Last week I was telling a friend on the Big Island (Hawaii) about How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan’s new book on psychedelics. My buddy was inspired by my recommendation to get the book from the Kona Library right after our call ended. I got a text message from him that there were 74 people on the waiting list. There were only 4 or so on the Orcas Island Library list, by comparison.
Michael Pollan has changed my mind several times over the years, with books like Omnivore’s Dilemma, Botany of Desire, and Cooked. Pollan turned me on to local and organic foods, and I can thank him for my gradual switch to what I would call a half vegetarian diet (the other half being fish, eggs, and locally raised meat.)
I’ve been interested in psychedelics ever since Pollan’s first article on the subject, way back in 2015. In the article he described a renaissance of scientific research into psilocybin and other psychoactive substances. Really, though, the new research mostly revisits research from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, which showed promising applications for psychedelics in the treatment of addiction, depression, and “the betterment of well people.” Then people freaked out and these substances were banned around the world, bringing very promising research (and treatment!) to a halt.
I don’t intend to write a book review here, so I’ll just say that this is the single most extraordinary book I’ve read in many years. Michael Pollan is the perfect person to investigate what is a fairly…fraught…subject, for Westerners anyway. He is by nature a skeptical materialist (he is a journalist after all), and yet his excitement for psychedelics is palpable.
The recent research is very exciting for those of us interested in mental health, wellness, and more ephemeral matters like spirituality and love. Don’t take my word for it though [Insert Reading Rainbow sound cue]
I’ve also heard several fascinating interviews with Michael Pollan.