Trying to figure out what to put in our bodies to make them healthier is a full-fledged American pastime, which is why writer and journalist Michael Pollan has emerged as a beloved nutritional explorer. Pollan, the author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, offers attractive, common-sense guidelines like “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” as he has explored and demythologized the country’s chaotic food culture. His latest book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, out this week, digs into the world of psychedelic substances, offering a reevaluation of psychoactive compounds like psilocybin (found in mushrooms) and LSD.
The book provides a firsthand account of meeting with the psychedelic movement’s players and trying some of its most potent substances, and highlights new research suggesting that these compounds could offer invaluable comfort to people who need it. Pollan doesn’t emerge from his experiences as a full-throated advocate for universal tripping, but he debunks alarmist misinformation surrounding the compounds without veering into psychonaut babble, offering an entertaining and clear-headed history of how these substances lost their good names, and how they might be saved. The Ringer spoke to Pollan about how this latest book came to fruition, and where he sees psychedelic research going in the future.