Chris Kirkland took ‘equivalent of six heroin shots a day’ during addiction hell

Chris Kirkland has said he was taking the "equivalent of six shots of heroin" each day during his 10-year painkiller addiction.

The former Premier League goalkeeper and one-time England international, 42, revealed his decade-long struggle in July 2022. He'd become dependent on the opioid pill tramadol.

He first started taking the drug to cope with painful back spasms during his time with Sheffield Wednesday. It pushed him to the verge of suicide, coming close to jumping off of a roof in Portugal while he was on a pre-season training camp with Bury in 2016.

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But thankfully thinking of his wife Leeona and daughter Lucy changed his mind, and he sought help – at which point he discovered the true extent of his addiction having been consuming 2,500 milligrams of tramadol a day.

"I found out when I went into rehab that I was taking the equivalent of six shots of heroin a day," Kirkland told The Athletic. "It is an evil, evil drug. It nearly killed me, and should have killed me."

Explaining how he got hooked, the retired shot stopper added: “At the start, it gives you a good feeling. It makes you feel happy, if you have anxiety or anything like that.

"I was using it for pain, yes, but I was using it for anxiety more than anything. But it messes you up mentally. I knew after three months that I was in trouble, that I’d become reliant on it."

Tramadol is set to be added to the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list on January 1, with the Professional Footballers’ Association bringing that to the attention of their members last week with the acknowledgement that there'll be many more players like Kirkland out there.

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He fears for those who will now have to find a way out of the addiction cycle, having gone through a "horrendous" 10 days going cold turkey in April of last year.

"I was cramped up in a room, I was feeling sick, I was vomiting, I couldn’t eat anything, I was having hallucinations," Kirkland recalled. "I’d got to the point where I didn’t want to put another tablet in my mouth.

"I got through it, but it wasn’t pleasant at all and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I tried to get off it many times. If you are trying on your own, it’s almost impossible.”

For emotional support, you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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