Michael Pollan is tall, lean, and bald, and he moves around the lectern like the university professor he is when he’s not writing best-selling books, such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Cooked, or his latest, How to Change Your Mind, an investigation into the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic drugs.
When Pollan asked the audience at the Granada on April 23 if any of them had experience with psychedelics, many hands rose. It’s Santa Barbara, after all, joked Pollan, but then he went on to place psychedelics in context, how, with only one exception, all human societies have used plants to alter consciousness. Significant research into the uses and effects of psychedelics took place in America in the 1950s, but there was a backlash against the drugs after the turbulent ’60s.
Pollan spoke about one of his trip experiences using psilocybin, the setup and preparation, the therapists who were alongside him for support, and his own trepidation. He discovered, as many patients have, a sense of oneness, a transcendence of space and time, and dissolution of his ego, all the components of a mystical experience, which, Pollan said, changed him in profound ways.
Psychedelics pose risks for some people, Pollan said, but there is renewed interest in their efficacy, when used properly, for treating severe anxiety, depression, and addiction. Judging by the turnout for his lecture and the attention garnered by How to Change Your Mind, Pollan is onto something.