What is ayahuasca? Aaron Rodgers says ‘mind-expanding’ drug fueled his NFL successes

·5 min read
Morry Gash/AP

For NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the last two seasons have been career-defining. At 38, the Green Bay Packers quarterback has won the AP NFL MVP Award for a second season in a row, marking four times he has won the accolade in his career.

In a recent appearance on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast, he linked that success not to just a regimented training schedule or cohesive team environment, but also to his experimentation using a psychedelic drug found in the depths of the Amazon rainforest.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Rodgers said on the podcast. “I really don’t. I don’t really believe in coincidences at this point. It’s the universe bringing things to happen when they’re supposed to happen.”

Rodgers mentioned his experience with ayahuasca, a plant-based concoction known to induce intense hallucinations, on a trip to South America before the 2020 NFL season. According to Rodgers, it improved his mental health by teaching him how to “unconditionally love” himself.

“The greatest gift I can give my teammates, in my opinion, is to be able to show up and to be someone who can model unconditional love to them,” said Rodgers. “They won’t care about what you say until they know how much you care.”

What is ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a concentrated drink typically made from the leaves of the Psychotria viridis and the vines of the Banisteriopsis caapi, two plants native to South America.

The active ingredient dimethyltryptamine (commonly known as DMT), makes ayahuasca a powerful hallucinogenic. DMT is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule I drug, putting it in the same category as heroin, marijuana and LSD.

Is ayahuasca legal?

The short answer: No.

DMT makes it illegal in the United States — and there have been cases of people being arrested on accusations of possessing it.

But there are exceptions. A few cities in the U.S. have decriminalized ayahuasca, namely Oakland, California, Santa Cruz, California, Denver, Colorado, Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Some religious groups have been granted permission to use the drug. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that members of Brazilian Ayahuasca Church, or Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal (UDV), can legally use the beverage as part of their right to freely exercise religion.

Others, like Santo Daime church and Soul Quest Ayahuasca Church of Mother Earth, have either permissions only in specific branches or have filed requests for exemption.

For those who want to experience the trip, other options lie beyond border. Ayahuasca retreats are advertised online in South American countries like Costa Rica (where Rodgers said he went), Brazil and Peru.

What do people use ayahuasca for?

Ayahuasca has been used for spiritual and religious reasons in areas surrounding the Amazon for centuries. In ceremonies of the UDV church, for example, the drink is taken as a “sacrament serving to heighten spiritual understanding and perception,” according to its website.

Some research has suggested it to be helpful for medical conditions like depression, anxiety and addiction. One 2018 study found that “ratings of depression and stress significantly decreased after the ayahuasca ceremony,” but highlighted that “changes failed to reach significance” four weeks later.

It’s also used — in what some argue demonstrates cultural appropriation — by people who just want to experience a psychedelic trip.

Why is ayahuasca considered dangerous or controversial?

The increasing popularity in the drug’s use — especially by tourists on pricey “retreats” — has sparked discussion about the morality of commodifying a substance originally used for sacred religious practices by indigenous peoples of the Amazon.

And, like any largely unregulated substance, there are physical risks that come with taking ayahuasca. In extreme cases, people have died after ingesting the substance, including a 19-year-old who visited Colombia in 2014.

Beside hallucinating, the short-term effects for most people often include intense vomiting or diarrhea during the trip. But Rodgers claims there are “deep and meaningful and crazy mind-expanding possibilities and also deep self-love and healing that can happen” after taking ayahuasca.

“I had a magical experience with the sensation of feeling a hundred different hands on my body imparting a blessing of love and forgiveness for myself and gratitude for this life from what seemed to be my ancestors,” he said.

Who else has taken ayahuasca?

Several celebrities have publicly talked positively about their experiences with ayahuasca, including Miley Cyrus, Machine Gun Kelly and Lindsay Lohan.

“It was really intense,” Lohan said in a video. “I saw my whole life in front of me. and I had to let go past things I was trying to hold on to that were dark in my life.”

Will Smith discussed his 14 ayahuasca “journeys” in his memoir, “Will,” and in an episode of “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” host David Letterman.

“Ninety-nine percent of your pain and your misery is all self-generated, it’s not real,” Smith said to Letterman. “I developed a trust and a love for me that I never had. I trust me to be okay, no matter what happens.”

Daniel Carcillo, a former professional hockey player in the NHL, claimed it virtually cured his depression and suicidal thoughts on an HBO episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”

“It was the most amazing experience,” Carcillo said on the show. He claimed he doesn’t suffer from “any of those symptoms” anymore.

Is CBD or THC better for chronic pain relief? Here’s what a new study says

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh vows to raise baby if player has unwanted pregnancy

Driver high on mushrooms hits embankment and sends car soaring into air, GA cops say

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting