For most NFL players, the offseason is a time for taking trips, most famously the annual pilgrimage to Disney World that Super Bowl winners typically go in early February after the season’s final game.
Kenny Stills, a nine-year veteran who spent last season with the Saints, is not most NFL players, and the trips the speedy wide receiver has been taking this offseason are of a completely different variety.
Stills, who will turn 30 later this week, has been outspoken about a number of issues over the course of his career including the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick, the presence of Donald Trump and the killing of African-American woman Breonna Taylor by Kentucky police officers in March of 2020. These days, Stills is speaking up about another issue that’s near and dear to his heart: using psychedelics as a treatment to bolster mental health.
A recreational drug user who dabbled in everything from peyote and ecstasy to LSD and cannabis throughout high school, college and his time in the pros, Stills recently underwent medically supervised ketamine treatments with the guidance of an experienced therapist via psychedelic therapy clinic Field Trip Health.
“I think what attracted me to psychedelics at a young age was the fact that we don’t use a good portion of our brains. Psychedelics allow us to tap into the areas of the brain we don’t use. That’s interesting and exciting to me,” Stills tells InsideHook. “As somebody who is really focused on trying to be the best version of myself, I wanted to see how I can get the most out of my body and mind. My ketamine session lasted 15 minutes but it was very intense as far as mind and body. Ketamine separates you from you, in a sense. You’ll find yourself wondering if you’re still in the same room or in the same dimension. The very first time I had a visual experience with it, I felt like I was on the other side, however you want to think about that. I really, really felt like I wasn’t here or wasn’t on earth. Psychedelics affect us all differently because of our brain chemistry and I have known how they can help me for five or six years now.”
The experience Stills — who also says microdoses of psilocybin (the main active chemical in magic mushrooms) played a huge role in his mental health journey — had with Field Trip was positive and helpful enough that he felt it was his “duty as a human being” to share it with the world.
“Whenever I learn something, it’s important for me to give back and share it with other people,” Stills says. “I’m not here to tell you to do drugs or to do psychedelics. I’m here to let you know that there are other options out there for you if you want to get help, and to be transparent about my journey and the fact that I have used psychedelics combined with therapy and mindset work to get me to a place where I feel a lot freer and have more empathy and joy in my heart. I’ve broken some of the patterns that were passed on to me from my parents and the generation before that. We have the ability to rewire our brains and change our thought patterns. Our lives are only for so long and there are so many tough and sad things going on in the world. I’ve had close friends who have taken their own life. At some point, you start to feel responsible for not sharing the other options that are out there to get help with these people. Why not share with other people that there’s a way we can be a better version of ourselves and get to a place of joy regardless of status?”
An obvious reason for Stills not to share his psychedelic experience would be that he risks getting backlash from the NFL, similar to how marijuana advocate Ricky Williams was demonized for his beliefs and missed two full seasons and endured five suspensions for using cannabis. Despite that possibility, Stills is speaking out on behalf of psychedelics and wellness clinics like Field Trip.
“If I can save one person’s life by having a conversation about psychedelics, then I’ve done what I came here to do,” he says. “I have had my life threatened for getting involved in activism and taking a knee during a national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality and to racism around the world. I’m as strong as can be mentally, emotionally and physically. The data is out there and we know how much cannabis and plant medicine can help people. We can’t continue to dance around the conversation and the topic and pretend the stuff isn’t helping people. I’m transparent about my experience and where I’m at. Anyone who knows me and has seen my progression. The league can say and do whatever they want to do. I think that they need people like me to work with them to get in and actually do the work and fight for what’s right. I know that God and the higher power will protect me. We know what this stuff can do and it’s time for us to really start helping each other because life is hard enough.”
Thanks to psychedelics combined with therapy, Stills’s life has gotten a bit easier and he feels more open and connected to himself and the world as a whole than he would have previously thought possible.
“I can’t say in my household that we were really given the tools. My emotional intelligence wasn’t very high. I didn’t understand why I was acting out or why I was angry or rageful or why I wanted to respond to arguments with violence,” Stills says. “It’s really important to have a sounding board and have somebody to go talk to. I think we look at therapy as this scary place where we go and somebody tries to give us the answers to our life because they think they know us better than we know ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, therapy is like journaling or speaking out loud to yourself, except there is somebody there who knows what they’re talking about. It’s been so impactful for me to verbalize the chatter in my head to make a lot more sense of it. So, I encourage people to try therapy. It’s just like any other relationship. You might not like your first, second or third therapist, but you have to try to find the right person to lead you and guide you. They aren’t going to try and solve your problems or tell you what to do, but instead give you some of the tools that you need to see things from a different perspective. We all need that.”