WNBA star Lauren Jackson speaks of dependence on painkillers

Seattle Storm's Lauren Jackson (15) embraces Le'coe Willingham as they walk off the court after the Storm beat the Phoenix Mercury 91-85 in a WNBA basketball game Tuesday, July 27, 2010, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SYDNEY (AP) — Former Australia and Seattle Storm star Lauren Jackson has spoken of her “nightmare” as she weaned herself off painkillers and sleeping pills when injury forced her retirement from basketball last year.

The 35-year-old Jackson, who had 12 years in the Women’s NBA, three world championship and four Olympic campaigns for Australia, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation she resorted to using medication to meet the demands of her professional career.

Jackson told the Four Corners current affairs show on Monday that one of her knees “turned to mush” by the end of the career and she needed pills to sleep and painkillers to stay on court.

“Because of the injuries that I had, there are high stakes,” Jackson said. “You’re getting paid a lot of money to perform and when you’re a franchise player or someone that is expected to perform day in, day out you do what you have to do to get by.

“For me that was painkillers and sleeping pills generally.”

Jackson declined to go into specifics about the medication.

She retired last year after almost two decades as a professional, and said overcoming her dependence on drugs was a nightmare.

“Having to get off everything was really, really, really hard,” she said.

Jackson also spoke of her difficulty in adjusting to life after basketball. She began college studies late in her career and took an interest in human rights but was still largely identified as a basketball player.

“Once your career is over, you’ve got to recreate yourself in a way that other people just don’t have to,” said Jackson, who gave birth to a son, Harry, in February.