Many people who train to become professional athletes or sports stars, do so with dreams of simply becoming the best in their field. Maybe a gold, some glory, being labeled the GOAT — that sure wouldn’t hurt either.

But what does hurt for some athletes, is that the very skills they seek to perfect in their lifetimes can actually have a tragically detrimental effect on their later lives. These can prevent them from building stable families, or relationships — even sometimes robbing them of their very memories of triumph.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Daniel Carcillo’s Story

Two-time Stanley Cup winning ice hockey player Daniel Carcillo is one such athlete. Aged just three, the Canadian began ice-skating. As soon as graduating high school, he was snapped up by a professional ice hockey team. Over the next several years, he played for the NHL with the New York Rangers, the Los Angeles Kings, the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Chicago Blackhawks. By the age of 30, after an illustrious career, he was ready to retire and begin a new life with his wife and three children.

“Dementia-like” Symptoms

However, this was not to be. In a recent CNN interview, Carcillo explained that by the age of 31, he was “suicidal”. Unbeknownst to him, the multiple concussions he had suffered had caused lasting detriment to his health. He experienced “dementia-like” symptoms, which prevented him from playing with his children, sleeping properly, and even being in the sunlight. He told CNN Sport; 

Daniel Carcillo (via Wikimedia Commons)

“If they [his children]  want to go outside on a very sunny day, and I can’t find my dark glasses to block the sun out … I would try to go outside and tough it … that would trigger a headache, and that would trigger head pressure,”

Feeling like a “burden”, in an effort to hide himself away, he retreated from his loved ones, and the outside world. He was lonely and miserable, a shell of the person he once was. 

He was also self-medicating with alcohol, painkillers, sleep-aids and muscle relaxers. His speech was slurred, he was losing weight, and his memory was not functioning properly. He was in a “very, very dark, dark place. I didn’t think I had a way out”, he told CNN.

Psilocybin Offers a Ray of Hope

In a desperate attempt to heal himself, he spent over $500,000 on treatments and medications at brain centers, stroke rehabilitation centers, and on holistic therapies. Nothing worked. So Carcillo began to do his own research, reading medical papers about psychedelic therapies. He found a psilocybin study from Imperial College, London, in which it was found that  “the psychedelic compound may effectively reset the activity of key brain circuits known to play a role in depression.”

So finally, as a “last-ditch effort” he went to Denver — AKA the first city in the US to decriminalize magic mushrooms. There he took a dose of psilocybin. And, by the very next morning he noticed a change;

I woke up the next day and I describe it as feeling the way I should… I felt like, for the first time in a very, very long time, I had a zest for life. All I wanted to do was get on FaceTime and call my wife and call my kids and get back home.”

Today Carcillo is microdosing psilocybin, and taking larger doses every so often. He couples this with regular exercise, a sleep schedule, and lots of sunshine. 

via Unsplash

Natural Psychedelics Help Us To Heal

This is not the first time we have seen stories like this. From the UFC looking into psilocybin research to protect their fighters’ brain health, to Mike Tyson’s psychedelic rebirth, to Jake Paul’s usage of magic mushrooms to combat his boxing injuries, it seems that Mother Earth had the answers to healing all along…

Aaron Rodgers (Via Wikimedia Commons)

And it’s not just the natural magic of psilocybin; ayahuasca, (the DMT-based brew that originates from indigenous Amazonian practices) has been lending a healing hand too. New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers credits the psychedelic with improving his performance on the football field itself. He has said that the brew helped him to “see how to unconditionally love myself.” Additionally, last year at the Psychedelic Science convention in Denver he stated what we’ve all been thinking, when he said;

“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?” 

The Athletic World Can Be ‘Toxic’

These are not rare occurrences. Professional athletes often report higher levels of mental health disorder symptoms than the general population. Additionally, many of the symptoms they suffer are often ignored; either due to the fear of seeming ‘weak’, or because they may be mistaken for ‘normal’ challenges within a high pressure environment. 

Paramount to treating issues such as these, are changing the way athletes perceive their working lives. They should not be in discomfort, fear, or states of heightened anxiety that makes them distrust their own bodies, to feel as though they are performing adequately. Unfortunately, this attitude has been prevalent in the industry since time immemorial.  

Holistic Healing Is The Way Forward

Happily, as psychedelic research continues, we are more poised than ever to find ways to treat these debilitating health conditions. And, with effective treatment comes a deeper understanding of the initial causes, and thus how they can be prevented. It is fitting that natural psychedelics are able to heal us from all angles — holistically — as we are, after all, nature too. 🌱🌱🌱