Toradol: The Most Popular Drug in the NFL You Haven’t Heard of

Earlier this week, a new episode of The Boston Globe’s investigative podcast Gladiator, which delves into the history of fallen New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and the use of drugs in the NFL, revealed club doctors routinely administer shots of Toradol to a long line of players before each game, and sometimes even before practice.

The widespread use of Toradol was first thrown into the spotlight when former NFL players sued the league in 2011, claiming they were not adequately informed of its serious effects that lingered long after their careers had ended.

Below, we take a closer look at the prescription drug, Toradol, and its risks and benefits as a substitute for opioid painkillers.

What is Toradol (ketorolac)?

Toradol is an anti-inflammatory drug similar to over-the-counter treatments like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, only much more powerful and requiring a prescription. It’s great for relieving severe short-term pain without being addictive, but also comes with a high risk of internal bleeding and kidney problems—including kidney failure—when used for an extended period of time.

What is Toradol used for?

Toradol is very effective for treating moderate to severe pain. It starts working quickly (about 15 minutes after administration) and can last up to 6 hours. It’s often prescribed for post-surgery pain and acute migraines, but also for chronic migraines when other treatments haven’t worked.

Although Toradol is available as a tablet, Toradol injections are usually recommended for initial relief and are administered intramuscularly, typically in the buttocks. For migraines, Toradol is used as an abortive therapy, which means it can stop a migraine during onset or after it has started.

Ketorolac also comes in two other forms: nasal spray and eye drops (for post-op eye pain or stinging).

How much does Toradol cost?

Toradol is available as a generic, ketorolac, so it is inexpensive. Here are the GoodRx prices for available forms of ketorolac:

  • 1 vial of ketorolac (1 ml of 30 mg/ml): $2.67
  • 20 tablets of ketorolac (10 mg): $16.51
  • 1 eye dropper of ketorolac (5 ml of 0.5%): $15.13

The nasal spray is branded as Sprix and is very expensive at $991 per package (5 bottles of 15.75 mg/spray).

Is Toradol a narcotic?

No, Toradol is not a narcotic, opiate, or controlled substance. Rather, Toradol is an NSAID drug, a safer, non-habit forming alternative to treat pain that requires opioid levels of analgesia or pain relief.

So, what’s the downside of Toradol?

As stated before, Toradol, as an injection or combined with tablets or nasal spray, is not to be used long term—which in this case, is anything over 5 days. Doing so will put you at serious risk for side effects often associated with NSAIDs like heart attack, stroke, stomach bleeding, and kidney damage.

Similarly, Toradol eye drops should not be used long term. The maximum amount of time you should use Toradol eye drops is 2 weeks after cataract surgery and 4 days after corneal refractive surgery. Prolonged use of any NSAID eye drops can seriously damage your eyesight.

Though Toradol may get a bad rap because of its history in the NFL, it can give considerable relief to those with migraine headaches and other types of short-term pain. It can also be relatively inexpensive since most forms are available as generics. Talk to your doctor if you think Toradol would be a suitable option for your pain, especially if you’ve been prescribed an opioid.

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