How did you
What do you do as an NFL
get that Barbara Roberts, PhD,
clinician and consultant
for the National Football
League’s substance abuse
My work involves players who have
been identified as being at risk of
using substances when they enter the
NFL or while they are working for
the organization. Players are screened
randomly for a variety of substances,
such as alcohol, opioid-based products,
marijuana and sedative hypnotic drugs.
I usually work with players from the
Washington, D.C., region, but players
from any NFL team can be referred to me.
If they test positive, they are evaluated
by a team of mental health professionals.
Then they are referred to me for an in-depth interview and further evaluation. I
make a recommendation about whether
to simply continue drug urinalysis
monitoring or initiate therapy. Before
I develop a treatment plan, I try to find
out what they know about the substance
they are using. They may feel that a drug
is helping them cope with stress or stay
focused, so we talk about the fact that no
drug is benign.
Substance use is usually the tip of the
iceberg — there are usually other issues
that loom large, and the players have
not had an opportunity to talk about
these challenges, such as being a single
parent, getting injured or being the first
in their families to make a large amount
of money, which can strain relationships.
One of the players I worked with was
carrying four mortgages because he
wanted to help everyone in his family.