How to Change Your Mind was a dense, but truly interesting read. In this modern age, it seems that more people are depressed and anxious than aren't, myself included. If you're familiar with the foot-long list of side effects of commonly used medications, the idea that something natural could, without side effects or addictive properties, successfully treat a whole host of mental disorders is stunning. Pollan guides the reader through the very beginnings of psychedelic use by mankind, from thousands of years ago with psilocybin to the 1940's for LSD, and the subsequent demonization that occurred during the moral panic of the mid 60's. I was stunned to find that legitimate research had taken place that proved that psychoactives were successful in treating everything from depression to addiction, but that the research had been halted and gone underground. While this was interesting, the history was sometimes dryly presented, especially when compared to the author's own experiences and the trials currently underway at John Hopkins University and others. Upon interviewing terminally ill cancer patients before and after a therapist-assisted dose of psilocybin, Pollan found that for the vast majority their fear of death had completely subsided. They had become content with their endings and certain that death was not the end. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn about the human mind, and also to sufferers of depression, anxiety, or addictions who could use a hopeful boost.
"A brilliant and brave investigation by Michael Pollan, author of five New York Times best sellers, into the medical and scientific revolution taking place around psychedelic drugs--and the spellbinding story of his own life-changing psychedelic experiences When Michael Pollan set out to research how LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) are being used to provide relief to people suffering from difficult-to-treat conditions such as depression, addiction and anxiety, he did not intend to write what is undoubtedly his most personal book. But upon discovering how these remarkable substances are improving the lives not only of the mentally ill but also of healthy people coming to grips with the challenges of everyday life, he decided to explore the landscape of the mind in the first person as well as the third. Thus began a singular adventure into the experience of various altered states of consciousness, along with a dive deep into both the latest brain science and the thriving underground community of psychedelic therapists. Pollan sifts the historical record to separate the truth about these mysterious drugs from the myths that have surrounded them since the 1960s, when a handful of psychedelic evangelists catalyzed a powerful backlash against what was then a promising field of research. A unique and elegant blend of science, memoir, travel writing, history, and medicine, How to Change Your Mind is a triumph of participatory journalism. By turns dazzling and edifying, it is thegripping account of a journey to an exciting and unexpected new frontier in our understanding of the mind, the self, and our place in the world. The true subject of Pollan's "mental travelogue" is not just psychedelic drugs but also the eternal puzzle ofhuman consciousness and how, in a world that offers us both struggle and beauty, we can do our best to be fully present and find meaning in our lives"--