"How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan

Review by Borodutch

Before reading this book, I had the firm impression that psychedelics could only be used as recreational drugs. For instance, if you go to a party or want to laugh harder at your favourite comedy movie again. However, I've never been so wrong about a topic before.

Michael gathers all the information on psychedelics usage and its effects known to humanity so far in one lengthy book. Everything is covered from the very history to the most recent advancements in research. And through the prism of reality (at least the reality we usually perceive), he debunks the myths and explains the benefits of using psychedelics within a controlled therapeutic session.

I also have to point out my respect for the author's approach to addressing various aspects of the psychedelic experience. He brings a healthy amount of skepticism to the discussion — e.g. how people "bringing the gift" of psychedelic mushrooms to the world can be compared to ants under the influence of specific mind-controlling fungi. Or how Michael doesn't simply say "people experience divine touch" — but tries to rationalize the effects of psychedelics on the brain.

A relatively large chunk of the book explores possible beneficial applications of psychedelics, including fighting depression — which is, unfortunately, where humanity has miserably failed over and over again. We don't have a working solution to this specific mental issue yet. However, psychedelics-assisted therapeutic sessions can help with this particular type of brain disease.

On the other hand, the author touches on the fact that the positive effects of the sessions or rituals (whatever you'd want to call them) do not last more than half a year for some people — which is concerning. However, people who tried psychedelics tend to report this as one of their life's most vital experiences. We drastically need more research on this topic, and I'm so glad that the criminal "war on drugs" is in the process of stopping blocking the scientific community from exploring psychedelics.

Also, reading about people's journeys into their minds under the influence is fascinating. You get a feeling that humans tend to experience similar — yet completely different things. The author's descriptions of his few trips were an entertaining read!

If you want to learn about how psychedelics work, the possible effects (positive or negative), or if you're just curious about the topic, I'd highly recommend picking up this specific book. It outlines almost everything you need to know — however improbable it is to express what's going on in a person's mind under the influence of entheogens.