't like that.

Interesting to see how the lockout is affecting athletes that aren't the highest paid and able to easily weather the lockout.

The full article can be found here:




March 29th, 2011 at 2:39 PM ^

I'm sure there are Ainge-like stories from around the country without this saving grace:

I bet somewhere in the family, he can find enough money to pay for health care.

I know the OP isn't begging us to feel sorry for Erik Ainge, but I have a hard time sympathizing with a drug addict who comes from prosperity.

Arizona Blue

March 29th, 2011 at 2:49 PM ^

Why does the fact that he came from prosperity make you less sympathetic to his addiction to potentially fatal substances. Drug addiction can be common amongst "prosperous" youth. In fact, wealthy individuals are probably more prone to addiction as they have the monetary means of attaining such substances. 

Sounds like Erik made a poor choice when he was 12, his brain chemistry changed, and he fell into a life long struggle with addiction. sounds pretty tragic to me?


March 29th, 2011 at 5:42 PM ^

Your definition of "tragic" and mine are very different.

I feel worse for kids who are born and never have a chance because they live in a certain area, they don't have a mom or a dad, etc.  

If a kid has all the opportunities in the world and decides to waste them, then so be it.  I'm not wishing that on anyone, but there's a kid who came from nothing who's chomping at the bit to get Ainge's scholarship, take Ainge's spot on an NFL roster, etc.

Arizona Blue

March 29th, 2011 at 7:46 PM ^

First of all, wealthy does not equal lazy. Secondly,  Erik probably didn't have the best home-life growing up if he had access to marajuana at 12 years of age. I know my parents typically did a little due diligence into my life in order to ensure I was not high. 




March 29th, 2011 at 2:55 PM ^

I wasn't posting this for sympathy for Erik Ainge, though it does sound tragic and kudos to him for using his position in public to bring awareness.  This article popped out at me more for the fact that pain killer use may be a common thing in NCAA sports as it seems like it is at UT.  Also, I am surprised that his insurance is dropped for drug rehabilitation during the lockout.  Yes, the Ainge family has planty of money, but that struck me as something that many of the NFL players, especially those that may be utilizing that resource to better themselves that don't have family money and making league minimum pre-lockout, may not be able to take advantage of anymore.

The article also talks about his trouble with cops in Tennessee and that they turn a blind eye due to his past with UT football.  I know we all know the NCAA isn't pure by any means, but free painkillers and get out of jail free cards might just be some of the perks of being a big-time NCAA athlete nowadays.

LSA Superstar

March 29th, 2011 at 4:01 PM ^

I'm not sure whether or not this should impact how you feel, but many people who have rich lifestyles (people who are wealthy, people who are popular, people who are succesful, people who are held in high esteem, people who have many advantages that others do not) cannot reconcile their success in contrast to the tremendous struggle they see less fortunate people enduring. This inability to reconcile their own situation with others in the world sometimes leads to nihilism but other times leads to tremendous cognitive dissonance and self-loathing. Deep, genuine self-loathing is the impetus for tremendous numbers of addicts of all varieties; the addictive behavior helps to ameliorate the root dissonance because they see their success hurting themselves, making it easier to cope with the misfortune they may see in the world that they have avoided.

Some psychologists deem this process "the drive to suffer proportionately."

You might not even believe that this is so. I would argue that it is all around us if we take the time to notice it.

Again - it doesn't mean you should feel bad for Ainge, but it's something to consider.


March 29th, 2011 at 3:01 PM ^

I knew Danny Ainge was a mormon but I had no idea he was a bishop of his church.  I don't know where he finds the time to do all that and run the Celtics into the ground with nonsensical trades.

As for his nephew Erik he has a long road ahead of him.  Like he said in the article, getting released from rehab doesn't mean you're cured.  It's just the beginning of the process that is sobriety.  I wish him the best of luck.


March 29th, 2011 at 4:09 PM ^

This was a sad, but interesting, read. I've always been a HUGE fan of Danny Ainge and it's good to know he's still out there doing good things like helping his nephew through this.