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How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,383 Ratings  ·  383 Reviews
Could psychedelic drugs change our worldview? One of America's most admired writers takes us on a mind-altering journey to the frontiers of human consciousness

When LSD was first discovered in the 1940s, it seemed to researchers, scientists and doctors as if the world might be on the cusp of psychological revolution. It promised to shed light on the deep mysteries of consci
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by Allen Lane (first published May 15th 2018)
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"There is so much authority that comes out of the primary mystical experience that it can be threatening to existing hierarchical structures."
- Roland Griffiths, quoted in Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind


"To fall in hell or soar Angelic
You'll need a pinch of psychedelic"

- Humphry Osmond


I have family that struggle with addiction, depression, PTSD, and anxiety. The idea that one group of compounds (psychedelics) could transform how we view and treat these various challenges to the human con
David Wineberg
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Michael Pollan’s Brain – on Drugs

Neither LSD nor magic mushrooms harm you. They are not addictive, toxic, debilitating or destructive. They cause no illness and have no side effects. They seem to unlock receptors in the brain, causing mashups and unexpected connections (and therefore perceptions). They dissolve the ego by restricting blood flow to the Default Mode Network of the brain, which can cause users to lose the border between their persona/self/ego and everything else (eg. the universe).
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an epic book about the history of psychedelics, and their potential for improving the human condition. My first thought on the subject was of people tripping on LSD, and making a mess of their lives. But, this does not have to be the case at all. Many mental illnesses could be cured with "psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy".

The first half of the book is about the history of psychedelics. Before 1965, Time-Life Publications were enthusiastic boosters of psychedelics. For example, in Life
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, arc, nonfiction
Self and Spirit define the opposite ends of a spectrum, but that spectrum needn't reach clear to the heavens to have meaning for us. It can stay right here on earth. When the ego dissolves, so does a bounded conception not only of ourself but of our self-interest. What emerges in its place is invariably a broader, more open-hearted and altruistic – that is, more spiritual – idea of what matters in life. One in which a new sense of connection, or love, however defined, seems to figure prominentl
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have such a wide range of non-fiction reading interests that sometimes, until I actually see the book and its subject, not even I knew that I wanted to read it! But if it is something I am eager to know more about, I know right away.

Let me start by saying, the only drugs I have even taken are those prescribed for me by a doctor, so I have no idea about other drugs, including psychedelic ones. What I do know about is how strong painkillers (morphine, fentanyl, buprenorphine, oxycodone etc) can
Matthew Quann
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A cursory glance at the cover of Michael Pollan's new book examining the science of psychedelics manages to say a lot with very little. There are no vivid colours arranged in mandalas, no kaleidoscopic landscape, no face with eyes replaced by swirls of sickening colour combinations. Instead, a black, text-laden page is only broken up by the not-quite-square dimensions of a window that looks out onto a blue sky. In one sense, this encapsulates the book perfectly: it is an attempt to reorient the ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read the Pollan essay in the New Yorker about psychedelics and so I picked this up right away. And I'm convinced. I totally want to try this! Wish it wasn't illegal.

What was really brilliant about this book is his exploration of the ego and how that leads to so much stuckness and unhappiness. The book is a sober, in-depth account of a radical idea.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is precisely where psychedelic therapy seems to be operating: on a frontier between spirituality and science that is as provocative as it is uncomfortable.
michael pollan is one of those authors who can, with ample research, elucidatory prowess, and a captivating writing style, make nearly any subject wholly fascinating and engaging. so it is with his new book, how to change your mind, wherein he explores the intriguing background of psychedelics (mostly lsd and psilocybin) and the great p
Elizabeth Theiss
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Prepare to change your mind about the role of psychedelic drugs in western culture. Or, if you have experience as a psychonaut, get ready for a broad, expansive review of history, research, and the possibilities for public policy.

When LSD, mescaline, psilocybin, and other psychedelic drugs first became known in the 1950s and 1960s, academic and medical researchers explored their potential for relieving depression, addiction, and other mental problems. The promising research results were abandone
Remarkable book. I hope this will gain the same prominence that Omnivore's Dilemma did several years ago.

Full review to come...
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
Michael Pollan is a phenomenal writer, and he shines once again with his newest book. He takes a deep dive into the history and science of psychedelics, all while weaving in his own personal narrative. It is an engaging and fascinating read; one that propels the reader on a journey through the re-emergence of this scientific field. For anyone at all interested in the topic, this is probably a must-read. Highly recommended.
Benjamin Siegel
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel lucky to live in a world where Michael Pollan has now written, sometimes quite beautifully, about tripping.
Mason Neil
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have been fascinated by psychedelics ever since I experienced psilocybin a few years ago and experienced an almost immediate loss of some negative habits that had been having a negative effect on my mental health. Michael Pollan's perspective was particularly attractive to me because I already have a lot of respect for him after reading In Defense of Food and The Omnivores Dilemma. His approach is skeptical and honest, and I found that he wrote with a candid tone that I hadn't heard in his oth ...more
Sarah Jane
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
I thought the writing was great but the more I read, the less interested I became in this topic. One description of someone’s trip was fine, by the tenth description I was bored.
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mindfulness
I confess I'm a bit of a fan of Michael Pollan. I've read much of his writing on food, and I generally find his journalistic style approachable and informative without being overly dry. I was a bit surprised to learn that he had stepped outside his usual beat to write about psychedelics. And yet, now that I've read the book, the two topics -- food and psychedelics -- seem like two peas in a pod (no pun intended). Pollan draws on much of his knowledge and experience with plants to illustrate how ...more
63rd book for 2018.

Pollan offers a great up-to-date of account of the new psychedelic revolution currently underway, lead in no small part by the gradual loosening of restrictions on research over the last two decades that have been in place since the early 1970s.

It's an area I know relatively well, and thought Pollan did a good grounded job of reviewing both the history and current science, though I found his style sometimes a little annoying. (Too positive? Too self-satisfied with life?).

To p
Josh Firer
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Going into the past, present, and future of the research into the use of psychedelic drugs and their potential to solve many vexing scientific problems, Michael Pollan reframes these issues in a way that is sure to change many readers' minds. What makes the book compelling, is that the author is convinced by his own research to experiment with psychedelics. His experiences are deeply touching and fun to read about it. This book will give you a lot to think about.
Jason Pettus
A few weeks ago, I was raving here about the first book I ever read by participatory journalist Michael Pollan, 2006's The Omnivore's Dilemma which permanently changed the way I now shop at grocery stores; and now I can say that I've had an equally great experience with my second Pollan book, his newest, the 600-page behemoth How to Change Your Mind, which looks at all the latest post-hippie, 21st-century, Western-medicine research into the links between psychedelic drugs, mental health, mindful ...more
Francesca Marciano
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Riveting, inspiring, this book opens so many new, exciting perspectives. Hopefully it'll help reverse the stigma on psychedelic substances so they can be used by science to open new doors in our consciousness, something we really ought to do if we wish for a better world. Really excited after reading this, I wish we could all use some LSD as the antidote to our existential angst, depression, fear of death and blindness to the perfection of the natural world which we are destroying. Well done onc ...more
Steven Gripp
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolute must read. One major point that he really hammers home is that, in terms of mental health in America, there have been stagnant improvements. Through psychedelics research, starting out in the 50s, followed by a long hiatus, then resurfacing in the 90s, we can see that the branding of LSD/mushrooms/DMT as hippie drugs lose that moniker.

It's a lengthy book, only because the research is dense. If you find the intimate stories of patients who welcomed these psychedelics, you'll
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Is it harder to give in to the urge to take on a new subject at the end of one's career or is it harder to ignore it? Our careers sometimes lead from way to way and it seems ridiculous to just swerve onto a new path entirely. And yet, people often do it. Whether it be mastering alchemy, converting to Christianity, or formulating a grand unified theory, many brilliant people swerve into a new field after they move past maturity. It's amazing to me whenever someone brilliant devotes those final ye ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pollan tackles the unlikeliest of topics, the exploration of psychedelics in the current moment, exploring how different pockets of society have embraced the often stigmatized (yet largely harmless) psychedelic substances either for personal exploration or as potential pharmaceutical agents able to tackle the dark shadows of mental illness. Providing the broad historical background, introducing us to a wide range of players using psychedelics to advance themselves or their studies, and providing ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty interesting book about an extremely fascinating subject.

I struggled over whether to give it 3 or 4 stars but went for 4 because it does cover a lot of ground in a readable and relatively engaging manner.

What I liked about it was the broad overview of the history of psychedelics, the anecdotal stories from those who had pioneered psychedelic research in the 50s and 60s and most of all the final chapter on the applications of psychedelics to addiction, depression and end of life a
Michael David Cobb
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everything you wanted to know about LSD and its history from a non-hippie, non-weenie. I think this is the tip of a new iceberg floating out of the arctic past. It's so rare that we get an opportunity to think about that which has not been thought about and researched to death. Here is the closest thing to an experiential journey into the actual unknown that we are likely to get from a book. Excellently pedestrian where it needs to be and vividly illustrative where it has to be. Best kind of lit ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
An important book, an important topic. Michael Pollan is an engaging writer, and despite many concerns I had going into the book, he maintained a healthy skepticism while also allowing himself to fully engage with the topic.

Too many people, in my estimation, enter the world of psychedelics with pre-concieved notions of meaning and spirituality. As Pollan reiterates over and over, "set and setting" play a large role in the experience one has with the molecules.

Pollan, however, kept slipping into
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The history of psychadelic use did not interest me, although some of the stories surrounding the counter culture did help me to see a better glimpse of political and historical events happening in the background of my childhood. I was extremely interested in the idea of psychdelics as aids in managing depression and anxiety disorders, as well as its uses in pallative care and addictive behaviors.

Remember: I work with teenagers and young adults.

As I was reading, I was thinking about the idea
Ömer Ceran
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s one of the best book I’ve ever read. Almost every page was full of astonishment.
It’s about psychedelic (LSD, Psilocybin…) history and counter culture.
It’s about how psychedelics help cancer patients overcome their fear of death.
It’s about how psychedelics help addicts (alcoholics, smokers…) overcome their addiction.
It’s about how psychedelics help depressed people overcome their depression.
It’s about how computer mouse was invented.
It’s about oneness, mind al large and to surrender.
I don’t
Carol Peters
Jun 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I learned a lot of new stuff, mostly about the renewed use of psychedelics in medical/psychiatric settings.

I found Pollan a relatively ridiculously ego-obsessed individual who appears not to have noticed much less acknowledged connectedness, spirituality, emotional truth, etc. until he undertook to write this book & in the course of its writing, experienced the effects of psychedelics.

He's joined the converted though in an intellectualized convoluted fashion. In other words, yes, let's do th
Tadas Talaikis
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here's what I'LL tell YOU about psychedelics - there is actually nothing to realize, because everything is already within yourself. Several decades ago, when I heavily experimented with salvia divinorum (when it was legal in our country) I realized this one thing, it someway crystallized my mind into this - if you want to do/ achieve something, go and f*cking do it. Such words wouldn't express the true meaning of this, but I think it was because of influence on dopaminergic receptors. This book ...more
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Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also the director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.
More about Michael Pollan
“Huston Smith, the scholar of religion, once described a spiritually “realized being” as simply a person with “an acute sense of the astonishing mystery of everything.” 1 likes
“You go deep enough or far out enough in consciousness and you will bump into the sacred. It’s not something we generate; it’s something out there waiting to be discovered. And this reliably happens to nonbelievers as well as believers.” Second, that, whether occasioned by drugs or other means, these experiences of mystical consciousness are in all likelihood the primal basis of religion. (Partly for this reason Richards believes that psychedelics should be part of a divinity student’s education.) And third, that consciousness is a property of the universe, not brains. On this question, he holds with Henri Bergson, the French philosopher, who conceived of the human mind as a kind of radio receiver, able to tune in to frequencies of energy and information that exist outside it. “If you wanted to find the blonde who delivered the news last night,” Richards offered by way of an analogy, “you wouldn’t look for her in the TV set.” The television set is, like the human brain, necessary but not sufficient.” 1 likes
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