Over the years, the United States has gotten plenty of advice from food guru Michael Pollan. With five New York Times best sellers, a 2009 documentary (Food, Inc.) whose Netflix ubiquity arguably fueled everything from slow food to ingredient consciousness, he’s proven himself time and time again as a one-stop resource on what to put on your plate and what to steer clear of. (Oh, and he’s the guy who coined this smash-the-(Big Food) patriarchy rallying cry: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”)
“The biggest misconception people have about psychedelics is that these are drugs that make you crazy. We now have evidence that that does happen sometimes—but in many more cases, these are drugs that can make you sane.” —Michael Pollan
In his new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, he explores how psychedelic drugs are leading to a medical and scientific revolution because they have potential to help with everything from depression and anxiety to addiction. “The biggest misconception people have about psychedelics is that these are drugs that make you crazy. We now have evidence that that does happen sometimes—but in many more cases, these are drugs that can make you sane,” Pollan told Time.
It wouldn’t be a Pollan book if his investigative journalism didn’t also include his personal experience—like when he took high-dose psilocybin with a guide and “just kind of fell apart into these little pieces of paper. I saw myself get scattered to the wind, but I was all right with it.” (His worst journey, on the other hand, was smoking the venom of the Sonoran Desert Toad, which made him feel like he’d be “shot out of a rocket.”) Through his trips, he discovered that psychedelics may massively benefit the health world. (BTW, psychedelics are having a moment with the healthy-living, biohacking set, too—via microdosing, or taking very small amounts, something one of our writers does with LSD to make him more productive at work. And acclaimed writer Ayelet Waldman documented the microdosing journey that brought her back from depression in last year’s A Really Good Day.)
“There are two drugs that show the most potential and will probably be legalized for medical use soon. One is a drug that isn’t always considered a psychedelic: MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or Molly, which has been shown to be incredibly useful in the treatment of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers or in rape victims,” Pollan says. “The second is psilocybin [AKA shrooms]. It appears to be very useful in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and addiction in both smoking and alcohol.”
Writing this book has certainly made an impact on him on a personal level, too—his partner even noticed a difference: “I think [my wife] would say that I’m more open and more patient, that I deal with emotional situations with a little more availability,” he says. But with that being said, will he be microdosing on the regular? As of right now, he admits he isn’t sure if psychedelic drugs will play a role in his life moving forward—at least until they’re legal. For now, the majority of the magic mushrooms he enjoys will probably be the ones from the farmer’s market.
Here are the anxiety-soothing tips Kristen Bell would tell her younger self. Or, find out why depression rates have spiked nearly 33 percent in the past five years.
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