Michael Pollan drops acid in the name of research

How to Change Your Mind Michael Pollan

Psychedelics are an extremely polarizing topic in the general media, but it turns out, not so much in the therapeutic world. The reasons for this are explained very clearly by one of our favorite authors, Michael Pollan, in his new book “How to Change Your Mind”.

In this book, Pollan uncovers the “secret” history of using psychedelics (primarily LSD and psilocybin, but also 5-MeO-DMT, mescaline, DMT, and MDMA) in therapeutic settings to treat patients. In his typical format, he approaches the subject with a bit of skepticism, and seems to convince himself of the truly astounding results that have been documented through his deep research, thereby convincing us as well.

Without going into all the details, which you can do yourself by reading the book if you are interested, suffice it to say there is A LOT of evidence of the success of using psychedelics, or what the researchers prefer to call entheogens (from the Greek for “the divine within”), for therapy. Positive therapeutic results are well documented for PTSD, anxiety, end-of-life and terminal illness (especially cancer), addiction, and more, from the 1950s and 1960s, until Timothy Leary came along and blew the whole area of research up by attempting to recreationalize the drugs.

Quietly, much of the therapeutic research with psychedelics has continued both at respected institutions (Johns Hopkins) and underground, and was enhanced by the the addition of brain scanning techniques introduced in the 1990s.

Today, it seems that the beneficial use of psychedelics in the proper “set and setting” (meaning a controlled environment, an experienced guide, and well laid out intention and integration plan), is well accepted by the psychiatric world, if not yet by the government.

Pollan, of course, challenges himself to try some of the substances he studies, and the book contains amazingly poignant descriptions of his experiences with LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), ayahuasca, and 5-MeO-DMT (smoked venom of the Sonoran dessert toad(!)). He admits that he was very reluctant to try the substances, but ends up having transformative experiences, the most arresting being when he experienced “ego dissolution”, or a merging with the collective consciousness, a common and important experience that many have with these substances.

Pollan warns that taking these substances “recreationally” or for fun can be harmful, while supporting the notion of use and legalization for research and therapeutic use. It may take a popular and respected author like Mr. Pollan to break apart the stigma that has been associated with psychedelics since the 1960s, and we support the continued research into the use of these (mostly) plant based remedies for profound and life improving effects.

Pollan provides an outtake from the book here, and the New York Times reviews the book in more detail as well. Happy reading!