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Richard Miller

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Richard Miller


Dr. Richard L. Miller on the Potentials and Pitfalls of Psychedelics

Are They a Shortcut to Enlightenment and Mutant Healing Powers?


Neurologists and psychologists have long believed that we humans are only using a fraction of our brain’s potential. With more than 50 years’ experience as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Richard L. Miller is one of the more well-versed professionals who share this opinion. He distinguishes himself from the mainstream, however, with a fairly major ​— ​and controversial ​— ​“other shoe” to this view: He believes psychedelics are a critical tool to unlocking the brain’s potential.

“Absolutely, yes, psychedelic medicine is a tool,” Miller explained. “They unlock parts of the mind that, heretofore, we are unable to access. It is a tool for wisdom and a tool for looking deep inside yourself and searching out fear.”

At 79 years young, Miller is an interesting case study in the landscape of psychedelic scholars. He is not some recovering hippie who managed to parlay a youthful commitment to Leary’s “Turn on, tune in, drop out” into a career along the fringes of the mainstream. Instead, his résumé is as straight as an arrow and as solid as steel. He has been on the faculty at both Stanford University and the University of Michigan, was a consultant for the U.S. Department of Justice and an advisor to the President’s Commission on Mental Health, and is the founder and director of Cokenders Alcohol and Drug Program. It is the latter venture that perhaps has earned Miller the most esteem, as it was remarkably successful in helping people break their cycles of addiction.

“I haven’t always been a public advocate [for psychedelics],” said the doctor. “I was quiet for a long time because I felt it was too politically risky. But ever since I first tried LSD some five decades ago, I have known it was a tool for unlocking parts of our consciousness that currently aren’t available to us.” Miller said it was a little over 10 years ago, as he was approaching Social Security age, that he decided “those of us who have been experimenting all these years and leading good and productive lives, it is time for us to be honest about psychedelics.”

Scientists and spiritual explorers have used mind-expanding substances as a tool for a long time, he went on. “We know [Carl] Sagan used it, we know Steve Jobs used it, and we know that it played a key role in [Francis] Crick and [James] Watson’s discovery of DNA, to name just a few.” But the potential of psychedelics does not stop at creative insight, according to Miller. It can be a tool for real and measurable healing of both body and mind.

“We all think of healing as an automatic process,” he said. “We get a cut on our hand, and, in time, it scabs over and heals. It’s magic, and it happens all by itself, or so we think. But it was you who healed your hand, and if it was you, that means there is an opportunity for volitional control. I believe that psychedelic medicines offer tools to access that control. Enough science is there, and many of us already know from personal experience that the potential is there. It is time to take the next step.”

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As part of the Entheo Medicine series, Dr. Richard L. Miller will be speaking on Saturday, June 16, at Unity of Santa Barbara (227 E. Arrellaga St.). The event starts at 6 p.m. Visit entheomedicine.com.

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