Painkillers and Justin Levens

Fightlinker makes an important point about the Levens tragedy: Levens was an MMA fighter, no matter how much he may or may not have…

By: Nate Wilcox | 15 years ago
Painkillers and Justin Levens
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

Fightlinker makes an important point about the Levens tragedy:

Levens was an MMA fighter, no matter how much he may or may not have sucked. People are just trying to downplay his involvement because they don’t want people to associate MMA with him like they did with Chris Benoit and the WWE. And while Levens might have gone down as a footnote in MMA history if he hadn’t decided to (allegedly) shoot his sleeping wife in the chest and then off himself as well, there’s still a pretty decent link between what he (allegedly) did and the sport he dedicated his life to.

Levens was addicted to painkillers. His last blip on the MMA radar prior to this was regarding a suspension for painkillers (he hit a whopping 10,000ng/ml on the dope-o-meter), and police found a whackload of painkillers and anti-depressants in his condo. We’ve talked about how horrible painkiller addiction is, and just from the reaction via the Jackals I’ve learned that it’s a lot more prevalent than you’d expect. And why do you think Justin Levens was on these pills? I don’t have an extensive medical history sitting in front of me, but is it anywhere near far fetched to assume that his addiction stems from injuries sustained from training and participating in mixed martial arts?

I’m not about to say that MMA is ‘responsible’ for what happened with Levens and his wife the same way the WWE was with Chris Benoit. But everyone in the MMA scene seems to be reacting to the media hysterics with denial hysterics all of their own. Levens was a mixed martial artist who was hooked on painkillers. Pain med addiction is a serious problem in our sport, and it’s only getting worse. What happened with Levens was obviously a rare and horrible outcome, and it’s not like we’re expecting James Irvin and Joe Riggs to go off like ticking time bombs any second now. But we might want to maybe consider looking into the painkiller issue. I don’t know what can be done, but at this point they’re a bigger elephant in the room than steroids are.

Of course nothing justifies killing your wife, but Levens’ actions didn’t take place in a vacuum. I agree with Fightlinker here. Our sport comes at a cost to those who put their bodies on the line to entertain and enlighten the rest of us.

Painkillers have an important function but they are also extremely potent and dangerous drugs. Regulating the sport and drug testing fighters for painkillers was an important first step but there is more to be done. What that is I don’t know, but the topic needs to be discussed in the MMA community without defensiveness or shame.

UPDATE: I’m not saying that painkillers are the reason for Levens actions. However the statistics are pretty clear that there is a very strong correlation between alcohol and drug addiction and violent crime. Saying “screw this scumbag” doesn’t really get us anywhere as far as preventing the next tragedy.

Its too late to care about Justin Levens.

I’m worried about the other fighters out there who are struggling with addiction and depression. We need to reach them BEFORE they make terrible decisions.

Its fun to jerk each other off in the comments about how much we hate somebody who’s dead but its not very productive.

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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