Diem Blog

How Cannabis Saved the Life of Former NHL Bruiser Darren McCarty

The Story of Darren McCarty

As a celebrated hockey player for the Detroit Red Wings, Darren McCarty was known for taking on his opponents in a number of physical ways. He bodied, checked, and used his fists in bouts of fury, earning four Stanley Cup Championships in what would become a historic 17-year career with the National Hockey League.

But after retiring from the sport in 2009, McCarty found himself battling a new opponent—addiction.

Like so many professional athletes before him, McCarty battled a number of off-field, addictive opponents. He was an alcoholic, an insomniac, an opioid addict, and enjoyed his fair share of cocaine. In time, these addictions drove him to the point of what many considered to be certain death.

“Growing up, you were either a jock or stoner,” recalled McCarty. “So I never smoked pot growing up, but I’ve been drinking since I was 12 or 13 years old. That was acceptable in the hockey circles, it’s just culturally what was accepted.”

Cannabis Changed Everything

Transitioning to cannabis was a foreign concept to McCarty, due in large part to the plant’s cultural stigma at the time that suggested only hippies and stoners partook in consumption. As a result, he sadly continued to battle both drug and alcohol abuse that held firmly onto his life for another 16 years. But then a singular moment changed everything.

The date was November 11th, 2015, when McCarty had his self-described “Come to Jesus” moment. Up until that time, his blood pressure began to consistently spike as his liver stood on the verge of explosion. His battle with the bottle had led to four stints in rehab, a variety of court battles, and the end of two marriages. That’s when cannabis entered his life once again, but this time it stuck around.

A medical marijuana caregiver and several of McCarty’s closest friends isolated him for a full week, providing him with “gram after gram” of Rick Simpson Oil, an extra-potent cannabis oil concentrate that has shown life-changing results in some cancer patients, epileptics, and addicts. “I was in a coma and when I woke up after seven days, I didn’t have a physical addiction,” he said. “I dropped to my knees and said, ‘Thank God.’”

Life with Cannabis

Ever since that remarkable experience, much has changed in McCarty’s life. In fact, his morning routine now revolves around cannabis. He starts each day with 100 mg of CBD, followed by a joint or two, which he refers to as his “glass of orange juice in the morning.” He describes feeling like the real-life Benjamin Button as his body feels more like a youthful kid’s once again as opposed to a battered hockey player’s. 

And he owes it all to cannabis.

When asked if he had any thoughts on the notion of simply substituting one substance for another, McCarty scoffed. “It’s a plant,” he said. “I live my life by the principles, the 12 steps. But you know what? There’s a friggin’ garden in my program. And the bottom line is, I’m not drinking. I’m not doing coke. I’m not doing pills. I’m not smoking cigarettes. In my book, what you think about me is none of my business because I know I’m right. The big fella told me so,” McCarty said, pointing skyward.

These days McCarty is a passionate advocate for the cannabis community—he’s even partnered with companies to spread awareness about the benefits of cannabis, and ultimately aims to erase the negative stigmas surrounding the plant entirely. Cannabis saved the life of Darren McCarty, and perhaps through his continued efforts, the humble plant will do the very same for countless others in the future.