Footy legend Andrew Johns has been open in the past about his battle with bipolar disorder and recreational drug use, but the former Knights star has revealed the surprising secret that is helping his chronic pain and brain seizures – medicinal cannabis.
The rugby league Immortal admitted his ‘body is shot’, but has spoken about the relief medicinal cannabis has given him after more than 300 games of top-flight footy.
Johns was also diagnosed with frontal lobe epilepsy in 2016, which caused seizures and resulted in him smashing his head after one episode at a cafe.
He said taking medicinal cannabis has proven to be a ‘game-changer’ for both his chronic post-footy pain and seizures.
Andrew Johns played 23 State of Origin games for the NSW Blues in an illustrious career
‘I have been taking medicinal cannabis for 18 months now as well as the medication I’m taking… and am seizure-free,’ Johns told the Sunday Telegraph.
Johns revealed he had been forced to rely on sleeping pills and anti-inflammatory tablets, particularly for back and neck pain, for almost 30 years – but medicinal cannabis had reversed that need.
Johns is currently a commentator for Channel 9’s rugby league coverage
‘I can go to the park now and kick the footy. I can jog. I hadn’t run for 10 years. It is so nice to run around and play with the kids,’ he said.
‘Obviously after coming home from calling footy, I would be wired. I used to have sleeping tablets to put me to sleep, but I haven’t had a sleeping tablet in those 18 months.
‘I read a lot but sometimes my mind can wander. Now my concentration is better. And my partner Kate says I am calmer,’ said Johns.
Andrew Johns with current partner Kate Kendall, who is a yoga teacher
Johns’ ‘checked past’ and health issues are well documented.
In 2007, just two years after retiring from one of the greatest-ever rugby league careers, he came clean about using recreational drugs throughout his career after he was found with an ecstasy tablet at a London underground railway station.
British transport police cautioned him and released him without charge – but it forced the league great to come clean on the Footy Show in one of the more explosive sports interviews in recent memory.
At the same time he also revealed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health illness that can lead to extreme depression, or a manic ‘high’ and state of euphoria.
Johns also suffered multiple serious injuries throughout his career, including several concussions, a debilitating neck injury, a torn ACL and a broken jaw – to name a few.
It’s clear Johns believes his medicinal cannabis use has had a big effect on his life.
His decision to go public with his use coincides with the revelation he has joined the sports advisory board of pharmaceutical company Levin Health, which is headed up by former North Melbourne star Mark Brayshaw.
Johns said his decision to take medicinal cannabis and join the advisory board came down to wanting to stay true to himself.
‘The people close to me know I am taking it and why I am taking it and they all say the same thing: it is a natural product,’ he said.
According to the Levin Health website, the company is researching the benefits of medicinal cannabis, particularly in regards to chronic pain, with the help of several high-profile athletes like Lauren Jackson and four-time premiership-winning coach Alastair Clarkson.
Medicinal cannabis doesn’t contain THC, which is the ingredient in ‘regular’ cannabis that produces a high to users.
The main crucial ingredient in medicinal cannabis is cannabidiol, or CBD.
This CBD hemp oil doesn’t elicit a high, with the main ingredient cannabidiol
It is legal to use in Australia, but a prescription from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is needed in order to access the drug.
Medicinal cannabis use is starting to become more high-profile as footy stars, actors and singers continue to reveal their use.
Current Richmond coach Damien Hardwick, who is also on Levin Health’s sports advisory board, told Daily Mail Australia earlier this year about his decision to take medicinal cannabis.
The three-time premiership coach and two-time premiership player was known as a hard-as-nails customer during his 207 game career, but it was a horrific bike accident 10 years ago which prompted him to look into medicinal cannabis.
Damien Hardwick, like Johns, also takes medicinal cannabis to combat chronic pain
‘It is an oil that I take, a couple of drops under the tongue every night and morning,’ Hardwick said.
‘The pain (from the bike accident) was so debilitating it affected my quality of life,’ he said.
‘At various stages the pain goes to a nine out of 10. I could bear with it with anti-inflammatories for a period of time, but I could only take a certain amount before it would start having an adverse effect.
‘Este [medicinal cannabis] takes the pain from a nine to a two,’ said Hardwick.
WNBA star Brittney Griner told a Russian court she has a US medicinal cannabis prescription
Jockey Damien Oliver has also been public about his medicinal cannabis use, while TV stars such as Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman and singer Lady Gaga have also shared the benefits they have derived from the drug.
WNBA star Brittney Griner is currently in a Russian jail cell after being found with vape cartridges containing hashish oil at a Moscow airport.
She told a Russian court has a medicinal cannabis prescription in the US to deal with chronic pain.