This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
NORTH ATTLEBORO, MA – AUGUST 22: Aaron Hernandez is escorted into the courtroom of the Attleboro District Court for his hearing on August 22, 2013 in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has been indicted on a first-degree murder charge for the death of Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Warning: Major spoilers ahead for the new docuseries Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.
In 2013, Aaron Hernandez’s life was looking pretty good. He was a tight end for the New England Patriots. He was engaged. He had a child with his fiancée. That made it all the more shocking when news broke that he was being investigated for the murder of Odin Lloyd, who played for the semi-pro football team the Boston Bandits.
Netflix’s new docuseries Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez attempts to get into Hernandez’s psyche and answer this question: How can a person who seems to have it all end up a convicted killer?
It lays out various explanations and events that may have contributed to Hernandez’s alleged brutality. It delves into his reportedly abusive upbringing at the hands of his violent, alcoholic father, and his dad’s death when Hernandez was only a teenager. The docuseries also spends time exploring Hernandez’s unusually severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain injury associated with recurrent concussions that is common among football players.
And, of course, the second episode introduces Hernandez’s drug use, which was a major point of interest in his murder trial.
What drugs did Aaron Hernandez use?
The docuseries reports that he frequently took both marijuana and the painkiller Toradol. The latter has a history of being overprescribed to pro football and baseball players to help them push through the pain of injuries.
The Food and Drug Administration notes that Toradol (generic name ketorolac) is a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which should be used in low doses. It can be injected with a needle or taken orally; there are even ketorolac nasal sprays. (In recent years, the FDA has strengthened its warnings that Toradol and other NSAIDs can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.)
Its use in sports has been the subject of scrutiny and debate for years. In December 2011, a dozen retired NFL players filed a lawsuit, claiming the league “repeatedly and indiscriminately administered the drug before and during games, thus worsening injuries like concussions,” The New York Times reported at the time. The suit alleged that players would line up en masse for Toradol injections before games.
In 2012, The National Football League Physician Society Task Force put out recommendations for the use of Toradol. But a Bleacher Report Magazine survey from 2017 seemed to indicate the drug still had a major presence in the NFL.
In the docuseries, you overhear a call between Hernandez and his fiancée Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez in which they discuss his alleged Toradol use: “All those drugs they shoot you guys up with, and tell you to go out there and play. ‘Play through your pain. Go! Go!’”Jenkins says in the recording.
“You know what’s crazy?” Hernandez responds. “They banned that [expletive] from the league, saying you only could take it if you have a serious injury or something. … Guess who they gave that [expletive] to every [expletive] game? Me.”
Hernandez also admitted to failing a drug test for marijuana while playing for the Florida Gators, The Florida Times-Union reported. The docuseries notes that Hernandez and his agent composed a letter to the New England Patriots and other teams in which he offered to be drug tested more than any other player because of his reputation.
Taking marijuana may change the way prescription drugs work, and can lead to possible unknown side effects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes.
Killer Inside plays a clip from a recorded call in which Hernandez tells a former teammate: “For real, weed and Toradol — that’s all you need, baby!”
Did Aaron Hernandez’s drug use have anything to do with his crimes?
The documentary lays out these facts in a multi-part analysis of what led to the violent demise of a sports star who seemed to have a bright future. It’s what Stanton Peele, Ph.D., coauthor of Outgrowing Addiction: With Common Sense Instead of Disease Therapy, describes as “a ‘kitchen sink’ approach” in a Psychology Today article.
Peele tells Refinery29 that “drugs are just an asterisk” when it comes to the docuseries’ interpretation of Hernandez’s actions.
“Drugs account for little on their own,” he says. “Especially [when it comes to] crimes like murder! Rather, addiction and its commitments are a reflection of the entire constellation of a person’s life.”
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