Most people know Michael Pollan as a food writer. His 2006 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is widely credited with helping spark the modern food movement, in which everyday Americans began asking questions about where their food comes from. But in his new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, Pollan shifts his lens away from food and onto the world of hallucinogenic medicines, in which people are tripping – both legally and illegally – on LSD, psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics in order to heal mental and emotional afflictions. If this book does for psychedelics what his other books did for food, this could prove to be a pretty big deal.
Pollan and I began talking psychedelics five years ago. Our conversations started while I was a student of his, but have continued due to a shared interest in plants and fungi and what humans can learn from them, particularly while hallucinating on the compounds certain species produce. In How to Change Your Mind, Pollan explores the ways these compounds are showing promise treating a host of maladies, from anxiety and depression, to addiction and obsession. It’s at times a deeply personal account, taking readers not only into the lab, but into Pollan’s own less-than-legal hallucinogenic experiences, showing what he learns along the way about his own mind, and his connections to himself and his family.