June 21, 2023 | 21:48
At the unlikely venue of the Psychedelic Science 2023 conference, the Jets quarterback said he has been approached by athletes across sports after speaking publicly about his experiences with ayahuasca.
DENVER — Aaron Rodgers says he’s not the only NFL player doing psychedelics — he’s just the only one talking about it on panels.
On a trip Wednesday night to speak at the Psychedelic Science 2023 conference, the Jets quarterback said he has been contacted by dozens of psychedelic-curious athletes after speaking publicly about his experiences with ayahuasca.
He also talked about having NFL teammates join him.
“I’ve been fortunate the last few years to be able to sit in ceremony with the teammates,” said Rodgers, who was with the Packers for 18 seasons before joining the Jets this offseason. “I’m telling you, it’s radically life-changing and it’s crazy to be in a dressing room and look over and just know I’ve been in the maloca. [an indigenous South American dwelling] with you, dude. It’s pretty special. It definitely changes the dynamic. And in this process, like I said, there’s been hundreds of NFL guys that have reached out.”
Rodgers traced his spiritual journey back to winning the Super Bowl in 2011 and asked himself afterward, “Now what?”
He first used psilocybin, or mushrooms, and in recent years began taking ayahuasca – a psychedelic tea derived from plants found in the Amazon – in guided, communal settings.
“When I first did ‘aya’ in 2020, I remember thinking afterwards, I’m going to have to talk about this at some point,” Rodgers said. “Are people ready? How will it be received? Then I won the MVP. Then I did it again. I said OK, I can probably talk about it now. But the cool thing has been the response. Not from the media calling me a druggie , a hippie or whatever it was. …
“Seeing basketball players and baseball players and surfers and entertainers and my own teammates and colleagues throughout the league reach out and either share their story of their own medicine journey or ask to be a part of an upcoming journey is pretty special.”
In the nearly hour-long talk with podcaster and self-proclaimed “psychonaut” Aubrey Marcus, titled “How Psychedelics Can Unlock Elite Performance,” Rodgers pledged his support to the movement to ensure acceptance of psychedelics and legal approval of their use in therapies.
“We have an opportunity to change the conversation by dispelling these archaic myths about the dangers of them or the negative side effects or whatever, and start sharing the actual wisdom and truth about it,” Rodgers said. “It’s a permission slip for other people to come forward and talk about their own experiences, join in and dive in and learn about it.
“And I think that’s how we move this conversation forward is more people are out there who are comfortable talking about their own journeys. Their spiritual journey, their medicine journey, their ceremonies. So we can bring this to people , who need it.”
Earlier in the day, Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which hosted the conference, praised the “massive impact” Rodgers’ appearance could have on the mainstreaming of psychedelic drugs.
“People aren’t sure what to believe. But when people who they respect for certain other things say that psychedelics were helpful …” Doblin said. “And I think what [Rodgers is] He also says he thinks this has been destigmatized enough that he can be public about it and it’s not going to hurt his career. People won’t hire him to play football. So I think it’s part of cultural change, and it’s a key element.”
In a 5,000-seat auditorium roughly half-filled with conference-goers ranging from barefoot to black-booted, Rodgers also took the necessary shots at his critics (“all these bums who want to come after me online about my experience, they have never tried it”), joined Marcus in campaigning for presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and talked humorously about running a play for Packers (and now Jets) teammate Allen Lazard last season so Lazard could perform a pre-planned ayahuasca-drinking touchdown party.
The through line, however, was his belief in the power of psychedelic drugs — not “drugs,” he insisted — and how they have affected his mental health.
“The battle is between your earlobes – it’s: How can I silence the inner critic?” Rodgers said. “Anti-me is the greatest opponent because it is me. It knows exactly what to say to me, exactly what to show me. Whispering in my ear: ‘You’re not good enough. You will not win this game. Nobody likes you. You are a crazy anti-vaxxer.’ But I think the beauty of these journeys is finding that self-love, because the greatest antidote to the anti-you is unconditional self-love. And it has been a beautiful journey trying to find it.”