We’re still reflecting on our time in Miami earlier this month, where The Dales Report team attended Wonderland, a first-of-its-kind psychedelics conference offering executives, investors, enthusiasts, and the growing psychedelic community a chance to come together for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
We caught up with the Wake Network team following their presentation at the conference, sitting down with the company’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Olga Chernoloz and advisors and former pro-athletes Riley Cote and Eben Britton aboard the Maryam to discuss just how much of a game changer psychedelics have been for their mental health and wellness.
Psychedelics on ‘Fast Track’
“There’s a lot of interest and a lot of research happening, and that’s my thing,” said Dr. Chernoloz to kick off the conversation, “so I’m happy for the data to support this industry being built.”
“It’s been fantastic to connect with like-minded people,” said Britton. “There’s something I like about Olga, her background is very heavily integrated in mental health, and that’s really where I come into this from as a former pro-athlete. To see people recognizing the value and legitimacy of these plant medicines as vital mental health tools, it’s super powerful.”
According to Britton, who has spent a significant amount of time as an advocate in the cannabis space, psychedelics seem to be on a fast track, primarily because they haven’t suffered the same demonization. He and Cote have shared their story with other athletes and are working to build understanding and education around the use of plant and fungi medicines like cannabis and psilocybin.
Psychedelics A Gamechanger for Former Pro-Athletes
Without a doubt, both Britton and Cote agree that psychedelics have been an important part of their journey to healing after leaving professional sports. (Cote played eight seasons in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers while Britton spent six seasons in the NFL playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Chicago Bears).
“Psychedelics have been a huge tool of mine, to help me support my healing since I retired in 2010,” said Cote, who says his mental and spiritual health have never been better. “For me, I’ve tapped into a few different dimensions of using psilocybin mushrooms for my healing, some on a more macro level, and then on a more micro level, but there’s certainly a place for both.”
Why Integration Matters
Cote pointed out that while psychedelics are gaining a lot of attention as a potential treatment for mental health, there is a lot more to it than just taking a hallucinogenic substance. When it comes to integrating and embodying the psychedelic experience, yoga, breathwork, meditation, and a nutritious diet are just a few helpful tools that can help to ensure that the positive feelings experienced after a psychedelic trip not only last longer; they become the baseline.
“Wellness is much more complicated and complex than just taking a psychedelic,” said Cote, who practices and teaches yoga regularly. “There’s work required, and that’s arguably the most important piece of this: finding that groove in life and then practicing some of the insights that you might have within those experiences.”
Chernoloz clarified that the frequently uttered term, ‘neuroplasticity’ isn’t as simple as it sounds: “You are helping your brain to relearn, but you have to put in the good work, otherwise, if you’re plunging yourself into the same mindset that you’re trying to get away from, you’re going to reinforce it even more. So, integration is critical to long-term effects and success.”
Testing for Psychedelic Efficacy, Ahead of Time
Another important point Chernoloz brought up was the subject of her talk earlier in the day: while psychedelics are potentially an exciting new frontier in healthcare, they don’t work for everybody.
To create a way to test how suitable psychedelic treatment might be from one person to the next, Wake is looking to collect data from clinical trial participants via throat swabs, to be analyzed and compared to response rates to psychedelics.
“What we’re striving for is an objective clinical grade measure that will be valid, that will be recognized by regulators, and may become one of the things to help propel this industry forward,” said Chernoloz. “If we can tell regulators we have this objective measure of telling whether this is something that is safe or not, they would be much more willing to open it up as a therapeutic option.”
What Happens at the End of a Professional Sports Career?
Cote and Britton both opened up about the immense personal loss that comes after leaving a professional sports team and a lifetime of identifying with that role.
“I had to kill to two pieces of my ego, I was no longer a hockey player and I was no longer a fighter,” said Cote. “I had to reidentify, and reinvent myself… I realized when I first retired that that was the old me, I’m no longer the egocentric meathead that was strapping on the blades every night. I had to do a little soul searching and figure out who I was.”
Britton echoed what Cote had to say about his own journey: “In the process of proving to the world how big and scary I was, I literally destroyed myself, mentally, emotionally, and physically,” he said. “And so, coming out of my football career, I was faced with this unavoidable reality of having to confront myself… I had to go on this very painful journey of reconfiguring myself, healing myself, and shedding that old skin.”
Tune into the video above to hear more about the steps Britton and Cote took to recover, and how Wake is working to reduce stigma around accessing psychedelic treatment.