Some of the world's top athletes have used psychedelic therapy to overcome addiction, depression, and other mental health issues.
Researchers say psychedelics like ayahuasca, psilocybin, ketamine, ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT prove so beneficial to professional athletes because they have the ability to heal. The sacrifice athletes of high-impact sports make to succeed goes beyond the personal and physical. Researchers have found that repeated head blows and concussions can have detrimental long-term effects on the brain—headaches, dizziness, forgetfulness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, aggression, and in some cases, the desire to kill oneself or others.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Cell Reports, psychedelic medicines can actually increase connections between neurons and essentially rewire the brain. These structural changes suggest that psychedelic drugs may hold the secret to repairing circuits in the brain that cause mood and anxiety disorders.
“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure,” according to David Olson, assistant professor in the departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who led the research team, “but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis.”
Conventional mental health therapies have offered little help. But a growing number of professional athletes are finding the path back to a better life with a more unconventional therapy—psychedelics. These five athletes are leading the way in psychedelic therapy.
1. Daniel Carcillo
Daniel Carcillo sat across from Real Sports host Bryant Gumbel a changed man. The former professional hockey player’s reckless abandon in the rink earned him the nickname Car Bomb. He was quick on the ice, but even quicker to throw punches at his opponents. During his 10-year career, he was diagnosed with seven concussions but believes he suffered at least 100 more.
The trauma to his brain had a lasting effect. He suffered from light sensitivity, slurred speech, headaches, head pressure, insomnia, impulse control. He felt overwhelmed with angst. Medication and psychotherapy didn’t help. At times, he felt so hopeless that he’d sit in his truck and contemplate how he could kill himself. He turned to ayahuasca for help.
Carcillo’s experience is not an isolated event. Former NFL star Kerry Rhodes told Gumbel he battled similar symptoms and feared he was suffering from early signs of CTE, the degenerative brain disease that dozens of former professional football players and players of other contact sports have suffered from as a result of repeated concussions. As with Carcillo, ayahuasca transformed his life for the better.
2. Ian McCall
Former UFC fighters Ian McCall and Dean Lister shared similar stories with Gumbel about how psychedelic medicine helped quell their mental anguish and addiction to drugs and alcohol so they could live more fulfilling lives. They hope to “pass it forward” to other former UFC fighters struggling with their own demons.
3. Riley Cote
Former professional hockey player, Riley Cote, a.k.a. the Enforcer, was no stranger to psilocybin mushrooms. But in a Cult Culture testimonial he says he used them “without understanding of their therapeutic and medicinal properties.”
After retiring at 28, weighed down by deteriorating mental health and addiction issues, he headed to a clinic in Jamaica, a place he called a “safe container.” There, his psilocybin trip was guided by a group of “true healers.” He realized the mushrooms could heal his mind and improve his mental wellbeing. “It just takes a little courage to step outside the box and trust in Mother Nature’s beautiful gifts she has blessed us with,” he said. Now, 10 years later, he has a whole new perspective on life.
4. Lamar Odom
Former NBA star Lamar Odom credits ketamine and ibogaine for saving him from a debilitating addiction to drugs. He began using due to anxiety and past trauma. His psychedelic intervention was featured in the film, “Lamar Odom Reborn,” directed by Mike “Zappy” Zapolin.
5. Mike Tyson
Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson credited his journey back to the boxing ring at the age of 54 with 5-MeO-DMT. During his trip, he said, “the medicine told me to get into shape.” On Nov. 28, 15 years after his last fight, Tyson faced off with Roy Jones Jr., both rejuvenated and 100 pounds lighter.