Michael Pollan, best-selling author of books like “The Omnivore Dilemma” about food and farming, has released a new book titled “How to Change Your Mind.” In it, he shares his experiences while taking psychedelics like LSD, magic mushrooms, and DMT. Based on those experiences and research that he also shares in his book, Pollan explores the possibility of using psychedelic drugs to treat a variety of mental and physical conditions. The suggestion isn’t new. The topic was widely discussed and explored decades ago but faded from prominence. In recent years, conversations about possible uses have once again been on the increase.
As Newsday explains, psychedelic molecules are neither addictive nor deadly for humans. Their molecular structure is very similar to that of the neurotransmitter serotonin that is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It helps our bodies do things like manage anxiety and reduce depression. When psychedelic molecules enter the body, they breach serotonin receptors in the brain.
The subtitle of Michael Pollan’s new book is drawing a great deal of attention – “What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” He writes about how LSD, psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms), and other psychedelics essentially reorganize the brain, sort of clearing space, allowing more clear thinking and reducing feelings like panic and dread. One chapter in Pollan’s new book chronicles his experiences. He includes descriptions of things like the first time he took magic mushrooms and saw himself spread across a huge landscape like paint and the feeling of his ego melting away like butter, blowing away like paper, then exploding.
Pollan spoke to CBS News on Monday and said that it was reading accounts of cancer patients who were struggling with fear, depression, and anxiety and were given psilocybin to help them confront their mortality. When he spoke with these patients, they described a journey into their own bodies where they saw the cancer and viewed what would happen to them when they died. They were powerful spiritual experiences that in 80 percent of cases resulted in a loss of fear and anxiety about their death. Pollan sees psychedelic drugs as one possible option in the treatment of some cases of depression, like terminal cancer patients because it treats people at a spiritual level, not just at a physical level like current anti-depressants.