Michael Pollan’s New Book on “The New Science of Psychedelics”

Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind”

Nicola Pohl of Science Magazine just published a review of Michael Pollan’s new book How to Change Your Mind.  The book is about “What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.”

The book won’t be released to the public until May 15, 2018.  Nevertheless, the publication demonstrates two encouraging trends in psychedelic medicine:

  1. First, Michael Pollan is a highly respected journalist, who brings credibility to this topic. He is the author of seven other books, including Cooked, Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire, all of which were New York Times bestsellers. A longtime contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Pollan also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley where he is the John S. and James L. Knight Professor of Science Journalism. In 2010, TIME magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. His attention to psychedelic medicine suggests that this topic is making progress towards mainstream interest;
  2. Second, Science Magazine reviewed the book, positioning psychedelic medicine alongside today’s most important and exciting scientific research — in any discipline.  Science Magazine’s Nicola Pohl describes the book as “a balanced piece of journalistic science writing,” which represents a welcome departure from articles focussing on the psychedelic counter culture and accounts of “tripping.”

Is Psychedelic Science Possible?

One particularly interesting topic addressed in How to Change Your Mind is the challenge of applying REAL SCIENCE to psychedelic drugs.  In previous articles in The Journal of Psilocybin Science, contributors have noted that the variability in “magic mushrooms” makes it nearly impossible to conduct scientific research.  See, e.g., Psilocybin Formulations for Treating Depression

Pollan’s book promises to discuss the importance of isolating a single variable (i.e., a controlled experiment) while also conceding that “it isn’t clear that the effects of a psychedelic drug can ever be isolated….”

Is it possible to conduct a controlled scientific study on magic mushrooms? On the molecules within them?

From a chemical standpoint, it is 100% possible to isolate the components present in magic mushrooms (and other psychoactive organisms).  By using those isolated components (e.g., in formulated products) scientists could correlate a specific variable with a particular effect.  That would overcome the current obstacles confronting scientists—namely that magic mushrooms vary in chemical composition.  Both the identity of active components and the amount of those components vary considerably between different samples of naturally occurring mushrooms.

Pollan appears to weigh the potential for controlling the chemical components of “magic mushrooms” with the possibility that controlling chemical composition might not be enough to understand the effects on the user.

Tim Ferris Interviews MichaeL Pollan

Tim Ferris recently interviewed Michael Pollan on his Podcast.  Here is Tim Ferris’s summary of the topics discussed:

  1. The fundamentals of “psychedelics,” what the term means, and what compounds like psilocybin, mescaline, and others have in common;
  2. New insights related to treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, alcohol/nicotine dependence, OCD, PTSD, etc.;
  3. Recent scientific and clinical discussions of a “grand unified theory of mental illness”;
  4. Potential applications and risks of psychedelics;
  5. Michael’s own experiences — which he did not initially intend on having — and what he’s learned from them;
  6. The “entropic brain,” and why there might be a therapeutic sweet spot between mental order and chaos;
  7. Why researchers at Johns Hopkins, NYU, Yale, and elsewhere are dedicating resources to understanding these compounds.

1 thought on “Michael Pollan’s New Book on “The New Science of Psychedelics”

  1. Equilon64

    We need a vitality scale for these and other fungi. As to the psychotropics the unified brain is everything. People claiming to be awake on a fraction of a half hemisphere is laughable at best. Looking forward to something new here, so thrill me! ;^)

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