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Aaron Rodgers Shares Details on Use of Ayahuasca, Psychedelics

With his recent candid discussion on a podcast hosted by friend Aubrey MarcusPackers quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the face of an under-discussed group of elite athletes: those who have used psychedelics for medicinal, mental health and other personal reasons.

“To me, one of the core tenets of your mental health is that self-love,” Rodgers said of his experience with ayahuasca, a psychoactive tea containing the hallucinogenic drug DMT. 

“That’s what ayahuasca did for me, was help me see how to unconditionally love myself. It’s only in that unconditional self-love, that then I’m able to truly be able to unconditionally love others. And what better way to work on my mental health than to have an experience like that?”

Rodgers continued this discussion with Sports Illustrated, as part of a larger look at how athletes have turned to psychedelics such as ayahuasca, psilocybin (mushrooms), ketamine and other substances. While Rodgers says he does not identify as having a mental illness like depression or anxiety, others have noticed a significant difference in him since his ayahuasca experience on a March 2020 trip to Peru. 

“A lot of people have asked a lot of questions in the vein of, ‘You seem so much happier and enjoying things a little bit more—what’s the difference?’” Rodgers told SI. “Doing ayahuasca was a big part.”

While he is one of the few superstar athletes to open up publicly about his psychedelic use, Rodgers says he knows of other pro athletes that have had similar experiences.

Among them is Kenny Stills, a free agent wide receiver who last played for the Saints in 2021, after stints with the Bills, Texans and Dolphins. Stills recently began using psychedelics to treat depression. He used ketamine, an anesthetic with hallucinogenic effects that has been approved for medicinal use, at a health clinic under therapist supervision.

“What ketamine does is it kind of takes away these extra levels of anxiety and the different processes that are happening in the brain so that we can really be our true self,” Stills told SI.

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Psychedelic use does not come without risks, and although there has been a marked change in the stigma surrounding both psychedelic drugs and mental health, there are still those who treat both as forbidden subjects. Rodgers acknowledged that he was nervous about publicly revealing his ayahuasca use but did not clear it with the NFL or the Packers beforehand.

“It’s not a banned substance,” Rodgers said. “It’s a plant.”

After Rodgers’s podcast appearance, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy confirmed that the quarterback won’t face discipline for using the substance.

The sports world has seen some progress in the destigmatization of some substances in recent years. The NBA has stopped randomly testing athletes for cannabis. The NFL no longer does so in the offseason, and it fines, rather than suspends, players for positive tests. Those developments come as 19 states have legalized its recreational use.

Psychedelics lag behind cannabis in terms of wider acceptance, although psilocybin has reached decriminalized status in some large cities and communities including Denver, Seattle and Washington, D.C. In 2020, Oregon voted to legalize it for supervised mental health treatments, a law that went into effect in February ’21. 

It is unlikely that a major sports league follows suit in the near future, but high-profile athletes such as Rodgers and Stills make it clear that psychedelics are being sought out by at least a portion of the world’s elite athletes.

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