Aaron Rodgers credits ayahuasca for his recent MVPs: What is the psychedelic drug?

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed an ayahuasca experience paved the way for the "best season" of his decorated NFL career.

On the Aubrey Marcus Podcast, Rodgers said he consumed the plant-based psychedelic drug ayahuasca in South America prior to winning his third and fourth MVP awards in 2020 and 2021.

The 38-year-old credited it for helping him produce two of the best seasons of his career thanks to a change in mindset and mental health improvement.

"I don't think it's a coincidence," Rodgers said during the podcast, which went live Wednesday on YouTube. "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."

Aaron Rodgers said he took ayahuasca: Green Bay QB said it improved his mental health and spurred MVP seasons

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Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers reacts after an incomplete pass on a fourth down play during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on October 03, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers reacts after an incomplete pass on a fourth down play during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on October 03, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

But what is the psychedelic drug, where is it used and how does it affect people?

What is ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca, a brown-reddish drink with a strong taste and smell, contains the active chemical dimethyltryptamine, or DMT.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies DMT as a hallucinogen, and it is associated with religious practices and rituals in South America.

A healer starts a Yage ceremony in the Guavio Province, Colombia, on Aug. 9, 2014. Yage, a mixture of ayahuasca and a psychoactive bush, attracts many people to Colombia who seek to participate in a traditional indigenous ritual of spiritual and physical healing.
A healer starts a Yage ceremony in the Guavio Province, Colombia, on Aug. 9, 2014. Yage, a mixture of ayahuasca and a psychoactive bush, attracts many people to Colombia who seek to participate in a traditional indigenous ritual of spiritual and physical healing.

The herbal drink is usually made from bark of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine and leaves of the Psychotria viridis bush, according to the National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Nicknames include Huasca, yagé, Kamarampi, Huni, brew, daime, the tea, and la purga, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

Is ayahuasca legal in the US?

Ayahuasca has no approved medical use in the U.S. and is considered a Schedule I drug. Marijuana, heroin, LSD, and ecstasy are among other Schedule I drugs.

The use of psychedelic drugs, even in medical settings, is illegal in the United States. But Oregon voted to legalize psychedelic mushrooms in 2020 and could become the first state with legal mushroom access as soon as this year, The Oregonian reported.

DMT also is listed among the NFL's banned substances. NFL players are blood tested at random during training camp and throughout the season and playoffs. Rodgers said he used ayahuasca prior to the 2020 season on a trip to Peru with his ex-girlfriend Danica Patrick.

Danica Patrick, driver of the #13 GoDaddy Chevrolet kisses Aaron Rodgers prior to the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Danica Patrick, driver of the #13 GoDaddy Chevrolet kisses Aaron Rodgers prior to the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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Is ayahuasca safe?

Some medical experts, citing clinical research, say there can be benefits to using ayahuasca in the proper quantity and in a safe setting. But they said it can also be dangerous.

Dr. Alex Dimitriu, who specializes in psychiatry and sleep medicine – but does not use psychedelic treatments with patients due to its illegality – previously told USA TODAY psychedelics can encourage users to "connect loose themes" and experience "improved lucidity and memory."

But that does not mean they are for everyone or should be used recreationally or as a replacement for therapy.

"All of these psychedelic therapies aren't just giving people a drug then sitting back," Dimitriu said. "They are done in a therapeutic process with hours of preparation and integration."

Does ayahuasca work?

Dr. Sameet Kumar, a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping people with cancer, grief or end-of-life concerns, also does not use the psychedelic treatment with his patients.

But he said in the right doses and proper environment, these "agents of change" can allow a person to dive into their subconscious thoughts and address deep traumas.

But ayahuasca, Kumar said, is hard to study.

"It's a natural medicine so dosage hasn't been standardized yet to be studied in the U.S.," he said.

What makes psychedelics a promising form of treatment, Kumar said, is their ability to "pull someone out of their comfort zone, especially for those who are resistant to doing so in standard talk therapies."

Contributing: Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Is ayahuasca legal in US? What is it made of? What to know about drug