NFL star quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed this week that he traveled to South America to take ayahuasca before being selected as the league’s most valuable player two seasons in a row, saying the potent psychedelic concoction changed his mindset and markedly improved his mental health. Rodgers made the revelations about his experiences with ayahuasca during an appearance on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast, where he shared that the psychedelic drug helped him find self-love and mental wellness.
The Green Bay Packers’ Superbowl champion quarterback said that he made the trip to South America prior to winning the MVP award for the third and fourth time in 2020 and 2021. Following the ayahuasca experience, he said, he “knew that [he] was never going to be the same.”
“For me, I didn’t do that and think ‘oh, I’m never playing football again,’” Rodgers said, as quoted by USA Today. “No, it gave me a deep and meaningful appreciation for life. My intention the first night going in was ‘I want to feel what pure love feels like.’ That was my intention. And I did. I really did. 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.”
Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew of leaves and vines that is used by indigenous groups in South America’s Amazon basin for social and shamanic ceremonies. It contains the potent psychedelic drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which can cause intense vivid sensations and hallucinations. Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research at Imperial College London, led a study on ayahuasca published in 2019 that found the brew caused a change to waking brainwaves the researchers compared to “dreaming while awake.”
“DMT is a particularly intriguing psychedelic. The visual vividness and depth of immersion produced by high-doses of the substance seems to be on a scale above what is reported with more widely studied psychedelics such as psilocybin or ‘magic mushrooms’,” Carhart-Harris explained. “It’s hard to capture and communicate what it is like for people experiencing DMT but likening it to dreaming while awake or a near-death experience is useful. Our sense is that research with DMT may yield important insights into the relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and this small study is a first step along that road.”
Ayahuasca Led to Best Season of Rodgers’ Career
During the podcast interview with Marcus, Rodgers said that his experience with ayahuasca “set me on my course to be able to go back in to my job and have a different perspective on things. To be way more free at work, as a leader, as a teammate, as a friend, as a lover. I really feel like that experience paved the way for me to have the best season of my career (in 2020).”
He added that the psychedelic drug helped him reframe his mindset, leading to improvements in mental health that helped him to play two of the best seasons of his career, winning his third and fourth MVP awards in 2020 and 2021.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Rodgers said about the ayahuasca experience in South America. “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.”
“There’s signs and synchronicities all around us at all times if we’re awake enough to see them and to take them in and to listen to our intuition when it’s speaking to us or pounding us in the head saying, ‘Hey dummy, this is what you’re supposed to be doing,’” he continued.
Rodgers said that he was inspired to try ayahuasca after a previous experience with psychedelic drugs. Marcus added that the NFL star had once told him that “one of the best days of my life” featured taking psychedelic mushrooms on a beach where he said he “felt [him]self merge with the ocean.”
The NFL star added that many people focus on the negative side effects of ayahuasca, which can include vomiting, diarrhea, and uncomfortable hallucinations, rather than the “deep and meaningful and crazy mind-expanding possibilities and also deep self-love and healing that can happen on the other side” that the drug can induce.
That self-love, Rodgers said, was a key benefit of his mental health journey.
“To me, one of the core tenets of your mental health is that self-love,” Rodgers said. “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?”
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.