Google Search Trends just posted its highest score ever for the search term “psychedelics.” I’m flooded with emails from people interested in psychedelic therapy. Suddenly psychedelics are on the tips of everbody’s tongues. What is going on?
Michael Pollan is going on. The best-selling author just released his latest book: “How To Change Your Mind.” In it, he chronicles both the history and science of psychedelics and psychedelic therapies as well as his own personal experiences immersing himself in the underground psychedelic therapy world. It’s a fascinating read, and, as always with Michael Pollan, very well researched and very well written.
Now much of this has been chronicled before, repeatedly, ad-nauseum even. However, not by such a mainstream and widely-influential author. Since releasing the book last month, Michael has been on Fresh Air with Terry Grossand has published articles on the topic in the New York Times, the Guardian, and the Atlantic. In fact its pretty hard not to come-across his thoughts on the subjects these days.
And Pollan’s background interest and fascination with plants, which he explored in The Botany of Desire, and the human relationship with the natural world, which he covered in Omnivore’s Dilemma, give his book a unique take on the subject. He explores and makes the case for plant consciousness and intelligence as well as the benefits psychedelic use can have on environmental awareness and consciousness of our inseparable relationship with nature.
But fundamentally the book is about psychedelic therapy and medicine. His timing could not be better: MDMA-assisted psychedelic therapy may be on the cusp of regulatory approval and research on therapeutic uses of psychedelics are booming at major universities around the country and world.
What I find most interesting about Michael Pollan’s book is its impact on readers. I’ve had so many conversations with people whose only previous experience with psychedelics was recreational, maybe in college or maybe at Burning Man. The idea that you can use psychedelics in an intentional way for therapeutic or medicinal purposes is a novel idea for them and they are curious about it. Suddenly Pollan is shining a very bright spotlight on the incredible transformative power of the therapeutic use of psychedelics and entheogens to a mainstream audience that may still associate these substances with “turn on, tune in, drop out.”
In a country that is awash in depression, addiction, and anxiety, its ironic that the most cutting edge tool shown to address these very issues is something that culturally-speaking has been sitting around the attic for the past 40 years. Perhaps we are now ready to dust it off and put it to some much needed use.