Psychedelics And Sports Performance: Is There A Link?

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Psychedelics And Sports Performance: Is There A Link?

Magic mushrooms appear to be beneficial for mental issues such as anxiety and depression, and for general cognitive enhancement, but do these effects trickle over into sport? Many extreme sports and combat athletes seem to think so.

Psychedelics were a once demonised and prohibited class of drugs. Things are changing, though. While still illegal, psychedelics are now slowly being embraced by science and society as substances that may have enormous potential to change lives, increase performance, and heal. Classic psychedelics such as magic mushrooms may be able to ease anxiety surrounding death, exert long-lasting positive personality changes, and assist with depressive symptoms. They’re even being used in sub-perceptual amounts, referred to as microdoses, by business executives and engineers to boost productivity and problem-solving abilities.

The cognitive benefits of psychedelics are quite clear at this point. It makes a lot of sense then that these substances could be highly beneficial for athletes looking to obtain a mental edge. Admittedly, there is no existing science that clarifies this hypothesis. However, there are quite a few anecdotal accounts from top-level athletes and industry professionals that claim psychedelics have contributed toward improving their performances.


Although riding down a ski slope, biking down forest tracks, and surfing big waves might seem like one of the worst environments to ingest psychedelics, author and extreme sports athlete James Oroc states that it’s very common for these athletes to dose mushrooms or LSD. Oroc explains that extreme sports athletes are drawn to psychedelics because of the performance-enhancing effects. Increases in balance, stamina, and altitude resilience are reported by some. Also, an increased connection to the natural environment in which they are riding or gliding is reported to make the experience far more spiritual and enjoyable.

Oroc himself is perhaps the most reliable source when it comes to extreme sports and psychedelics. The man is the author of Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad: From Burning Man to the Akashic Field, and also made the first flight by paraglider from the world's tallest active volcano. He states that LSD has the ability to greatly improve reaction time, boost concentration, and make a person more resistant to pain and weakness.


Perhaps one of the most famous accounts of psychedelics improving sports performance is that of American professional baseball player Dock Ellis. Ellis was a legend of the sport who played for teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets. Having achieved a total of 1,136 strikeouts over the course of his career, arguably the most profound performance delivered by Ellis was when he was under the influence of LSD.

As well as slight inebriation via vodka, Ellis pitched a legendary no-hitter in 1970 whilst playing against the San Pedro Padres. He claims he could only remember portions of the game and felt euphoric and in the zone throughout. Ellis states that the ball seemed to change sizes throughout the match, and even admits that he thought he was pitching to Jimi Hendrix at one point.


The story of Ellis clearly involved a significant amount of acid. It’s obvious that too high of a dose could sabotage an athlete’s skill and bring them too far out of reality to perform at their best. Many athletes refrain from heroic doses during their sport and instead opt for a microdose. Dr. James Fadiman, psychologist, author, and leading authority on microdosing psychedelics, has received hundreds of anecdotal reports from individuals experimenting with sub-perceptual amounts of hallucinogens. He reports a common trend of increased skill during physical activities.


Anecdotes stemming from Reddit discuss microdosing psilocybin mushrooms before rolling during Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ) training. BJJ has been described as human chess, and is a grappling sport that involves technique, stamina, relative strength, and focus. Every single move has a specifically designed counter attack or escape, meaning athletes need to be 3 steps ahead at all times whilst preventing themselves from being strangled out of consciousness. Users on the forum state that mushrooms helped enhance focus, movement efficiency, and creativity during rolling—another clear example of the potential cognitive enhancement exerted by psychedelics.

Of course, this is all anecdotal and carries no weight with any official body. But there seems to be an emerging trend of athletes experimenting with the psychedelic to enhance thier performance and training.