MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Fourteen years ago, Larry Chester was a bruising defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins.
He was a 300-pound strongman who knew how to hold his ground.
Today, Chester is a man searching for answers. He says seven seasons in the NFL left him in chronic pain.
"I was eating opioids, in some search of relief and I was not finding it," Chester tells CBS4's Jim Berry.
Even worse, Chester says was his depression. For two years after retirement, the former defensive tackle says he became a belligerent shut-in.
"I lashed out on my children unnecessarily, lashed out on my wife, I even lashed out at people at the grocery store," said Chester.
Chester says while still in the NFL, he would smoke marijuana for relief. Even then, he felt that it helped him settle down.
"I could have a human exchange and I didn't want to throw you into the wall and I can just accept that," said Chester.
Now Chester has become a profound believer in CBD, one of the most common chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant. He takes it in various forms which is prescribed by his Miami-based cannabis doctor.
Chester takes just one finger and dips it into the lotion, showing us the small amount he uses to rub on his knees when he feels the pain come on. He says in just 15 minutes, the pain is gone.
Doctor Herve Damas played one season in the NFL. After a career-ending knee injury, Damas went to medical school and became a traditional doctor, before overcoming his own skepticism about untraditional cannabis treatment.
We asked him, why does he believe it works? Dr. Damas replies, "We actually produce these substances in our bodies. There are things that happen in our lifetime, maybe injury, illness, stress that causes a decreased production of our endocannabinoids, when that happens you fall out of a state called homeostasis, also known as your state of balance or well-being. Then you start to bring yourself back from the level that you need to be at that's why it works."
However, this emerging medicine is shrouded in plenty of doubt. Some doctors say cannabis has only been proven to be effective treating epilepsy in children, and that there's no evidence that it helps with any mental or emotional disorders.
Dr. Damas who runs Grassroots Medicine & Wellness Center in Wynwood disagrees.
"The U-S government has one patent on cannabis and cannabis is scientifically known, proven to be a neuroprotectant. That means players who are involved in collision sports, football players, hockey players, military veterans. If you are able to consume cannabis, you are actually able to protect your brain with the cannabinoids."
"The substances within the plant there is science behind that. There is tons of research you just have to look for it."
Chester and his doctor believe the NFL would be wise to sanction cannabis products as acceptable treatments for current players.
"If you allowed players to consume CBD you would see an increase in performance, decrease injuries, less off the field incidents," said Damas
For the NFL, marijuana is still a banned substance but in recent years it has partnered with the National Player's Association to study marijuana use for pain management.
In Florida, marijuana remains an illegal drug. However, cannabis use is legal for medicinal purposes for a select group of illnesses
After visiting a few traditional treatment centers, Chester hails cannabis treatment as his salvation. Now his wife, Nicole Chester, is a believer too.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me my husband, my best friend back to me," said Chester.
Larry adds he feels like he's getting his life back including his marriage, his relationship with his children, neighbors, community. He says he feels more like himself than he has felt in a long time.
Former NBA and NFL Players estimate as much as 80% of players take some form of cannabis because it's seen as an effective and safe alternative to opioids and other painkillers
If you want more information on medicinal marijuana here in Florida, we'll link you to www.floridahealth.gov and look for the Office of Medical Marijuana Use section.
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