Marijuana helped former NHL champion Darren McCarty beat alcoholism, he says. 'I would've been dead without it.'

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Marijuana helped former NHL champion Darren McCarty beat alcoholism, he says. 'I would've been dead without it.'
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13 Jun 1998: Darren McCarty of the Detroit Red Wings in action during the Stanley Cup Finals game against the Washington Capitals at the MCI Center in Washington, D. C.. The Red Wings defeated the Capitals 2-1.
Darren McCarty. Robert Laberge/Getty Images
  • Former Detroit Red Wings player Darren McCarty is a recovering alcoholic.

  • Overcoming alcoholism was difficult, but smoking marijuana helped him do it, he said.

  • McCarty said pot helped him become more aware of the effects alcohol was having on him.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Darren McCarty said he wouldn't be alive today if he never found marijuana.

The former NHL star and four-time Stanley Cup champion balanced a 16-year hockey career with binge drinking and alcoholism, McCarty told Insider in an interview. But once he retired in 2009, there was no sport left to balance out his addiction, and his drinking habits escalated to life-threatening levels over the next six years.

"I was 280 pounds," McCarty said. "My blood pressure when I was in the hospital was 265 over 145. I should be dead."

But in November 2015, he made the decision to do a seven-day detox in his garage while under the care of his wife Sheryl Simmons, who served as his nurse.

But the key ingredient that helped McCarty get through the detox, he said, was Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO, a cannabis-oil product with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana that gets users high.

"It had to go down to me literally being on my death bed," McCarty said. "We used 10 to 15 grams of RSO for seven days until I woke up from a pretty much induced coma of RSO when I wasn't puking or purging, and I got the physical addiction of alcohol out of my system."

McCarty said he's been alcohol-free for nearly six years, and he credits marijuana and its natural awareness-enhancing remedies as playing a key role in helping him overcome that addiction. Now he wants to share the science behind the drug with others in need of its remedies to beat their own conditions, including addiction.

"It's not the gateway drug - it's an exit strategy," McCarty said.

McCarty was an established NHL star before trying marijuana

McCarty said his relationship with alcohol started years before his relationship with marijuana.

As a native of British Columbia, Canada, where the drinking age is 19, McCarty got a head start with alcohol when he was just 14.

Meanwhile, the negative stigmas around pot kept him away from that drug throughout his youth.

"When you're in Canada, you can drink a beer when you're 12," McCarty said. "It's, like, 'Stay away from this plant! But here, drink your face off, kid.' Marijuana is worse than puking on your parents' kitchen table because you're drunk. It's the stigma of it, and it's just crazy to look back on."

It was until 1999 when McCarty was 27 years old and had already won two Stanley Cup championships, that he said he got high from marijuana for the first time. He had just had his first sports hernia surgery, and his doctor was trying to prescribe him painkiller medication, but he wouldn't accept it, he said.

Darren McCarty
McCarty. Robert Laberge/Getty Images

McCarty's friend persuaded him to try marijuana as a more holistic way to recover from the surgery.

When McCarty got high for the first time, it set him on the path that would eventually help him overcome his alcoholism, as the enhanced awareness ultimately helped him realize that he had to put alcohol behind him.

"I smoked, and it was right then and there: I remember laying on the couch going, 'Oh shit, this is too good to be true," McCarty said. "When you have a relationship with cannabis, you have no choice but to have a relationship with yourself, and people don't want that. That's why people hide behind alcohol."

"The self-awareness you have when you have a relationship with this plant, you look in that mirror, and it will unveil to you about who you want to be," he added.

McCarty has his own cannabis brand and wants to promote the science behind it

After recovering from alcoholism, McCarty devoted his life to promoting cannabis and helping uncover the science behind it.

"I live by the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, but the only difference is mine has a garden," he said. "Alcohol will kill me because I can't control it. But now I have something that doesn't replace it, but it does a whole different thing about the person I want to be."

McCarty teamed up with cannabis research and commercial firm Pincanna to release his line of marijuana-related products under the label of the Darren McCarty Brand. He is one of several current and former professional athletes who have invested in Cannabis products, alongside NFL Hall-of-Famers Calvin Johnson and Terrell Davis and golfer Rickey Fowler.

But for McCarty and his colleagues in the industry, developing and marketing the products is just half the battle.

His objective is to share the research and inform others of medicinal remedies of the plant to break down the negative stigmas around what prevented him from finding it earlier in his life and instead turning to alcohol.

"Let's not make the same mistake twice," he said. "The brilliance is all these kids that have grown up with transparency, they're the ones that are dialed in and are breaking down this plant, so the education keeps going. This is just another way to take care of yourself with the system that you have."

Read the original article on Insider