NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers was among a wide-ranging lineup of speakers at a psychedelics conference in Denver this week and advocated for the legalization of psychedelics by discussing his own experiences.
The conference, put on by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies -- the largest U.S. advocacy group -- took place months after Colorado's voters decided to join Oregon in decriminalizing psychedelic mushrooms. While it's a sign of growing cultural acceptance for substances that proponents say might offer benefits for things like post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism, medical experts caution that more research is needed on the drugs' efficacy and the extent of the risks of psychedelics, which can cause hallucinations.
"Is it not ironic that the things that actually expand your mind are illegal and the things that keep you in the lower chakras and dumb you down have been legal for centuries?" Rodgers, who had previously discussed his use of ayahuasca, said Wednesday night.
Rodgers, who'll soon debut with the New York Jets after years with the Green Bay Packers, spoke at the conference with podcaster Aubrey Marcus. Rodgers described taking ayahuasca with his teammates as "radically life-changing," and said many other pro athletes have reached out to him.
"The response from other people in the sports industry has been incredible. To see basketball players and baseball players and surfers, entertainers and my own teammates and colleagues across the league reach out and either share their story about their own medicine journey or ask to be a part of an upcoming one was pretty special."
Ayahuasca is defined as a psychoactive beverage native to South America and is often used for religious, ritualistic or medicinal purposes.
He also called out the "bums" who have criticized him after he has discussed his experiences.
"Because I guarantee you all these bums who want to come after me online about my experience and stuff, they've never tried it," he added. "They're the perfect people for it. We need to get these people taking it."
He added that his success on the football field after using ayahuasca after the 2019 season makes it hard to dismiss his views.
"You know, it's going to be hard to cancel me, because, you know, the previous year, 26 touchdowns, four interceptions. We had a good season. Ayahuasca, 48 touchdowns, five interceptions, MVP. What are you going to say?"
Rodgers, 39, said he wants to "change the conversation by dispelling these archaic myths about the dangers of [psychedelics] or the negative side effects ... and start to share the actual wisdom and truth about it." He said he believes the way to "move the conversation forward" is for others to be comfortable to discuss their own experiences.
The NFL said last year that Rodgers' use of ayahuasca wasn't considered a violation of the NFL's drug policy, as it wouldn't have triggered a positive test result on either the substance abuse or performance-enhancing substance policies collectively bargained by the NFL and its players' association.
Rodgers has become known for seeking unconventional methods of self-reflection during his offseasons. This year he went on a four-day darkness retreat to contemplate whether he wanted to play this season or retire.
Psychedelics are illegal at the federal level, though acceptance and interest in studying their potential benefits has grown.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.