Michael Pollan (@michaelpollan) is a writing professor, a longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, and author of many best-selling books — his latest is How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.
What We Discuss with Michael Pollan:
- How psychedelics have been used throughout human history across almost every culture in the world.
- What psychedelic compounds have in common and how they interact with the human brain on a molecular level.
- How psychedelics are being used in modern medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, OCD, anxiety, and dependence on alcohol and nicotine.
- What it means to expand your subconscious and change your conscious states of mind.
- Why psychedelic insights are so powerful and perspective-changing long after their physical effects have faded.
- And much more…
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After decades of being forbidden by law for recreation or research, psychedelics are legally enjoying a renaissance in the scientific community as a potential way of treating a wide variety of ailments including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, OCD, anxiety, and dependence on alcohol and nicotine.
Joining us for episode 81 to talk about these breakthroughs along with his own psychedelic experiences is Michael Pollan, author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
Disclaimer: with few exceptions, the possession and recreational use of psychedelic drugs is probably illegal wherever you’re listening to this podcast. This episode does not constitute an endorsement of casual lawbreaking; we trust our listeners to hear this with an open mind, but above all to use common sense with any information received from this program.
What are psychedelics, exactly? Michael Pollan, the best-selling author of How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, is the right person to ask.
“There’s some debate over how broadly to define psychedelics,” says Michael. “I run into people who define them as psychoactive plants and drugs in general, but the definition that I liked and relied on in the book is a class of so-called classic psychedelics that all operate on the same receptor sites in the brain…and they include basically, for my purposes, LSD, psilocybin, DMT…and a handful of more obscure ones. I would not include, for example, MDMA or ecstasy — although some people do — or cannabis, that some people consider a mild psychedelic.
“The reason I limit it to that class is they have a similar neuroscience story and they have a similar social history. I’m very much tied to this period in the ’50s and ’60s of active research followed by a crushing suppression.”
The crushing suppression Michael’s talking about here is what happened when President Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, which instantly put an end to psychedelics research that had been going on for decades. It was an overreaction to their popular use within hippie counterculture, seen by the administration as a subversive threat to its agendas.
Only recently have laws been relaxed enough to allow researchers to explore the possible mental health benefits of psychedelics once again, which gives hope to people suffering from ailments including PTSD, treatment-resistant depression, OCD, anxiety, and dependence on alcohol and nicotine. It’s even been known to help the terminally ill face death with calm and dignity.
“You would assume your thoughts would go to the darkest possible place, and they do, actually,” says Michael. “But people have found it enormously helpful. I must have talked to a dozen patients in this situation and they had journeys that in many cases reset their thinking about their death and made it much less frightening.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about the role of psychedelics in human history, how the term “psychedelics” came about (and what it replaced), how psychedelics have psychological effects that last long beyond their physiological influence, why guided trips are more productive than recreational trips, why psychedelic insights are so powerful and perspective-changing, the risks of psychedelics, how psychedelics affect our default mode network, and much more.
THANKS, MICHAEL POLLAN!
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Resources from This Episode:
- How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
- Michael Pollan’s Website
- Michael Pollan at Facebook
- Michael Pollan at Twitter
- A Conversation with Albert Hofmann, MAPS
- The Trip Treatment: Research into Psychedelics, Shut down for Decades, Is Now Yielding Exciting Results by Michael Pollan, The New Yorker
- The Psychedelic Cult That Thrived For Nearly 2,000 Years by Keith Veronese, io9
- The Mescaline Experiment: Humphry Osmond and Christopher Mayhew
- Aldous Huxley, Dying of Cancer, Left This World Tripping on LSD (1963), Open Culture
- The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley
- Vanishing of the Bees
- The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
- Born in
- The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys by James Fadiman
- TJHS 27: David Eagleman | How Your Brain Makes Sense of the World
- Hollow Face Mask Effect Explained by Weipeng Liu
- Holotropic Breathwork
- The Mushroom Cure by Adam Strauss
- A Microguide to Microdosing Psychedelic Drugs by Blanca Myers, Wired
- Long-Term Follow-Up of Psilocybin-Facilitated Smoking Cessation by Matthew W. Johnson et al., The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
- LSD Could Help Alcoholics Stop Drinking, AA Founder Believed by Amelia Hill, The Guardian
- Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity by Calcin Ly et al., Cell Reports
- The Birth of LSD with Dr. Stanislav Grof, Father of Transpersonal Psychology, Bulletproof Radio
- TJHS 55: Mary Lou Jepsen & Rob Reid | The Future of Telepathy and Affordable Healthcare
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)