The use of psychedelics and plant medicines in our current society is no longer considered taboo. We have been seeing an increase of research and discussion around the potential healing capacity of such substances over the past decade or so and words like ayahuasca are echoed quite regularly throughout many conversations between people from all walks of life. Perhaps this is because of the tremendous healing capacity of such plants, or because of the multitude of research conducted from organizations such as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).
Recently, Michael Pollan, author of best-selling books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, decided to put something else in his mouth — psychedelic substances, in the name of his research, of course, for his most recent best-seller, How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.
Pollan, now a self-proclaimed psychonaut decided to take it upon himself to see what all the fuss was about in regards to the psychedelic research and it’s potential. After hearing about a research study in which people with a diagnoses of terminal cancer were given psilocybin, or more commonly referred to as, magic mushrooms, to help them come to terms with their impending fate.
“This seemed like such a crazy idea that I began looking into it,” Pollan said. “Why should a drug from a mushroom help people deal with their mortality?”
This is an excellent point to ponder, and a great starting point to dive head first into the world of psychedelic substances and all of their potential. Upon researching various therapeutic uses of psychedelics, Pollan found that these drugs were being used to treat depression, addiction and a fear of death.
First A Little History
The first quarter or so of the book dives deep into the history of using psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, MDMA, and Lysergic Acid (LSD) for therapeutic and healing purposes. Before these substances were labeled as schedule 1 drugs under the controlled substances act, they were researched quite extensively and proved to be very effective treatments for a wide array of mental health disorders. One might wonder why exactly these substances were given such a harsh ban and outlawed in the first place, considering all of the promising research that was well under way.
For around 40 years, it became nearly impossible to study any of these substances and their potential benefits because the laws restricted such research. That was until Rick Doblin, founder of MAPS, began opening this door once again and started receiving funding to reignite this astounding research and potential that was left in the dust for so long.
Pollan, The Reluctant Psychonaut
In the name of research, Pollan took it upon himself to enlist guides to facilitate experiences with LSD, psilocybin and 5-MeO-DMT, a substance found in the venom of the Sonoran Desert toad.
Of course, preceding each experience Pollan had with the psychedelics brought up worry and self-doubt, but he says, “I realized later that was my ego trying to convince me not to do this thing that was going to challenge my ego.”
Check out Michael Pollan being interviewed by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show,
Isn’t it great to see this type of subject matter being discussed and explored on national television? You know times are changing, when…
It’s amazing to see this type of content getting featured on a platform that has the ability to effect millions who may have not otherwise stumbled across this sort of thing.
What Was Pollan’s Mushroom Trip Like?
“I had an experience that was by turns frightening and ecstatic and weird… I found myself in this place where I could no longer control my perceptions at all, and I felt my sense of self scatter to the wind — almost as if a pile of post-its had been released to the wind — but I was fine with it. I didn’t feel any desire to pile the papers back together into my customary self …
Then I looked out and saw myself spread over the landscape like a coat of paint or butter. I was outside myself, beside myself, literally, and the consciousness that beheld this … was not my normal consciousness, it was completely unperturbed. It was dispassionate. It was content, as I watched myself dissolve over the landscape.
What I brought back from that experience was that I’m not identical to my ego, that there is another ground on which to plant our feet and that our ego is kind of this character that is chattering neurotically in our minds. And it’s good for lots of things. I mean, the ego got the book written, but it also can be very harsh, and it’s liberating to have some distance on it. And that was a great gift, I think.”