- About the Book
A brilliant and brave investigation by Michael Pollan, author of five New York Times best sellers, into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs--and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into the experience of various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research.A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is the gripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle of human consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both struggle and beauty, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.
Mr. Pollan reviews empirical studies about LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) in the 1940s, 50s and 60s; the backlash against psychedelics that resulted in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which outlawed psychedelics; and recent studies assessing the impact of psilocybin on healthy normals, addicts and terminal cancer patients. Mr. Pollan also provides an intimate account of his three psychedelic trips.... Mr. Pollan makes a compelling case for the potential value of psychedelic experiences.... At times, Mr. Pollan is prone to exaggerated claims about the impact of psychedelics on individuals and American society.
In How to Change Your Mind, Pollan explores the circuitous history of these often-misunderstood substances, and reports on the clinical trials that suggest psychedelics can help with depression, addiction and the angst that accompanies terminal illnesses. He does so in the breezy prose that has turned his previous books these include The Omnivore's Dilemma and Cooked, the inspiration for his winning Netflix docuseries of the same name into bestsellers.... LSD and psilocybin will have to be better understood, and this enlightening book figures to play an important role in that conversation.
—San Francisco Chronicle
—San Francisco Chronicle
How to Change Your Mind is a calm survey of the past, present and future. A book about a blurry subject, it is cleareyed and assured.... Like another best-selling Michael (Lewis), Pollan keeps you turning the pages even through his wonkiest stretches.... Pollan doesn't give a lot of prime real estate to psychedelics' naysayers. But given that those on LSD can appear to be losing their minds, and that the drug leaves one feeling emotionally undefended (a potential benefit as well as a profound risk), he does strongly recommend having an experienced guide in a proper setting when you trip.
—New York Times
—New York Times
How much you swallow from this new work depends on your receptivity to [Pollan's] honeyed writing, your tolerance for his self-preoccupation and your alignment with his skeptical but beckoning stance. Pollan, born 63 years ago on Long Island, has a robust ego. In this book he vacillates for long stretches about relinquishing that ego for even a few hours to the vagaries of mind-altering chemicals. When he does, in a 70-page chapter called Travelogue, the descriptions are a bit boggy, like someone droning on about his dreams.... More solid is Pollan's work here as a journalist, reporting the colorful history of psychedelic research and the scientists who animate it.... Sharp-eyed readers will note that the unwieldy subtitle about psychedelics shedding light on consciousness, dying, addiction, depression and transcendence is crashing the purview of religion. Pollan clearly knows this, but can exhibit a tin ear...