How to Change Your Mind
What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
“Pollan keeps you turning the pages . . . cleareyed and assured.” —New York Times
A #1 New York Times Bestseller, New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2018, and New York Times Notable Book
A brilliant and brave investigation 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 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 inadvertently 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 suffering and joy, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Michael Pollan’s book gets deep into science, history, consciousness, and existence, but we got lost in it as easily as if it were a novel. In his typically conversational style, Pollan explores the history, taboos, and possibilities of psychedelic drugs and what they could mean for the future of mental health and global culture at large. Pollan's boundless curiosity about his subject is infectious—and his vulnerability, honesty, and genuine emotion make How to Change Your Mind truly unforgettable.
Food writer Pollan (Cooked) shifts his focus to other uses of plants in this brilliant history of psychedelics across cultures and generations, the neuroscience of its effects, the revival of research on its potential to heal mental illness and his own mind-changing trips. For an entire generation, psychedelics were synonymous with Harvard professor-turned-hippie Timothy Leary and his siren call to "turn on, tune in, drop out." But, Pollan argues, that freewheeling attitude quickly turned into a "full-on moral panic about LSD" that "doomed the first wave of research." By the 1990s, the body of knowledge about the successful use of LSD to treat alcoholics in the '50s and '60s was buried, and medical interest only revived in 2010 with studies on treating cancer anxiety with psilocybin. Pollan writes movingly of one man whose "psychedelic journey had shifted his perspective from a narrow lens trained on the prospect of dying to a renewed focus on how best to live the time left to him." Today, renewed interest has sent scientists racing ahead with trials of psychedelics to treat addiction and depression, and curious seekers like Pollan into experiments with these substances. This nuanced and sophisticated exploration, which asks big questions about meaning-making and spiritual experience, is thought-provoking and eminently readable.
Fascinating science. I avoided the psychedelics 50+ years ago. But maybe I shouldn’t have.
Mac, retired MD
I learned so much!
This book was a wonderful description of the relationship between consciousness and our egos. Very trippy