The bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma explores the history and resurgence of LSD and psilocybin as medicinal treatments for depression, addiction, and anxiety as well as sources of spiritual enlightenment, with which Pollan documents his own experiences.
Pollan persuasively argues that our anxieties are misplaced when it comes to psychedelics, most of which are nonaddictive ... properly conducted by trained professionals—what Pollan calls White-Coat Shamanism—can be personally transformative, helping with everything from overcoming addiction to easing the existential terror of the terminally ill. The strange thing is we’ve been here with psychedelics before ... As is to be expected of a nonfiction writer of his caliber, Pollan makes the story of the rise and fall and rise of psychedelic drug research gripping and surprising ... Where Pollan truly shines is in his exploration of the mysticism and spirituality of psychedelic experiences ... Michael Pollan, somehow predictably, does the impossible: He makes losing your mind sound like the sanest thing a person could do.
Pollan’s complexly elucidating and enthralling inquiry combines fascinating and significant history with daring and resonant reportage and memoir, and looks forward to a new open-mindedness toward psychedelics and the benefits of diverse forms of consciousness.
Pollan’s initial skepticism and general lack of hipness work wonders for the material. The problem with more enthusiastic or even hallucinatory writers on the subject is that they just compound the zaniness at the heart of the thing; it’s all too much of the same tone, like having George Will walk you through the tax code. Like another best-selling Michael (Lewis), Pollan keeps you turning the pages even through his wonkiest stretches ... If Pollan’s wide-ranging account has a central thesis, it’s that we’re still doing the hard work of rescuing the science of psychedelics from the 'countercultural baggage' of the 1960s ... Pollan doesn’t give a lot of prime real estate to psychedelics’ naysayers. But given that those on LSD can appear to be losing their minds, and that the drug leaves one feeling emotionally undefended (a potential benefit as well as a profound risk), he does strongly recommend having an experienced guide in a proper setting when you trip. With those safeguards in place, he believes usage could be on the verge of more widespread acceptance, pointing out that plenty of other once widely derided practices redolent of the ’60s, like yoga and natural birth, are now common.