The Tim Ferriss Show | Michael Pollan — Exploring the Frontiers of Psychedelics

[Applause] thank you thank you all for coming good afternoon and we’re gonna settle in for a long spring nap hopefully not a nap we have 90 minutes if you have to leave early that’s totally fine just try to make sure that the doors in the back are closed we don’t have too much noise I’m thrilled to be here on stage with Michael Pollan Michael the cross pollinator is a friend of mine reference Emma’s being at Michael Pollan on Twitter if you want to say hello is the author of seven books prior to the one we’ll be discussing quite a bit including cooked food rules in defense of food The Omnivore’s Dilemma one of my favorites and the botany of desire all of which were New York Times bestsellers so he’s a career underachiever a longtime contributor to the New York Times magazine he also teaches writing at Harvard and the University of California Berkeley where he is the Jon s and James L Knight professor of science journalism class where classes I’ve always personally wanted to take alas I have to stick to my tropes in 2010 Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world and his newest book which I have personally gifted to hundreds of people at this point is how to change your mind subtitle what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness dyeing addiction depression and transcendence Michael thank you for being here thank you Tim great pleasure to be here with you thank you this this is not the first time we’ve had an opportunity to speak that quite some time ago yeah more than a handful of years ago and I thought that in this session we could cover some basics some fundamentals of the subject matter of the new book and and then stretch outside of the confines of the book and talk about some recent developments and learnings since the publication so let’s begin with defining a term psychedelics what are psychedelics well psychedelic is a term coined it sounds like a 60 term but it’s actually a 50s term it was coined in 57 by an English psychiatrist named Humphry Osmond who was in a dialogue with Aldous Huxley he wrote a very famous book about what word not then known psychedelics called the doors of perception where he recorded his own mescaline trip and he worked very closely with Humphry Osmond trying to understand these new substances would because they just kind of were sprung on the West and the 50s and no one really understood them and they went through this process of conceptualizing these strange molecules and at first they called them psychedelics because it appeared to imitate psychosis and the thinking at the very beginning this is the early 50s was that these chemicals were a very good way to help the therapist understand the mind of the madman the schizophrenic and allowed you to put yourself in his shoes or her shoes and and it sure looked like psychosis right I mean people were seeing things that weren’t there and hearing things that weren’t there and they were feeling their personalities dissolve and but then the the shrinks themselves started trying the drugs which is very common then it was actually considered the responsible thing to do if you did drug research just try it on yourself first now it’s considered unethical and they said you know this this feels much better than psychosis and and they were because they were having these often ecstatic experiences so they started so they had this discussion like well we need a better name and in this debate actually it was Osman who came up with the the better word which is essentially it combines the Greek word for mine psyche and Delic Delos is manifesting so it means mind manifesting it’s it’s vague in a way but it’s suggesting that these that these drugs bring the mind into a kind of an observable space and that name has kind of stuck although there been efforts to rebrand them post 60s as entheogen z– which means the God within but that seemed a little religious to some people so I decided I like the word psychedelic and I try and I would try in my book to rescue it from all the incrustation of 60s dayglo you know acid rock all that stuff and see if we could we could reclaim it because because it means the right thing why are so many people saying and writing that there is a renaissance in this field is it Renaissance rebirth implies that there was a death somewhere along the line or a dark aid or a Dark Age yeah so give us some context as to why there is a Renaissance and why we did necessary yeah well I you know like a lot of people I sort of assumed that psychedelics were a product of the 60s that’s when you first heard about and that’s when the public first heard about them in a serious way but in fact there had been 15 years a very promising research into these compounds that was being done in Europe in America at five or six six different centers and they were using the drugs for various indications such as addiction depression to relieve the anxiety of people who are dying of cancer all the things are being used for now in fact and they were getting some very good results it’s true that the standards for scientific drug research then were different the double-blind placebo-controlled trial didn’t exist until 1962 really so they may not be to our standards but it was very promising period of research and then in the 60s when the drugs were embraced by the counterculture I mean the way the narratives usually told they escaped the laboratory but actually they were thrown over the wall of the laboratory by people like Timothy Leary and and others and and as the counterculture basically adopted these drugs became very difficult for the researchers to continue studying them especially when there was a turn against them in 1965 approximately and you have this moral panic about psychedelics that you know they’re leading to bad trips that are landing people in psych wards which did sometimes happen that they were and then there was a lot of medical risk that was there was a big study came out saying they scrambled your chromosomes it was retracted within weeks as faulty science but nevertheless that’s stuck there were stories about people staring at the Sun till they went blind turned out to have been herbin complete urban legend made up by the Commissioner of the blind for the state of Washington who was hoping to discourage psychedelic use he lost his job so you but in the media which had been very Pro psychedelic all through the 50s time life Henry Lucis Empire ran article after article about how how how promising these substances were and in fact Henry Luce himself and his wife Claire Boothe Luce had been treated with LSD in in LA where there was a lot of that work going on but the media as its wont to do I mean turned on a dime and they decided to start demonizing these drugs and it was partly because the media often follows the government and the government was turning against them Nixon President Nixon regarded LSD as one of the reasons that boys were not willing to go fight his war in Vietnam and he may have been right the he really saw I mean it was unprecedented right I mean in general for most of history if you send an 18 year old male to die in a war they just go they don’t ask any questions that’s the history of right warfare suddenly they were like no I don’t think this is such a good idea is this so is this a just war is this something I want to fight for and LSD which you know which encourages people to question all sorts of frameworks in their life may have contributed to that certainly President Nixon thought so and he started the drug war trying to basically remove the the chemical infrastructure of the counterculture and the drugs were also contributing look there are a lot of very positive things happen around psychedelics in the 60s and it’s very easy to fall into the trap of everything that happened was really bad lots of very valuable experiences were had great art and music was made which owes to psychedelics but it was a very threatening drug and and the reason I think it was was that it really did contribute to a generation gap we had this unprecedented situation where the young had a rite of passage that the old didn’t know anything about that’s very freaky usually in in culture rites of passage whether you’re talking about a Bar Mitzvah or a Vision Quest in Native American tradition is a is a ordeal organized by the elders to bring the young into the adult community here the young were organizing their own searing rite of passage and it it plopped them down in a country of the mind that adults couldn’t recognize and that was very threatening to so with this moral panic about psychedelics the research gradually grinds to a halt and by the early 70s there’s only one place in America where anything is happening and that Spring Grove in Maryland but the researchers just kind of backed off the funding dried up and the drugs as a serious research project disappeared and is unprecedented right I mean to have a line of productive scientific inquiry stopped this the history of science doesn’t have another example except maybe Galileo and if we look at the conditions for which some of these compounds were promising then perhaps we’re promising for hundreds or thousands of years ago since many of these have been consumed by well actually nearly every culture some psychoactive or psychedelic has been consumed ritualistically and then we flash-forward to current day and you have places like Johns Hopkins you have NYU certainly and many others for doing research what are these conference good for what are psychedelics well well where did they seem to show promise you know most of the researchers in this Renaissance and it’s good you mentioned Johns Hopkins because that’s that really they really drove a lot of this research a very good and prominent researcher named rollin Griffith who we both know who had been studying drug abuse for years and years got very interested in psychedelics and and drove that agenda there and it’s interesting he got interested in it because he had had his own mystical experience in his meditation practice that got him very curious about consciousness and so he began with a study that had no medical benefit or use at all which is could you use psilocybin the active ingredient magic mushrooms to occasion a mystical experience and there’s a definition of that than Henry Jaina that William James helped develop that would have enduring value for somebody’s life and he proved that in two-thirds of cases you could do that and then he went about and other people too well okay how might that experience benefit people who are struggling with mental illness the first and most beautiful study they did there was with people who had cancer diagnoses and that’s really what got me interested in and that was really the germ of the book was interviewing people with terminal who’s who were paralyzed by fear and anxiety at the prospect of their death or their recurrence in some cases and they had these transformative experiences that in many cases completely remove their fear was the most astonishing thing so that was one important indication picking up again on work that had been done in the 60s and then there were the scores that were measured in that test included anxiety and depression so there was a signal there that there’s some value in depression so right now there’s a lot of work going on and there will be some very large trials trying psilocybin for depression both major depression and treatment-resistant depression addiction it’s shown a lot of benefit in this in the 50s and 60s it was used to treat alcoholics appears to add about a 50% success rate according to the meta analyses it’s being used with striking success in a small study of smokers at Johns Hopkins and a study of alcoholics at NYU it has I think great potential for eating disorders and I think they’re gonna try that it at Johns Hopkins let’s see you know any kind of behavior change I think one of the things these drugs do is make it possible to break out of loops repetitive loops and destructive narratives about yourself you know I can’t get through the day without a cigarette I’m one worthy of love these stories we tell ourselves we know where we tell those stories in the brain and that is part of the brain that the drugs seem to quiet and it gives you a chance basically to get out of whatever destructive grooves of thought you’re in so that suggests that all kinds of behavior change obsessive obsessive compulsive disorder which has been trialed in a small pilot study eating disorders as I suggested gambling conceivably you know all the different forms of addiction telephone addiction you know which we ought those are studies we can all qualify for so there’s a range and and and I think that we don’t know yet it’s very important to point out that yes we’ve had pilot studies phase two studies of anxiety and depression in the dying but we haven’t had a big study of depression yet and we’ll have to wait and see but there’s certainly reason to be hopeful and for that reason there is a lot of excitement in the mental health community about the potential of having a new tool and with the exception of ketamine which was just approved last week there has not been a new tool in the treatment of depression since the antidepressants back in the late 80s early 90s and they are they didn’t work very well for for many many people and and they don’t work long term and people don’t like being on them and they’re there they’re addictive so the idea that you could have a treatment that really involves one or two big experiences and these are I mean we should probably define you know they’re guided psychedelic experience nobody’s writing you a prescription and you’re not going home with a pillow pill of psilocybin but you’re with a guide the whole time a trained therapist who prepares you very carefully for what’s gonna happen creates a very safe environment sits with you the whole time and in these studies it’s a male and a female usually a dyad and then helps you integrate the experience make sense of it after so this is not a recreational psychedelic experience it’s and you’re wearing eye shades too and and listening to music on headphones so you’re encouraged to really go side rather than dealing with all the you know fireworks sensory fireworks going on so you know there’s great reason for for hope but it is still bad we haven’t proven this how do scientists who are engaged in researching these compounds or people from the underground and certainly you’ve spent time with some highly experienced facilitators let’s call them on the underground there are thousands of administered sessions how do the people you respect explain how these compounds have the duration of the fact that they do and otherwise in other words you have these people the patients going through let’s just call it a four to eight hour experience they have preparatory sessions which are sober they have integration sessions which are sober maybe some type of psychotherapy they have two or three of these sessions and in some instances you see months or years of durability above the act as it relates to say addiction or compulsive behaviors and and you alluded to this but which which may appear to perhaps be variations of the same dysfunction yeah partially why this default mode network being not necessarily activated but kind of down regulated is very interesting how do they explain the duration of effect because clearly the half-life of these compounds yeah they’re out of your brain in in six or eight hours and so it’s not a purely psycho pharmacological effect it really is the experience you’re having you’re administering a certain kind of experience and it’s very powerful it’s kind of like a reverse trauma in a way right it’s a big event in your life and and many of the people who undergo this treatment say that this is one of the two or three biggest experiences of their lives that they compare to the birth of a child or the death of a parent which is astonishing that that a pill could have such a profound effect so you have you really have to look at the phenomenology of the experience which when it works best is what they call a mystical type experience I think what’s central to that though is an experience of ego dissolution of complete depersonalization it is your ego in a way that that writes and enforces those destructive narratives very often and if you can shut it off for a period of time and realize that there’s another ground on which you can stand that you’re not identical to your ego that you can get some perspective on it that I think is very positive the ego builds walls right it isolates us from other people it isolates from nature its its defensive by definition and when you bring down those walls in the psyche what what happens well you merge you merge with something else there’s less of a distinction between you and the other whether that other other people in your life or the natural world of the universe and so these lines of as the doors of perception open as Huxley said these lines of connection there is this incredible flow and it sounds banal but very often what flows through those connections is love powerful feelings of love and reconnection I say this based on all the interviews I’ve done and the experiences I’ve had myself but you a lot of the problem with depression and addiction is disconnection right I mean addicts get to the point where their relationship to that bottle is more important than their relationship to their children to their spouse it’s an astonishing thing and the drugs appear to help people reconnect so yeah you’re only having this temporary experience but it has this remarkable Authority and that’s one of the most curious things about it William James called the the noetic quality of of a mystical experience and that is the belief that whatever insight you’ve had whatever epiphany you’ve had is not a subjective opinion or idea it’s a revealed truth it’s actual knowledge and so I talked to these smokers or ex-smokers now and I would say so how did this experience allowed you to to stop smoking just this one experience this is a lifelong habit you’ve had I remember this one woman she was a Irish woman she’s about 60 and she said well I had this incredible experience and I sprouted wings and I flew all through European history and I witnessed all these great scenes in European history and and I saw I died three times and and and I saw my my ashes my smoke from my body rise on the Ganges and and realize god there’s so much to do and see in the world that killing yourself the cigarettes is really stupid now probably she had thought that before and people had probably told her that smoking was stupid but she believed it in a way she had never believed it before and it has something to do with I think the way psychedelics this is at high dose dissolve the subject object duality everything’s objective or means the same thing everything’s subjective you don’t have this idea well that’s just an idea in my head and that’s not out in the world it’s all of a piece so it’s it’s a real reset of of the mind and which is very hard for conventional therapists and psychiatrists to grok I mean it’s a weird idea that a single experience could have that effect but if you think that a single trauma can put your mind on a new path perhaps permanently unless it’s treated you know whether it’s a sexual abuse or a bomb going off or a crime being committed I mean the mind has certain moments where right angle turns happen and perhaps it can happen in a positive way as well as a negative way yep absolutely that’s worth a class Michael you’d I have spoken both in conversation that’s being recorded but also over meals and such about the activity on the scientific front a lot of the developments that you were seeing and you’ve also had a tremendous influx of a feedback maybe pushback since the book came out hmm and I want to explore all of that with a handful of questions but let’s start with getting granular on psychedelic and perhaps naming a few names so within within the umbrella of psychedelics I mean you have different chemical classes which we don’t necessarily have to get into but you know that tryptamines venoth Allah means but if you were to look at say some of the usual suspects you have LSD you have psilocybin as you mentioned we have the DMT ibogaine so we and then DMT often confused with nn DMT or DMT than follow me Oh DMT ibogaine mentioned ketamine earlier which is I think it’s one of the ten most essential medicines according to the World Health Organization as an anesthetic but it’s sufficient enough doses has a psychedelic effect which of these compounds have most captured your curiosity and why well it doesn’t have to be limited to that list yeah we didn’t really get into into mescaline containing plants yeah so you know I focused a lot on LSD because of its importance to the social history of psychedelics and it’s very it’s one of the most powerful long-lasting psychedelics but it’s not being used in research in this country mostly for practical and political reasons it’s it’s very controversial everyone’s heard of it so you’re more likely to get some congressmen standing up and saying we’re funding LSD research and you know what a what a scandal that is whereas that that same congressman probably doesn’t know what psilocybin is hard to pronounce you know exactly hard to balance on the Americans can’t even agree on it it’s true so and then there’s the practical benefit that psilocybin has a shorter half-life the importance of that is that you know you can fit it into a therapist workday right instead of a 12-hour trip paying overtime you know it’s a long trip psilocybin is like four to six hours so it can you can fit it in I mean as psychedelic therapy is gonna be very hard to fit into psychotherapy as we as we practice it but it would be much harder if you’re talking about 12-hour trips but you could get the same effects probably on on LSD it has much more association though you’d have to deal with every you know since set and setting are so important with all psychedelics people bring a lot of baggage to LSD I mean that was the one I was most frightened of you know personally because there everything I’d heard there is very little that the research on DMT is essentially ayahuasca research DMT is that is the psychedelic in ayahuasca and there is some work being done especially in Brazil to try ayahuasca as a treatment for depression it’s a tricky one though because there are too many variables it’s more its to plant hard to standardize like an old fashioned and I asked oh yeah exactly it’s like an old fashioned I asked a researcher in Brazil but not in its effects just to be clear I asked this researcher who was doing a very interesting study with the urban poor and Sao Paulo and giving them ayahuasca and I said how much are you giving them and he said well I have no idea no I just asked the shaman how much to give them each now I don’t think you can get published in JAMA with a study that’s like a shamanic dose of ayahuasca was so-so that’s hard to study but worth studying I think I mean everything about psychedelic research is a square peg in the round hold of both reductive science and and psycho Mental Health Care’s we practice that DMT in the chemical form is a very fast-acting and short-lived psychedelic which some people think might have some value in earth time in earth time yeah that’s right it’s an eternity and by other scales and or another dimension so to me it looks like psilocybin has the best practical prospects and people don’t bring a lot of associations to it it’s not as controversial and by practical you mean within a scientific context yes yeah exactly yeah and frankly access to it I mean it’s you know it’s it’s not hard to get access to people can grow it themselves if they want so yeah I think it offers a lot of a lot of benefits speaking personally because at least as I recall it you did not set out to have a quarter or a third of your book comprised of personal experiences but maybe it wasn’t that high percentage but it’s a decent chunk mm-hmm meticulous periences that’ll asting effect on you personally yes I had a series of experiences for the book which I knew when I decided to write this book I had to do that for various reasons that that to describe the experience without having had it and just relying on interviews was not satisfying I also this is what I do as a writer I mean I you know when I wrote about the cattle industry I bought a cow and so this was my equivalent I think my readers expect as some first-person don’t you buying the psychedelic cow I can see the headline now but I didn’t expect to go quite as deep as I went so I I had an experience on LSD I think that’s a common common statement yeah I just had one drink it was ayahuasca yeah a couple experiences on that’s right a couple experiences on an ayahuasca a couple on psilocybin and one that on five Meo DMT was not a happy experience as a terrifying experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone and that is not DMT it’s a different chemical that it is the smoked venom of the Sonoran Desert toad how about a species that figures that out huh a hand for Humanity how did they figure that out yeah also figure it out pretty recently like in the last 50 years that’s right it’s not this is not an ancient indigenous tradition no squeezing toads uncle’s like Plexiglas to scrape off this and dr. Andrew Weil was involved in that discovery so yeah that was not I mean we can talk about that more later but that was my introduction to a really bad trip and I’ve been told since in fact in an event we were at together that either I took way too much or not nearly enough but what do you do with that information yeah I I don’t plan any further experiments but you asked a passing yeah what and if you’re willing to share like what affected those experiences that was still 17 ayahuasca so I had a high dose psilocybin experience guided with someone that I really trusted who created a very comfortable environment I mean safety is so important if you’re gonna allow your ego to get blasted to smithereens you really have to feel safe that’s a dangerous thing to do psychologically and she created an environment where that could happen and to my amazement did happen so I mean I could recount it quickly it was a trip that didn’t begin very well her taste in music left a lot to be desired she she put on this this new age music that I learned later was by an artist who I hope was not in the room named Thierry David and I looked up later he was thrice nominated for best children only nominated and but I it sounded like electronic music and one of the most amazing things about psychedelics is synesthesia the fact that one sense is gets cross-wired with another so that with music especially if you have a shades on you are projecting a concrete version the music is generating landscape place emotion it’s just the most amazing thing and every note was creating this black and white computer-generated landscape that was I’m not into video games it’s not where I wanted to be and it went on and on and on I subsequently learned why that happened it turned out it was an electronic music but my ear heard it that way and that was that I had brought a computer in to the treatment room to do a test an experiment on myself there’s a famous test called the rotating mask or the mask illusion you’ve probably seen it maybe but it’s it’s a mask one of those dramatic masks and it’s it’s hollow on one side and convex on the other and it’s on a turntable and it turns and as the convex part gives way to the back to the concave part it pops out and becomes convex again your mind refuses to see a face as hollowed out because it never has before this is predictive coding this is the predictive brain which is to say we don’t just take in information we’re actually having a controlled hallucination most of the time we’re projecting what we expect to see and then we’re letting reality correct it so this is a classic case of the brain providing a fictional version of what it’s seeing but that’s pretty adaptive because hey most faces are not hollow almost all faces are not hollow but I had read that schizophrenic the illusion doesn’t work on that I mean it doesn’t pop out they see more truthfully and people on psych high-dose psychedelics also it doesn’t pop out so the predictive coding that that handshake between the model in your head and the sense information coming up from your senses breaks down and I thought well that’s really cool I’m gonna test this on myself so I brought that imagery into the room and it completely infected the whole experiment now just very quickly the test when I did it I did it once it didn’t work did it twice didn’t work third time when I was at the highest the peaking of my dose I opened it up I pressed the button and the thing started rotating and then it just melted I mean it just so was a bust I mention all that to say that it was not entirely a happy trip for this part I really felt trapped at some point I said I took off my eye shades because I had to reconnect with reality I was feeling claustrophobic and it was this amazing you know her this woman’s loft was just like jeweled with light it was just incredible and I had to pee so she kind of walked me to the bathroom I was a little you know wobbly in the legs and I get to the bathroom and I really am I’m not gonna look at the mirror because I just I don’t know what I’m gonna see yeah and I I mentioned this to an audience in in England and someone says I yes trip face to be avoided hold this trick in the book I peed I produced the spectacular crop of diamonds very proud of that I make my way back to the woman I call Mary in the book that’s obviously not a real name and she asked me if I’d like a booster dose and I had originally said I was going to go up to a certain dose I was trying to basically mimic the Johns Hopkins dose using real mushrooms they use synthetic psilocybin and she squatted next to me and Mary is very Nordic looking she’s got long blonde hair parted in the middle high cheekbones and I looked at her and she had been transformed into a native Mexican indigenous Mazatec Indian and I knew exactly who it was it was Maria Sabina who’s this legendary character who gave the first Westerner a psilocybin trip in 1956 and and so Mary’s hair had turned black she had leathery brown skin and a wrinkled Brown hand that she handed me this mushroom I didn’t know whether I should tell her what had happened to her I did later and she was so proud because it’s one of her heroes I go back under and I’m still seeing videogame world and I asked I asked Mary to change the music we finally agree she puts on some Bach this beautiful piece of music called unaccompanied cello suite in D minor it’s a saddest piece of music in the repertoire it’s amazing amazingly sad and I I look out and I see myself burst into a cloud of little post-its like confetti and that’s me and I’m gone I’m just completely gone yet I’m perceiving it and I didn’t understand this new perspective that opened up I mean I’m using the first-person but it but it wasn’t exactly me I’m just kind of objectively watching myself and then I looked out again and I’m I’ve been transformed into a coat of paint on the landscape or butter I’ve just spread in this very thin layer and it was fine I wasn’t upset this other perspective was so calm and reconciled to what had happened and it was the most amazing one of the most amazing experiences in my life and so I no longer had a self and what then happened was I merged with this piece of music I became one with this it was yo-yo ma I could I could almost feel the horsehair or the bow going over my skin and the and then I I felt like there was no space between me and this music I was it and it was astonishing experience it wasn’t it was ecstatic in the literal sense of I wasn’t in my usual body but it wasn’t happy it was sad I was incredibly sad and it was all about death and but I was completely reconciled to it and and and there was that moment that I understood what happened with the cancer patients I think that they had attained this consciousness this perspective where the loss of their bodies the loss of their self was the most natural thing in the world it was a rehearsal of death basically in the calmness of this perspective basically told me that there was another ground on which to stand that I’m not identical to my ego that I can let my ego go and not be obliterated and most of us I think assume were identical to where you go right that chattering voice in our head that’s you know being self-critical or you know keeping your distance from things protecting you and we think that when that voice goes quiet we’re dead but in fact that’s not true it’s it LIGO is one character in this drama inside your head and that was valuable and I went back the next day for my integration session and I said to Mary what I told her what had happened and she said isn’t that worth the price of admission and I said yeah but my ego is back in uniform back on patrol you know I’m back to baseline because going back to your point about a dirty during changes and she said well you’ve had a taste of that perspective and you can cultivate it and I asked her how and she said through meditation and there’s a very organic passage from psychedelics to meditation you know most of the American Buddhists began with psychedelics and psychedelics are not a practice right I mean you can’t do it every day it’s a very bad idea and it probably wouldn’t work but meditation is a practice and you can bring you can achieve some semblance of that ego free consciousness through meditation and indeed I became a much better meditator after this experience I sort of had a sense of the space I wanted to get to I know we’re not supposed to strive in our meditation but we do so that was that that had an enduring effect it also I think for me changed my understanding of what is spirituality and I was really not a spiritual person when I started this I describe myself as spiritually retarded and I think that is true and part of that was because I’m very much a materialist in my philosophical outlook that you know nature is is all that there is and and everything can be explained as you know a result of the laws of nature and energy but it turns out but so so I thought to believe to be a spiritual person was to believe in the supernatural and I and I was allergic to that I didn’t believe in the supernatural but this experience and especially the kind of merging that went on made me realize that that’s not the right duality the opposite of spiritual is not material the opposite of spiritual is egotistical it is our ego that keeps us from the profound connections whether with you know your loved ones with humanity with nature with a piece of music that’s the wall and if you can bring down that wall that to me is what spiritual experience is so that and that was a that was a big takeaway for me that was the biggest takeaway of the book sue is you recount this story that we just heard if if say a talk therapist were to sit down and try to guide you through that 10 years minimum 10 years been on that and it would also be very off script for many therapists to do so I have you received much resistance after the book has come out and and I should also say that if you were to read the trip reports or the summaries of subjects we go through through this type of experience for smoking cessation and so on they’re going to have quite an interesting movie with parts that are sort of coherently related to the addiction perhaps but a lot that aren’t know that’s right nonetheless going in with that intention and sure there’s some selection bias can have some really remarkable outcomes what type of resistance if any have you run into like which groups have been least receptive and which have been most receptive well you know in general I’ve had a lot less pushback than I expected from all quarters I’ve been pleasantly surprised I mean I was worried about legal pushback you know I’m talking about felonies and and I was worried that somebody might come after the guides that I work with and and that it would be ridiculed by the mental-health establishment but it wasn’t actually there’s there’s a remarkable receptivity as I said earlier has born of desperation basically mental health care is really broken in this country in the world there is if you compare mental health care to any other branch of medicine cardiology oncology infectious disease they’ve all made huge strides in the last 50 years they’ve reduced suffering there prolong life can you say that about mental health care no I mean depressions getting worse numbers suicide is getting worse addiction is getting much worse and you know mental health professionals are really at a loss so on the one side you see openness to it and I’m hearing I get invited to speak at Grand Rounds and hospitals in psychiatry departments I didn’t expect that to happen or address the American Psychological Association didn’t expect that to happen but there are kind of old line psychiatrists who have trouble processing the idea that psychological experience not simply a neurochemical effect is can be therapeutic there is a lot of reductive science and they will tell you no no no depression it’s a neurochemical process it can’t that it can only be addressed at that level and in the same way you know psychiatry used to be about psychoanalysis and and the criticism was that it was brainless right it didn’t take account of brain as a physical organ well now it’s mindless psychiatry is completely mindless and there’s not a lot of room for talking about experience in Psychological experience so I I have heard from people who are who just cannot figure out why this would help anyone with depression in particular now it may not work on all types of depression that’s true some may be more neurochemical than others and the depression of someone with cancer is a special case right I mean that’s an event in their life that has given them very good reason to be depressed they may not be lifelong depressives so those are all active questions and then there are the psychiatrist’s some of whom have written to me who or spoken about what I’ve said what I just told you about and they if many psychiatrists if they heard the story I just told you about that trip would say that I had had a psychotic episode right I had depersonalization I was seeing things that weren’t there I was looking at this blonde woman and she’d turned into an Indian I was crazy you know I’m in it and and by their diagnostic criteria I guess I was so I just think that’s you know a limit of that framework but I think it’ll change I I I definitely think a little change but in general I think that’s been the exception I’m really amazed at how many medical schools and department in that this is very much if you go to any psychiatry department around the country right now they’re talking about psychedelics could we study this how could this work how can we interpret how can we use our training to interpret this event it is true what you said earlier though about well what about in talk therapy could I get to this point and I would say probably I mean if I had the patience for it and the money for it but it would take me at least 10 years to get that kind of perspective on my ego which is what you work on in talk therapy very often I think but I got there in an afternoon and that’s pretty astonishing yeah yeah it’s remarkable and I want to come back to something that I think you said in passing which related to explaining how these compounds do what they do hmm and that a lack of ability or tools to explain the mechanism of action does not mean that the mechanisms are unexplainable or supernatural and I’d be curious if you’ve had any conversations with what people might consider hard scientists physicists yes people along those lines how do they respond to this conversation or these experiences I think it’s important to know that we do a lot of Psych psychiatric and psychological treatments and we have no fucking idea how they work don’t let any doctor tell you that they know how SSRIs work they don’t really know and you think it elevates serotonin there’s no evidence that it actually elevates serotonin it changes what happens at that little juncture but and the the pharmacopoeia is full of chemicals that seem to have some effect on psychosis on whatever they’re they’re they’re they’re trying to treat but no one really can explain because our understanding of the brain is really primitive much more so than I realized when I started this process so a lot of what we say about mechanism is hard we don’t really you know exactly how a psychedelic drug we know it binds to the serotonin 2a receptor and then a little bit seriously and and then you start seeing things and but that cascade of a fat dot dot result ellipse yeah ellipses there is then they use terms like that and then our cascade of effects leading to synesthesia and hallucination and things like that but we don’t know it may be that it alters the pattern of waves I mean your brain we’re learning now only recently that communicates not just through chemistry but there’s a wave action – that seems to organize brain activity and there was a study just just came out two weeks ago that was the most astonishing thing where they sliced a hippocampus of the memory center in half created a gap and they found that one set of neurons on one side of the gap nevertheless was able to interact with ones on the other without direct contact what the hell is that maybe it’s this wave action maybe there are other levels of communication going on the brain that we don’t know about yet so we have it’s really important to be humble in anything we say about the brain the best model though with all that you know by way of warning is this idea of the default mode Network and one of the really striking findings when they began imaging the brains of people on psychedelics both LSD and psilocybin they the expectation this happened in England first Robin card Harris lab at Imperial College the expectation was that they’d see lots of activity everywhere because it’s a pretty lively mental experience yeah right but they were very surprised to see that one particular brain network called the default mode network which I had never heard of was suppressed in its activity less blood flow less energy going to it and that was curious and then you know so then what is the default mode network well Morris Ray Cole a neuroscientist at Washington University discovered it about 20 years ago it’s a tightly linked set of structures in the midline that connects the cortex which is the you know evolutionarily most recent part of the brain executive function consciousness supposedly to older deeper areas of memory and emotion and it’s kind of a traffic cop for the whole brain but it’s it’s intimately involved with ego function it is where time travel takes place the ability to think about the future or the past and if you think about it without that you don’t have a self right yourself is your everything that’s happened to you before that you remember and your objectives for the future people who don’t have a sense don’t have a memory don’t have a self it’s involved with self-reflection it’s involved with the narrative self the stories that we tell ourselves so for example there’s a part of it called the posterior cingulate cortex that if I showed you a list of adjectives you know patriotic handsome chubby you know whatever I mean just being hypothetical thank you very much they like I said handsome I think it would not light up right if you just read that list then I say all right think about how all those adjectives apply to you or don’t apply to you boom the posterior cingulate cortex goes into action if you’re a differential it’s totally self referential so if the ego has an address in the brain it’s somewhere in this network and and this network is the one that gets quieted when it does since it has a kind of management function for the whole as the ego does other parts of the brain start talking to one another and there’s a there’s a two-page spread in the book where I show using these Imperial College scans what a brain on normal consciousness how its wired and then how it gets rewired temporarily and it gets rewired in a very novel way like everything’s talking everything else rather than going through the orchestra conductor of the of the default mode network so the curious thing about this is it was confirmed by scans of very experienced meditators they put someone 10,000 hours of meditation into a fMRI scanner asked them to meditate and then took pictures of their brains and this and the scans looked identical their default mode network was suppressed so and of course ego dissolution is one of the goals of meditation so so it’s it’s opening up these really interesting questions of consciousness and what is the self how net what is this so for do you need to have one would you be better off without one now there are very good reasons to have an ego the ego got the book written the ego the ego does all sorts of good stuff on the other hand an overactive ego is a tyrant and if you look at the availability of the type of experience that you described I mean we could we could get into the science and I think we we might get into more of it and for people who are interested I’d certainly recommend there are many talks out there including roland griffiths yeah TEDMED talk or anything by robin Carhartt hair I’ve been car really been the most interesting theoretician of what’s going on in the what’s going on in the brain with psychedelic yeah has a great paper called the entropic brain entropic brain is a fantastic paper I had to read it six times but its offense it’s dense fantastic condensed she can you can get an overview through those types of talks on the the outcomes of studies applied not just to pathological conditions or addictions but also to healthy volunteers for various purposes and I think we’ll see more studies looking at so-called normals although healthy normal healthy normals high-functioning neurotics what what I’d love to talk about is the the bottlenecks the things that are currently preventing wider access and it seems to me at least one of them is a scarcity of funding if you look at the field as a whole we’re dealing with mostly schedule one drugs some people with all the narcotics although we could we could certainly disagree well they’re not addictive yeah yup so that’s that’s part of the problem with that designation but what is the path forward then because there’s there’s a lot to learn for underground practitioners but they are underground because the activities are illegal yeah and there’s tremendous wealth of knowledge but to translate that into some national or international level access for people with PTSD treatment-resistant depression there seem to be pieces of the puzzle that are missing so what what would you like to see or if that’s too personal you know what might happen over the next handful of years and what are the risk factors that could set that’s bad yeah I’m glad you mentioned risk because it’s very important we talk about risk so we’re on a path right now toward basically going through the standard fda new drug approval process and that’s weird you know and that’s three phases there’s a phase one which is kind of a pilot study very small numbers open label in other words no placebo and then there’s a more ambitious placebo control trial phase two and then a much bigger version of the same thing and if you get over those hurdles and you show that that the drugs are both safe and effective the FDA will approve it as a medicine and believe it or not we’re not that far away from that happening it could happen in five years we’re in for MDMA and psilocybin yes for MDMA MDMA is actually a little further ahead they’re already in Phase three this is ecstasy being used to treat trauma especially the that the challenge is and the FDA has been remarkably supportive in fact it’s granted breakthrough therapy status is both psilocybin and MDMA which means that they they actively help the researchers design trials that will quickly move these drugs to approval this is quite astonishing this this is this has all happened in the last year the challenge is they’re expensive to do these studies they cost millions of dollars and the government will not fund this for two reasons one is it’s still controversial you could imagine people getting upset about tax dollars going to use to fund psychedelic research but the main reason is there’s no money for mental health research at the NIH as part of the NIH National Institute of Mental Health Hannah has a budget of like one or two billion dollars that’s it so there’s not a lot of money to play with so all of the psychedelic research being done so far has been privately funded by foundations and individuals who really believe that this is important work and more people need to step up to finish this finish this work but which I swim to possible I would say just from people wondering it’s not just San Francisco Haight Ashbury no liberals at all right oh no it’s I mean there are people in tech community who you have that but you also have like Rebecca Mercer you have Pritzker family that’s right you have some right-wing money too which is great inoculation right Rebecca Mercer has has contributed to the MDMA work and it’s not a right-left issue these are bipartisan especially when it comes to treating soldiers and with for PTSD and people in the pharmaceutical business who’ve gotten interested in this they see this you know privately to to help fund it so so there is money to move forward it’s not like it’s stymied by a lack of money but it will take a fair amount and then there’s the whole issue of how do you incorporate it into mental health care as we practice it I mean think about you know what’s the business model it’s it’s really hard to figure out the pharmaceutical industry is not interested in the drug you only take once how you know they make money that they won’t even research antibiotics anymore because you only take them for five days they only do drugs that you take every day for the rest of your life that’s where the money is so they’re not gonna put a lot of money into it and and then look at the you know the therapists community their business model depends on you coming back every week for years and years and years so they’re not gonna love this and it takes a very heavy intervention for that short amount of time right you’ve got the we talked about the preparation session and the guiding to guides it’s a lot of labor for over a short amount of time so exactly how and it’s also just unconventional in that we said earlier you’re not simply prescribing a drug you’re prescribing an experience and it’s not simply psychedelic therapy it’s psychedelic assisted psychotherapy you need both it’s a package it doesn’t work without you need both elements so that’s gonna be hard for the mental health community to get their head around and and I think we’ll figure it out but it’s a whole new structure it’s a whole new paradigm and and and so that it may take a little while the risks though you asked about that I do worry that there could be another backlash right now the press on psychedelics is very positive as it was pre-1965 and all through the 50s you don’t read a lot of negative stories about it but it could happen you know the risk of I think sexual abuse in that therapeutic setting is is real here you have a situation where underground you only have one guide usually don’t have to so you don’t have the chaperone function and the person on the psychedelic is not in a position to defend herself or himself and MDMA in particular creates the single deep bond of trust with the therapist that that an unscrupulous therapist could abuse so I think that’s a real concern and can we do anything to hedge against that or to mitigate or any of the respect issues well here’s the problem with an illegal drug I mean the fact that the underground is underground it’s very hard to regulate something that is illegal one of the best arguments for decriminalization or legalization is you can then set rules you can have professional societies from which people can be expelled if they you know behave badly you can have penalties you can set standards you can have a code of conduct I mean all these kind of things like other professions have doing that with an underground even an underground that is you know somewhat organized and in fact does have a code of conduct I read about that in the book but who knows who’s subscribed to that code of conduct lots of people are just declaring themselves psychedelic therapists I think one of the big risks now is the demand is so great that there are unscrupulous people declaring that there are therapists or people who simply are green and don’t have enough experience and and don’t had a know how to react to a medical emergency don’t have that kind of training so there are real risks going into the underground and I say that having interviewed many underground therapists some of whom I would not have entrusted my mind to I mean I didn’t have confidence in them but many of whom are professionals and are incredibly conscientious so it’s a mixed bag and but it’s it’s the Wild West though you know so you’re taking a chance in terms of generally the risks of the drugs though which I think it’s very important to say a word about and and perhaps I should have done earlier here’s what we know the the physiological risks of psilocybin are remarkably light there are we don’t even know the lethal dose of psilocybin okay we know the lethal dose of Tylenol the you know you have many drugs in your medicine cabinet that have a lethal dose in the dozens of pills oh sure I mean tylenol in the top three or it kills a lot of people ”tis that’s right for the ers it messes with the liver yeah so there is no ld50 you know we don’t know they’re not that toxic to the body they raise blood pressure a little bit heart rate things like that ld50 is if we give everybody in this room thousand people a dose that would kill 50 percent of you that’s ld50 which is which is determined for a lot of and we know that for most drugs but we can’t find it for this drug there was an elephant that was killed with LSD once what a horrible idea right who’s you know who’s like let’s see how much you have to give an elephant to kill an elephant I mean but they were also giving they had to tranquilize the elephant to get him to play so it may have been the tranquilizer I’m sorry I didn’t mean it on that path but I just I it horrifies me in that story they’re not addictive they’re not habit-forming if you if you set up that classic with the rat in the cage and they have two levers one administers cocaine to their bloodstream the other glucose and the rat will keep hitting the cocaine lever till it dies you put LSD in that setup and the rat will do it once and never again rats do not like to trip I think humans like surprise trips very much he that’s true have some apple juice was the thing in the 6s you know dosing people I mean the Grateful Dead were famous for dosing anyone who came near their greenroom which i think is incredibly cruel thing to do I just can’t imagine that but so the risks are psychological the real risk and they’re real and I think that using the drugs in a poor setting setting can lead to potentially psychotic breaks there are people who have been tripped into schizophrenia would that have happened anyway probably there’s a phenomenon where we’re before the onset of schizophrenia which happens when you’re around 20 very often and then again around 30 is that you feel weird for a period of time and you start self-medicating and so it can be kicked off by LSD but also alcohol and and and cannabis so we don’t understand that phenomenon but there are people who have trips that are so bad that they’re traumatizing and about 8% of the people who use psilocybin not in a clinical setting report seeking psychiatric help at some point after their experience so so those are real risks they’re mitigated to a large extent if you’re in the care of a experienced guide who’s prepared you properly and and knows what to tell you if you do get into trouble and I found that was the most useful getting that kind of advice you know the flight instructions the flight instructions what do you do when something really scary happens well don’t run away or if you feel yourself going mad or your ego dissolving go with it surrender is that is the basic takeaway and that is the best advice for using psychedelics I think what do you hope to see or what are the most exciting things that are happening right now or that have been happening since the book came out is there anything that that comes to mind that is particularly interesting or exciting to you well I think the mainstreaming of this is a subject that’s it’s a subject people can talk about people are coming out of the closet and talking about their psychedelic experiences I’ve had many conversations with psychiatrists and even some celebrities that they feel safe talking about it now and I think that’s great because the more this is closeted the and the more stigma attaches for that reason you know I so I think people speaking frankly about their experiences is a very positive thing telling stories and and kind of demystifying it by by talk I think that’s very encouraging I’m very encouraged to see some very mainstream psychiatry departments medical schools places like Yale Columbia wanting to conduct psychedelic research you know rolling Griffith took a huge chance and Steve Ross at NYU when they started doing this and they got a lot of shit from there there are bureaucracies and now now these universities proudly boast about the psychedelic research going on and on their premises when Steve Ross started studying cancer patients at NYU the oncologist would not give them patients I don’t want you near our patients you know you’re giving crack to our cancer patients and it was only the nurses that would tell people about the study and now he’s been invited into the Cancer Center to set up a treatment room so that’s very exciting I’m very heartened by that I think one of the best indications is people who have not just cancer but but life-changing diagnosis people who have just learned that they have Alzheimer’s people who learn they have ALS people who’ve learned they have Parkinson’s they go through a very difficult psychological passage and that I think that these medicine could help people in all those areas I do worry that we’re putting all our chips on the on the square marked depression and there’s a lot of resources going to treating depression and you know I don’t want to leave behind these other things addiction I think is very important and in cancer we have so little offer the terminal cancer patient and and this seems to I mean it’s really proven itself more in that case I think than anything else and and we talked about one one aspect of maybe misperception of psychedelics or misrepresentation over lunch which was rather a distinction that is helpful to make and that is psychedelics are not a panacea they do not treat everything they will not pay your bills for you but in my case they actually in your case they do pay the bills but in general you even that count on that I can see the late-night programming now just lay your Michael Pollan psychedelic blanket on your stack of bills and in any case what I was going to say is they they do seem to to hold promise for conditions that are frequently thought of as intractable or untreatable yes and and and separate I mean one of the interesting things about and separate right is that the indications that the forms of mental disorder that they seem to work best on I was I was very skeptical of this panacea idea too and I and I was interviewing Tom Insel who was former head of the National Institute of Mental Health and I said isn’t it a little suspect that the same drug would work for depression and anxiety and addiction and he said why and I said well you know it’s like it’s a panacea and she’s no he said don’t assume all those conditions are so different they may be a product of this they may be different symptoms of the same mental formation which is an excessive rigidity in the brain there all forms of stuckness they’re all forms of destructive narrative and so we may learn something about the nature of mental illness in this research – which is very exciting and psychedelic seems to work on those kind of locked in conditions that all are characterized by obsessive thinking and to one degree or another and you know as somebody said who I interviewed you know depression is regret about the past anxiety is regret about the future you know there’s they’re similar they’re very similar and addiction and depression often go together so I thought that was very interesting and but then there’s a hole so that’s one and if you if you think of mental disorder on a spectrum and at one end you have those very rigid closed down brain conditions at the other end you have brains that are excessively chaotic or too entropic to use Robin’s phrase and that’s a schizophrenia not useful for that personality disorder probably not useful manic depression less likely and so that you know it’s we may see that a lot of the things that treats are the same thing and he said that that these words like depression anxiety addiction these are DSM artifacts right we you know we need to put a label on things so we can charge the insurance companies and you know write our codes he said but they’re artificial they’re they’re totally artificial and I didn’t realize that so one of the things that excites me most about psychedelics is yes there’s a treatment here potentially and it could be very important and help us deal with one of the biggest problems we face as a civilization on the other hand there are also very interesting probes to understand the mind and way back when stanislav grof famous psychedelic psychiatrist who did really great work in the 60s and 70s he he wrote this line which actually got Robin Carhartt heart Harris started and got me started in a way he said that psychedelics would be for the study of the mind what the telescope was for astronomy or the microscope for or biology now that is an audacious claim but I no longer think it’s crazy and for those who are interested in where this is going you mentioned that there is currently effectively a complete lack of federal funding and there is some money but what a lot of people may not realize though that I didn’t realize until a few years ago is that even the most productive scientists working on psychedelics today spend in some cases upwards of half of their time writing grants for non psychedelic studies to pay for their salaries yeah there is a certain survival mode that most of these groups experience which makes it very hard to commit to the types of studies that the scientists and the world would like to see it requires staff for multiple years and so on and now most of that money is for drug abuse studies from NIDA National Institute of drug abuse and night of money is supporting like Roland’s lab yeah so there’s there’s there are studies that I’m aware of that are sort of yet to be funded related to whether it’s opiate / opioid addiction or Alzheimer’s disease as you mentioned which would also track you know cognitive parameters and so on if if someone in the audience is interested in trying to facilitate this type of research better understanding of these compounds that then lead to better understanding of the mind including the pathologies how would you think about selecting the higher leverage places to invest your own time or money well if I had endless resources and felt you know as a journalist I can’t contribute to this without creating all sorts of ethical quandaries for the publication’s I write for but I would consider it a very good highly leveraged investment to give money to one of the labs doing this research whether it was roland griffiths or the UCSF work which i think is really exciting josh bullies work or nyu these are relatively small investments that have the potential to have it from Mendes payoff for the society and I’m think that you will see more kind of charitable organizations of various kinds grant-making organizations doing this I also think though there’s the pure science piece which is really important I interviewed you know in the book Alison Gopnik this psychologist who’s a colleague of mine at Berkeley child psychologist and she has a fascinating she studies the mind of the child which she thinks is an altered state of consciousness and she said if you ever want to experience an expanded consciousness just have tea with a four-year-old and and she really believes that kids are tripping all the time up to about four or five and in a very specific sense that they they take in information you know this global way that we don’t we have something she calls spotlight consciousness and or the reducing those or the reducing exactly it’s a metaphor and it’s a and it’s also ego driven consciousness it’s very pointed we can block everything out but kids have lantern consciousness they’re taking information from all different sides that’s why that you there you can’t keep them on task but they’re doing something really important which is exploring their environment and mastering it in a way we as adults cannot at a certain point it’s like learning a language after your tenth it just gets much harder so she’s kind of got a very interesting model for that you could you use psychedelics to restore some of the qualities of children consciousness the kind of creativity the kind of problem-solving the kids actually do better you know we talked about the mask experiment predictive coding kids don’t have all those models in their head telling them what’s likely to work or what’s likely is happening there so they’re taking in all that sensory information and they’re more creative as a result well could you put us back in that head so they’re they’re they’re pure science experiments that I know she would love to do that need to be funded also and I I think there’s a real potential to learn important things about consciousness basically one of the ways you learn about any complex system is disturbing and we now have this amazing tool for disturbing everyday normal consciousness and studying the results so I’d love to see that happen – and that’s academic research and I I hope that there will be centers for psychedelic research at you know at Johns Hopkins perhaps at UCSF where this work could be done because I think the payoff could be tremendous so I know you you can’t contribute to many of these things for all the reasons you outlined I can so if anybody is interested in helping to build centers at these universities reach out to me and just to give some concrete examples of how a very little can go really long way you mentioned Josh Bowie Brian Anderson UCSF they’re looking at long term or I just say treating long term demoralisation in AIDS survivors and they’re doing some things that are very innovative in a research setting like group integration which could transcend that study to apply to a lot of other things and to get that off the ground I was I was involved with that was it was a meaningful contribution to commit 10 to 25 K yeah that that that is enough rocket fuel along with few other people to get it off the ground as a pilot study this is really see could have very significant implications and open the door for lots of other studies with large amounts funding later yeah and if you’re looking for the larger let’s say more involved longitudinal studies with we were just talking to this at lunch I say opiate addiction so my best friend growing up died of fentanyl overdose my aunt died of a percocet alcohol combination a number of months ago this is the scale of this problem and the suffering is 70,000 people last year they died of opiate which is inoperable – what – what well 50,000 people died in the entire Vietnam War yeah okay this is to give you an idea it’s mind-boggling right so – to begin to chip away at that in a leveraged way then you’re talking about millions but it’s not a hundred million right it’s like two to four million so in any case this this is a this is a place where you can really potentially bend the arc of history not only financially and we one thing that I’ve wondered is if there are ways to sort of galvanize this space to get more researchers involved because 20 years ago this was career suicide or at least viewed as a dead end it’s it’s ceasing to be labeled as such but nonetheless it’s hard to get say salary guaranteed salary for for many many years if you want to make psychedelics your focus so offering say fellowships if anybody is listening who may want to sort of galvanize with even lower dollar dollar amounts fifty thousand a hundred thousand they’re probably probably ways to do that or if you’re a researcher to actually look into spending more time on this because as you pointed out phase three trials with MDMA which we could debate whether or not that is the second I like this for simplicity sake let’s let’s call it a psychedelic is already currently in phase three for PTSD and for people who are interested in seeing what that looks like in practice I also want to mention actually two documentaries briefly before I forget the first shows actual therapy sessions that are mdma-assisted psychotherapy sessions for PTSD and it’s called trip of compassion and I ended up just helping the filmmakers who are based in Israel to launch this digitally literally yesterday so it’s now available for people who want to watch that I don’t make a cent I’m doing an all pro bono fantastic fungi which should be coming out shortly in which you make a cameo covers a lot of the well not only the the incredible complexity and beauty and mystery of fungi and mycelium but also the work done at places like Johnson Johns Hopkins and NYU so if you want to really have a visceral response to seeing what this can do and to see cancer patients with terminal diagnosis and hear their stories these two documentaries are really really worth the time for people who are curious about learning more you mentioned of course your a book I mean as I as I stated at the very beginning how to change your mind gift it to literally hundreds of people and that I think is a tremendous resource for a a historical overview and a scientific primer along with your personal stories and I think walking that sort of threading that into a narrative is extremely difficult so I want to applaud you again for putting the book together what other resources would you encourage people to perhaps take a look at well I do think there’s great value in looking at some of these documentaries that are out and coming out just to hear the voices of the people whose lives have been transformed the people who are really in trouble and so I found looking at that you know those accounts reading those accounts when I had the opportunity because all the patients all the volunteers write up a narrative of their experience that was something I think right as I mentioned earlier abend Carhartt Harris is if you’re interested in the neuroscience piece that’s where I would look at some of his papers which are quite striking he said he’s the rare scientist in that he’s doing therapeutic work clinical work he’s doing theoretical work and he’s doing brain imaging I mean it’s very rare you get one scientist doing all those things another place to contribute though is Maps which is there they’re focused on MDMA work right now but they have Rick Doblin the head of maps has really driven this Renaissance and he deserves a lot of credit in 1985 when he was graduating from college he wanted to be a psychedelic therapist and and he and he said I’ve got to change the laws in this country in order to be a psychedelic therapist and he’s been knocking his head against this wall since 1985 and it’s finally yielding and it’s an amazing story so they’re there they need money to to conduct this MDMA work and there’s another nonprofit called the Hefner Institute that’s funding a lot of the more speculative psilocybin work and that’s also worth looking at god other things to read it’s you know one of the experience I had working on this book was wow I have all this space to myself why isn’t anyone why aren’t there 20 books on this topic I didn’t understand it so they’re not a lot of books there’s a good book on MDMA therapy called for some stupid reason acid test because it has nothing to do with LSD but it’s a very good book by a man named Tom Schroeder a Washington Post reporter so if you’re interested in the trauma MDMA sad that’s that’s the book it covers a lot of the work with veterans yes yeah it’s really good there’ll be more there’s gonna be a lot more if you were trying to give guidelines to people who are going to ask and I’m sure have asked you how do I find a guide which is a tricky question to answer I mean one which is also tricky for me to answer I get asked this constantly one of the recommendations I have made is read some of the books that act that map’s maps that org publishes like the secret secret safe yeah about Leos f who is a stellar guide or I think it’s healing journey or the healing journey by Claudio namaha from Chile yeah so that you understand what a good guide looks like and then you at least have some litmus test by which you can discard the people who don’t qualify yeah I would add to that James Fatima’s book the psychedelic explorers guide which actually has very good advice for people who want a guide or are shopping for a God and he’s a psychologist who’s very involved in the research in the 60s and 70s and he and you know the code of conduct for gods is reprinted and then he has a lot of instructions so that’s useful look it’s one of the most striking things we were talking at lunch and you know and and you know what is it like being the psychedelic guy after having been the food guy and I have to say the food guy was a lot easier you know they sent over a nice extra dessert when you went to a good restaurant sometimes and there were perks like that here it is an unrelenting stream of emails phone calls and letters from people who are really suffering who have a suicidal son or an alcoholic mother who are really at the end of their rope and they think that this holds out hope the last hope in many cases for people with cancer and I haven’t been able to make any referrals I mean it just it just was it wouldn’t be smart especially for the guides themselves because if I introduced somebody to a guide they’re assuming this person is vetted but of course the person isn’t vetted and some at some point the law enforcement may decide to bring down a guide to set an example so I can’t do that but a practical strategy is go find a ketamine therapist and there are legal ketamine clinics now all over the country and if the ketamine therapist doesn’t think you’re right for ketamine that actually you have trauma not depression or you have addiction not depression they’re often in a position to make a referral there’s some overlap in those communities so that’s my inside tip but it’s just too big a responsibility to introduce someone to an underground therapist things can go wrong it is underground and so you have to be very careful an interview whoever if you’re if you’re actually doing this interview several people it’s like choosing a shrink you’ll know when someone is like has the right head for you and that you you have a bond with and if you have any doubts stay away yeah when in doubt decline yes and you know there are other but you can volunteer for these above-ground trials by the way they’re there waiting lists at all these places and if you go on the website at johns hopkins roland griffiths lab or nyu you know they’re listing what they’re studying or about to study and and maybe you got lucky and there’s a big healthy normal study which does happen actually yeah I have a few friends would become subjects sometimes for compounds it or not as friendly as so I haven’t in any case this has been a wide-ranging very fun conversation for me I’m personally very fascinated and dedicated to this space because I’ve received a lot of the letters that you’ve received the matically I have friends say in law enforcement in military or even say who are commercial pilots who say I am not allowed to have mental illness that’s right and they they are depressed or they’re suicidal and they do not they do not want to run through insurance and they feel trapped so systemically there are things that need to change and I think that you’re a part of changing the national conversation as you mentioned just as one example by the types of organizations that are now inviting you to speak and for that I thank you do you have any closing comments requests asks anything of the audience before we wrap up I mostly want to thank you it’s a pleasure to have a conversation with someone who knows as much about this as I do you’re really in deep and I and I applaud you and you’re making a positive contribution to this work [Applause] I guess I would say to the audience please pay attention follow this research supported if you can and if you decide to have an experience safe travels Michael Pollan thank you everybody [Applause] you