Revelations that NFL star Aaron Rodgers used psychedelic drugs to boost his performance were just the latest celebrity endorsement of mind-altering drugs, which were for decades taboo but are fast entering the American mainstream.
Rodgers, 38, who says the South American hallucinogen ayahuasca aided his ‘best season’ in the NFL, joins a growing list of athletes, celebrities, and California technology mavens who vaunt the performance-enhancing virtues of psychedelics.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback was comfortable discussing his drug dabbling openly on a podcast — a sign of the growing social acceptance of psychedelics, which were for decades frowned upon and landed users in jail.
The drugs are also winning fans among scientists, politicians and therapists who treat depressives and veterans with PTSD. But for many parents, they are a danger that can suck their children into a gritty underworld.
‘There’s a big shift, but it’s a shift back to normal,’ Dr. Zach Walsh, a University of British Columbia scientist who studies how psychedelics counter stress and boost mood and performance, told DailyMail.com.
A healer serves up a hallucinogenic ayahuasca brew in South America; and a jar of psilocybin mushrooms alongside a pill form of the drug, which therapists say can help sufferers of depression and PTSD
‘For thousands of years these drugs were part of civil society, rites of passage and medicine. One day, we’ll look back and be confused by why we prohibited psychedelics and allowed substances like alcohol.’
Speaking on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast this week, Rodgers opened up about his use of ayahuasca — a psychoactive tea containing the hallucinogen DMT — during a trip to South America before his celebrated 2020 and 2021 seasons.
The drug — a controlled substance that is illegal to possess or distribute in the US — helped him twice win the MVP award, buoyed his mental health and taught him to ‘unconditionally love’ himself, he said.
He joined such ayahuasca-sipping celebrities as pop-punk musician Machine Gun Kelly, Miley Cyrus, and Will Smith, who in his 2021 autobiography, Will, called its high the ‘unparalleled greatest feeling’ of his life.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellbeing website Goop.com promotes a fancy ayahuasca retreat in Costa Rica, Joe Rogan often lauds DMT in his podcasts and Tesla founder Elon Musk has posted that psychedelics make a ‘real difference to mental health … we should take this seriously’.
Even Mike Tyson, the boxer from Brooklyn, last year gushed about the ‘amazing medicine’ of psilocybin, the psychedelic in magic mushrooms, that helped him recover from dark times, like the infamous ear-biting moment in his 1997 fight against Evander Holyfield.
Psychedelics — mind-altering drugs including DMT, psilocybin, LSD and MDMA — have come a long way from the 1960s, when The Beatles sang about tripping on LSD and Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary urged Americans to ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’.
Rather than mainstreaming the drugs, however, hippy culture spurred a moral panic, war-on-drugs government crackdowns and the shutdown of promising research into the therapeutic value of psychedelics.
A California-based research and educational group that develops treatments with psychedelics and marijuana. Research says the drugs benefit many patients, but are not for everyone
Nowadays, 28 percent of Americans have tried a psychedelic, YouGov researchers found last month. The most popular were LSD, used by 14 percent, and psilocybin, used by 13 percent. Advocates are more heavily concentrated in the Western U.S.
While there is little support nationally for decriminalizing psychedelics, 54 percent of respondents said mind-altering substances should be used to help military service members suffering from PTSD.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is now conducting clinical trials with psilocybin. President Joe Biden’s administration expects regulators to approve psilocybin and MDMA for anti-depression therapy within years, says a letter leaked to The Intercept.
There are movements in at least two dozen states — both red and blue — to either study, decriminalize or legalize some psychedelics, ranging from California to New York, Vermont, Utah, Kansas and Florida.
Colorado’s voters will in November decide whether to approve state-regulated ‘healing centers’ where those over 21 can receive therapeutic psilocybin. Oregon will start licensing such clinics next year, after voters backed a measure in November 2020.
Changing attitudes towards psychedelics are at least in part driven by a growing body of positive research from universities.
Dr. Walsh and his colleagues found last month that tiny quantities of psilocybin made users happier and less stressed than others. Older microdosers, as small-dose users are known, showed improved dexterity.
A University of California – San Francisco study from April revealed that psilocybin improves brain function for depressed people and frees them from ‘rumination and excessive self-focus’.
Still, University of North Carolina researchers last month found that psychedelics were not for everyone. Despite ‘dramatically positive results’ for some users, others felt nothing but a ‘long strange trip’, they said.
The risk of addiction or overdose is considered low with psychedelics, but there are psychological risks beyond having a ‘bad trip’. Those with mental illness or a family history with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder must be wary.
Many parents remain unconvinced. One self-described ‘heartbroken mom’ told DailyMail.com of her daughter starting out on cannabis, thanks to dispensaries ‘every few miles’ in their native Oregon, and moving on to LSD and MDMA.
The 16-year-old has clocked up mystery $800 credit card bills, been suspended from school, faces prosecution for drug dealing and was admitted to hospital after being found unconscious ‘alongside a road late at night’, said the anxious mum.
‘Now she’s emaciated, malnourished, has asthma issues and repeated eye infections, coughs up black goo, and can barely pass a class,’ added the woman, who we decided not to identify by name.
‘I don’t even expect her to make it to high school graduation at this point.’
Dried hallucinogenic magic mushrooms containing psilocybin. Hippy culture stirred a moral panic in the 1960s, but nowadays mushrroms are endorsed by a growing list of influencers, politicians and therapists
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