THREE AFL players have retired due to drug addiction and it has also been revealed other players were temporarily withdrawn from play while being treated for drug use.

The revelations are contained in a presentation the AFL's medical director Dr Peter Harcourt made last year, which came to light as part of Essendon and James Hird's Federal Court action against ASADA.

Dr Harcourt made the statements at a FIFA anti-doping sports conference in Zurich when informing the audience about the AFL's Illicit Drug Policy in a presentation titled The AFL's alternative approach to managing illicit drug use.

He told the audience there were several issues the AFL had confronted since introducing the policy in 2005. They were:

- Three athletes experienced drug induced psychotic reactions due to use of illicit substances
- Three athletes retired because they weren't able to control their addiction
- One athlete had three strikes
- Three athletes who have had to withdraw temporarily because of substance abuse issues that needed to be treated
- Five athletes who have used their illicit substance use as a means of treating their psychiatric symptoms
- Five athletes with attitudinal and personality type issues

He emphasised that the illicit drug use among AFL footballers was low and the policy was an effective intervention tool because it provided the opportunity for the League and clubs to support players' health and wellbeing.

The AFL Players' Association interim CEO Ian Prendergast said its main priority was to make sure that a player's confidentiality was maintained.

He accepted that Dr Harcourt was not aware the presentation was being filmed and said it was important his comments were not sensationalised.

The Players' Association reaffirmed its support for the Illicit Drug Policy, which players have entered into voluntarily as a method for supporting the health and wellbeing of players.

"While it is unfortunate that the comments have become public, they demonstrate the important role the Illicit Drugs Policy (IDP) plays in supporting player health and wellbeing," Prendergast said.

"The IDP is an educational and medical based model, which exists on the basis of confidentiality for all individuals involved. We know that the medical approach to drug use is the best way to protect players’ health and wellbeing. It is imperative that privacy and confidentiality of players is maintained, and that the comments made by Dr Harcourt are not sensationalised."

Harcourt said that the bulk of the players dealt with under the Illicit Drug Policy had used substances because of "one-off, stupid, risk taking behaviour that happens in social situations probably because they have had too much to drink."

He said the policy meant the AFL was more aware of some of the drivers of player behaviour, including mental health issues and in a small amount of cases a disengaged group that was probably a bit narcissistic.

There were 1998 tests conducted in 2013, with fewer than one percent of those tested failing the tests. This was a drop from 2012, when positive tests rose above one per cent for the first time since 2007.