How to Change Your Mind (2022) s01e01 Episode Script

Chapter 1: LSD

I'm really a late bloomer
when it comes to psychedelics.
I am now 65.
I have a successful career
as a writer and a professor.
At this age, sometimes you need
to be shaken out of your grooves
and take a chance and surrender.
There's a word for the kind of person
who seeks to expand their consciousness
with the mind-altering power of plants.
A psychonaut.
I've been called many things.
I've been called a shaman.
I've been called a medicine woman.
I actually don't like the term shaman.
I think it's been way overused
and appropriated.
So I've settled on ceremonial leader.
Um, and I've also been tagged
with wisdom keeper.
Great spirit, great mystery.
Gratitude for this brand new day.
Gratitude for the greatest gift
that we've been given,
the gift of life upon this planet.
What I've truly learnt
is that most of us just want to be happy.
But we have experiences in our life
that can be painful.
And so we have a choice
about what we're gonna keep alive,
and what we choose to release.
Everything that has happened to us
in the past that cannot be changed
can be a gift
or a teaching or a healing for us.
They usually are. In fact, sometimes our
So as I began my journey,
the psychedelic
I wanted to explore first was LSD.
But when my friend Erika explained to me
that in certain indigenous cultures,
tobacco is a powerful,
sacred medicine used to heal the spirit
and clear the mind,
and that it happens also to be legal,
I decided to begin there.
Stamp one foot.
Sound. Sound out loud.
That's it. Moving it through.
Moving it through. Uh-huh
That's it. That's it.
I felt this flame going back
through my head
as if my brain were on fire.
And it worked its way down
through my body
and I sort of felt like
it was pulling stuff out of me.
Strong emotions are just passing through
like weather systems.
It was an unexpectedly short-lived,
but powerful experience of,
really of catharsis.
This is the same chemical
that kills people.
Four or 500,000 people
a year in the United States alone
die because of tobacco.
And yet the same plant in another context,
used in a ritual way,
can actually heal people.
We have to think about these substances
in a very clear-eyed way,
throw out the inherited thinking
about it and, like, what is it good for?
What if mental health problems like PTSD,
OCD, alcoholism, and depression
could all be helped
by psychoactive substances
such as mescaline,
psilocybin, MDMA, and even LSD?
For many years,
I've been writing about the relationship
of humans and plants,
and that led me down the path
of several books about food.
And I gradually
got more and more interested
in the most idiosyncratic use
we have of plants,
which is plants that change consciousness.
Whether in an everyday way
that we're barely aware of,
like our addiction to coffee and tea,
or in more radical ways with
the psychedelic plants and substances.
The ones that
radically change consciousness
and raise really important questions
about consciousness itself.
I wanted to understand these substances
and their potential
to heal so many people.
I began reading about some groundbreaking
studies being done in Switzerland.
Healthy volunteers would
spend a day in the hospital
and have their vital signs monitored
while taking a high dose of LSD.
Sometimes referred to as "acid."
The study investigates how LSD
affects the physiology
and the, um, the mind.
Any unexpected
or undesired effects since last session?
Any particular concerns
or fears about today?
I actually feel ready.
Thank you.
The hardest thing
is the not knowing
what you will experience.
Each session is different.
You have to be open
with regard to experience, um
not refuse anything that is appearing.
Just trying to be open and to make sense
and to appreciate what is coming up.
We've all heard
really scary things about LSD
and other psychedelics.
So I took a good hard look at it
and was very surprised at what I found.
The first was
that these are not addictive drugs.
They are remarkably non-toxic.
There is no known lethal dose of LSD,
but that's not to say there aren't risks.
Some people who are vulnerable or disposed
to serious forms of mental illness,
like schizophrenia, can be triggered
into their first psychotic break
by a bad psychedelic trip.
But in a situation
where you're being guided,
you're in a very safe environment.
You have kind of optimized everything
we've learned about psychedelics
into a set of practices and instructions
that minimizes the chance
of anything bad happening.
It was in the second session
where I experienced myself being
in the womb of my mother.
The umbilical cord was wrapped
around my neck.
The experience was not
quite nice because I
That fear of not surviving the state.
I felt I had to decide.
Should I die?
Or should I use my whole energy
to pull the umbilical cord away
to be able to breathe?
And I did it, and it worked.
And it felt good afterwards,
because I re-experienced
this traumatic phase in my life
and I somehow processed, also,
the emotional things
that were associated with this experience.
I'm quite convinced that it's not
a fantasy because I asked my mother.
My mother told me
that in the later parts of the pregnancy,
I had problems with my heart.
That my heartbeat was not strong enough.
The whole experience triggered
a long discussion with my mother,
and it deepened the relationship.
She also asked me if she could be part
in the study and experience the same
or try also this substance.
These substances are quite powerful.
You can really work
with your forgotten experiences
that may be influencing
the whole life continuously.
So it's uh it's quite a gift.
Like most people, I figured
psychedelics were a product of the '60s.
I was born in 1955,
so Summer of Love I was only 12,
and by the time psychedelics swam
into my conscious awareness,
the backlash had begun
and everything you heard about them
was that they scrambled your chromosomes,
they caused you to hop off of buildings
and think you could fly.
It was all terrifying.
People dying.
Get away!
People going crazy.
And I believed it all.
- Get away.
- You're all right.
It wasn't until
I started doing some reporting on it
that there was this long pre-'60s history.
From 1950 to 1965,
there had been this
remarkably fertile period of research,
specifically into LSD,
and that LSD was really considered
a miracle drug.
But you really
have to excavate this knowledge,
'cause it was erased
from the history of science, really.
It was just buried.
And so, I started excavating that history.
Nineteen forty-three
That was the year
the atomic bomb was discovered.
And you discovered the bomb for the head,
for consciousness.
Can you talk about that?
I don't know if that was a coincidence
or probably no coincidence exists
in this world.
In any case, it is strange.
It is true that
the ordinary bomb is to the atomic bomb
what an ordinary intoxicant is to LSD.
Albert Hofmann was
a very brilliant Swiss chemist
working for Sandoz.
And he was working on finding
a new drug for women after childbirth.
Ergot is a fungus
that grows on rye plants,
and his job as a chemist was to break down
the ergot into the various compounds.
The twenty-fifth was LSD-25.
During the testing of LSD-25,
it was remarked that
the experimental animals became restless.
But the new substance aroused
no special interest
in our pharmacologists and physicians.
Five years after the first synthesis,
a peculiar presentiment induced me
to produce LSD-25.
In the final step I was interrupted
by unusual sensations.
Possibly a bit of the LSD solution
had contacted my fingertips
and absorbed through the skin.
I had
this wondrous experience.
But I didn't know how it had happened.
All my thoughts turned into pictures.
I lay down at home in the afternoon
and then it slowly faded away.
Watching these strange pictures
and feeling exhilarated.
So after this experience,
he did what any self-respecting chemist
would do then,
which is to try more LSD.
He took .25 milligrams.
But LSD is active
at incredibly small doses.
It's measured in micrograms,
millionths of a gram.
Only with difficulty
could I still speak intelligibly.
I asked my laboratory assistant
to escort me home by bicycle.
Everything in my field of vision
wavered and was distorted
as if seen in a curved mirror.
I also had the sensation
of being unable to move from the spot.
Riding home, my condition began
to assume threatening forms.
That was a terrible, torturous experience.
The feeling that I'm in a different world.
This is probably the end.
I've passed on to the other side.
He's convinced he's gone
stark raving mad.
But as the effects subsided,
he walked out into the garden and he said
everything glistened and sparkled
in a fresh light.
The world was as if newly created.
The climax
of my despairing condition passed.
Now I gradually began to enjoy
the unprecedented colors
and plays of shape.
Kaleidoscope-ish like,
fantastic images surged in on me.
It was particularly remarkable
how every acoustic perception
became transformed
into optical perceptions.
And the following day,
I woke up feeling
that I was starting a new life.
That I was born again.
Sandoz now has
this powerful psychoactive chemical,
more powerful than anything anyone had
seen because it worked in such tiny doses.
But what is it good for?
So, they decided to essentially have
an open-source research
and development program.
So they put out word to any researcher,
any psychotherapist,
that they had this new substance
and they would send you for free
as much as you wanted
as long as you produced
a nice piece of letterhead
that said you were a researcher.
And many people from psychiatrists
to addiction specialists
started trying to figure out
what was LSD good for.
And that launches this incredibly fertile
period of research all through the 1950s.
New chemicals allow us to experience
some of the unbelievably unpleasant
and sometimes quite terrifying mental
agonies of the schizophrenic patient.
At first,
they were called psychotomimetics,
which means they mimic psychosis.
And that was the first paradigm
of understanding
and there were a lot of experiments done
by a English psychiatrist
living in Saskatchewan
named Humphry Osmond.
The first rule is do it
Then you know and can feel
with the patients
as you can in no other way.
A sense of special significance began
to invest everything.
Everything was brilliantly sharp
and significant.
If I fixed my attention on a flower,
I felt that I could spend all day
in contemplating it.
Beauty, a terrible beauty was born
every moment.
Phrases such as,
"I've seen with the eye of the world,
the eye of a newborn and the new dead,"
sprang to my tongue,
apparently without construction.
These experiences have been most strange,
and in their own way,
amongst the most beautiful in my life.
And when he did take LSD,
he said,
"This doesn't feel like madness,
this just feels too good."
So they threw out that paradigm.
Humphry Osmond became interested
in figuring out a better name for it.
The term "psychedelic"
is actually a word that you coined.
It came as a result of going down to,
uh Los Angeles
and seeing Aldous Huxley.
When I gave him an experimental dose
of mescaline there
and after he wrote
The Doors of Perception.
Humphry Osmond had
a very active correspondence
with the English writer Aldous Huxley,
who was very interested
in changing consciousness.
So they exchanged letters
and they each proposed an idea,
they made a little rhyme
that went with it.
But it wasn't the great writer
who came up with the winning entry,
it was the psychiatrist.
"To fathom hell or go angelic,
just take a pinch of psychedelic."
Psychedelic means "mind manifesting"
and that seemed more accurate.
This compound
was bringing aspects of the mind
that are not normally accessible
into the field of awareness.
I think it's time for you
to have your lysergic acid.
Drink this down, and we'll be back
after a while and see how you're doing.
What do you see?
Well, tell me.
Well, I just couldn't.
I couldn't possibly tell you. It's
It's here.
Can't you feel it? This whole room.
And I can feel the air. I can
I can see it.
I can see all the molecules.
I'm part of it. I'm
Can't you see it?
This is purple, isn't it?
No, it happens to be black.
You see purple?
Well, this is just the charcoal.
Look at it.
Well, in my mind's eye,
now I see that it's charcoal.
Now close your eyes.
Close your eyes now.
Would you give me a description
of the first thing that you see
with eyes closed?
I feel these lovely colors vibrating
all over me. Oh, it's lovely.
- Any lines?
- Oh
Any forms?
Just like the shimmering of water,
you know?
You feel happy now?
I know you must be,
because you have tears in your eyes.
Is that a beautiful experience,
would you say?
It's just, giving and
You're doing fine.
Just try to describe it.
Oh, you you don't know. You
You wanna give some
You wanna give yourself
as much as you can
I don't think people realize
Bill Wilson,
co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous,
he was administered a psychedelic
and that's how he got sober.
He had a spiritual experience
that transformed his thinking
about his addiction.
And then I remember crying out,
"If there is a God, will he show himself?"
And then came the miracle.
The spirituality of AA
we most attribute
to a kind of latent Christianity.
No, it's latent psychedelia.
Do you consider yourself an alcoholic?
Yes, sir. Definitely.
It's caused me a lot
of trouble in the past.
And at this point I feel that
I haven't really accomplished anything
and I'd like to start over.
From 1950 to 1965,
there had been a thousand
scientific articles on psychedelics.
The battle you're fighting is one
that's in the past.
There had been
40,000 research subjects
and that there had been
six international conferences
about LSD alone in that period.
They were getting very good results.
And what they found is that the drug
allowed people to open up
and put down their defenses
in such a way that they could deal
with difficult material.
Six months afterwards,
Arthur King has already beaten
the percentages on alcoholism.
Within six months
after the conventional cures,
nine out of ten have gone back
to drinking.
Something did happen.
Something that is still waiting
to be explained,
and it has to do
with the potent mystery called LSD.
Psychedelic research
was proceeding.
There was a lot of good results.
A lot of people thought
it was the future of psychiatry.
But beginning in the early '60s,
the research kind of
escapes the laboratory.
Dr. Timothy Leary has been described
as being either a prophet or a fiend.
He is the dominant figure
in the current uproar on the use of LSD.
When, doctor, did you first
start experimenting with LSD?
Six years ago.
That was when you
were on the faculty
I was, uh, teaching psychology at Harvard.
I've been a psychologist for 15 years.
- Right.
- I'd come to the sorry conclusion that uh
psychology wasn't doing much to solve
the emotional or the mental problems
of the human race,
and particularly, the American people.
Leary is a very well-regarded
personality researcher.
He gets a hold of some mushrooms
and over the course of four hours,
he said he learned more about the mind
then he had in his entire career.
And he realized, this is the next thing.
This is the tool
for understanding the mind.
While at Harvard, Timothy Leary
and a colleague, Richard Alpert,
started conducting experiments
with LSD and psilocybin.
Under suitable safety conditions
we provided the opportunity
for some 200 very varied types of people
from prison inmates to jazz musicians,
to philosophers to have this experience
and give us reports back.
The analysis that these reports showed us
that the nature of the experience
is a function of the set and the setting.
The great contribution
was the concept of set and setting.
That the kind of psychedelic experience
you have will be strongly influenced
by the setting in which you have it,
and your set.
Your mindset. Your internal and
external environment shape the experience.
But the experiments
got sloppier and sloppier,
and they were tossed from Harvard.
What's going on in
the United States today is, in my opinion,
nothing least
than a religious renaissance.
And I want to say right at the beginning
that the LSD boom is just beginning.
LSD is the most
powerful substance
that the human being has ever developed
for influencing mind.
I've used the comparison of nuclear energy
or a fissionable material.
I took LSD and that was the day
my life was transformed.
Where I realized that Jim Fadiman,
for all of his benefits and flaws
was a subset of a larger being
and that larger being was connected
to all other beings.
In other words,
a classical mystical experience
of awareness of the unity
and the interweaving of all things.
I really do think man is part
of divine or total consciousness
and that if you didn't close off,
you would see it all.
Richard Alpert went on to become
Ram Dass,
one of the foremost spiritual teachers,
while Leary became LSD's
most outspoken evangelist.
Most of us, most of the time
see the world
through a very small set of filters.
When you'd take LSD
and your consciousness expanded,
the number of possibilities, the number
of perspectives dramatically multiplies.
Tim said, "Look,
I want everyone to take it.
It should be in the drinking water."
His vision was to change the culture.
He wanted people to be free.
He wanted them not to be caught up
in the rigidities of the institution,
the rigidities of their religion,
the rigidities of their parents.
Turn on. Tune in.
Drop out.
I didn't invent LSD. God made LSD.
A lot of people blamed Leary
for everything that went wrong
with psychedelics, but it was gonna get
in the culture Leary or not.
There were leaks other places.
For example, during this whole period,
the CIA was conducting
its own research program
and they were trying to figure out
what to do with psychedelics also.
There was much laughter.
The men found it difficult to obey orders.
And soon, the results were chaotic.
Could it be a bioweapon?
Could you give it to your enemy
and make it impossible for them to fight?
Was it a truth serum
that could be used in interrogation?
The CIA was giving LSD to people
out of the VA Hospital
associated with Stanford.
And one of the people they dosed was
a young writer named Ken Kesey.
If I say one thing today, it may not
Would you repeat that?
With Ken Kesey, the CIA
had turned on exactly the wrong man.
In what he aptly called
"the revolt of the guinea pigs,"
Kesey, with his band of Merry Pranksters
proceeded to organize
a series of acid tests,
in which thousands of young people
in the Bay Area were given LSD
in an effort to change the mind
of a generation.
A case can be made that
the cultural upheaval we call the '60s
began with the CIA mind control experiment
gone terribly wrong.
I was introduced
to Richard Alpert.
I then came to Stanford
as a graduate student in 1960.
This part of California was becoming
a techno hub.
And the studies that we were doing
were with, um,
people from the neighborhood.
In order to get into
a study we did on creativity,
senior scientists had to have a problem
that they had been working on
for at least three months and failed.
We said to them,
"We can help you with your problem."
And we're gonna give you a psychedelic.
A hundred micrograms of LSD.
And out of the people who came,
we had 48 problems
and 48 satisfactory solutions.
We had patents, we had publications.
And because most of these people
worked in industry, we also had products.
And eventually
the computer world emerged here.
If you are supplied with a computer
that was instantly responsive
to every action you had,
how much value could you derive from that?
We have a pointing device called a mouse.
I don't know why we call it a mouse.
LSD was a critical ingredient
in nourishing the spirit of Silicon Valley
that distinguished the computer culture
of the West coast.
The '60s happened
in the early '70s, right?
And that's sort of when I came of age.
So I saw a lot of this.
Taking LSD is one
of the most important things in my life.
Not the most important,
but right up there.
There was something beyond
sort of what you see everyday.
Things talk to you,
their spines talk to you.
When Silicon Valley is having
its flirtation with psychedelics,
there's a very interesting character
named Stewart Brand.
Before Steve Jobs,
he rethinks the personal computer,
not as this tool of industrial repression,
but as a tool of personal liberation.
In the spring of 1966 on LSD,
I had a genuine creative experience
realizing that if we ever got
a photograph of the Earth from space,
it would change people's perspective
on everything.
So after this trip,
he begins a campaign
to get NASA to turn the cameras around
and take a picture of Earth from space
and he starts handing out buttons
that have this kind of
slightly paranoid slogan.
We don't know for sure
whether it reached the executives at NASA,
but they sent back
this stunning photograph of the Earth.
It's awe-inspiring
and it makes you realize
just what you have back there on Earth.
The first time we had seen
the Earth whole.
This blue marble in this black expanse.
This contributes to the rise
of the environmental movement
and a sense of planetary consciousness
that became
a very important part of the '60s.
Kary Mullis is the guy who invented
the PCR method,
which gives us the ability
to duplicate DNA.
This opens up the whole field of genetics
making it one of the most important
inventions of the twentieth century.
I was down there with the molecules
when I discovered it.
And I wasn't stoned on LSD,
but my mind by then had learned
how to get down there.
I could sit on a DNA molecule
and watch the moonrise go by.
That's just the way I think.
It's like I put myself
in all different kinds of spots
and I've learned that
through psychedelic drugs.
Turn on, tune in, drop out,
that sounds kind of quaint
as a bit of '60s rhetoric,
but it was very threatening at the time.
It was a time
of incredible ferment and tumult.
But the character of the era
was definitely colored by psychedelics.
The kids were designing
their own alternative culture.
They looked different,
sounded different, acted different.
And they were dropping out.
And so this was enormously threatening.
Especially during the Vietnam War.
For most of human history,
when you send 18-year-olds
to go die in a war they march off and go.
And for one of the first times in history,
many of them decided not to go.
And in the eyes of President Nixon,
psychedelics were the reason.
This is one area
where we cannot have budget cuts,
because we must wage
what I have called total war
against public enemy number one
in the United States,
the problem of dangerous drugs.
In order to fight and defeat this enemy,
it is necessary to wage
a new all out offensive.
It's up to you.
Taking LSD is much the same
as playing Russian roulette.
The media does a U-turn
on psychedelics.
There was a scientific study
that alleged to show
that it scrambled your chromosomes.
This is a fetus
from the mother receiving LSD.
Note, the abnormal face,
the characteristics of the skull,
and the brain,
which is extended to the outside.
It was bullshit science, but I remember
reading about that when I was like ten.
Well, I'm terribly frightened
by the problem of LSD.
There is nothing smart,
there's nothing, um, grown-up
or sophisticated
in taking an LSD trip at all.
They're just being complete fools.
The government turns against it.
LSD is made illegal in California.
In 1970, the federal government made LSD
a Schedule I substance.
Classifying it as an illicit drug
with no medical use.
The day that LSD research
was stopped,
there were about 60 different studies
going on around the United States.
The government sent us a letter and says,
"As of the receipt of this letter,
your investigational exemption
to use these substances is canceled."
And that ended that research,
that kind of legitimate research
part of my life.
When it tipped over in America
the miracle drug suddenly became
a Satan drug.
And this whole beautiful,
wonderful development,
was interrupted in one fell swoop,
because of the American story.
What had been a miracle drug
is now a destroyer of young minds
and what had been this very promising,
and hopeful line of inquiry stops.
And then we enter
the dark ages of psychedelic research,
a period that lasted
for more than three decades.
Perhaps not surprisingly,
it was in Switzerland,
the birthplace of LSD,
where research slowly began
to pick back up in the early 2000s.
I wanted to restart the research
with LSD.
But for a lot of people,
this was the bad and evil drugs,
especially within
all the medical framework.
A lot of people were really
against this kind of substances.
For them, there was no use
for such experiments
and for such treatments.
But I was convinced,
no, the opposite is true.
There are really people who could benefit.
In 2006, Albert Hofmann
celebrated his hundredth birthday
and there was
a birthday conference in Oslo.
Happy birthday to you!
More than 1,000 people
from all over the world came.
At the end of this conference,
there was an open letter
to health ministries,
all over the world,
appealing to the authorities
to allow LSD research again.
There was no authorities responding
to this letter, except the Swiss.
I developed this LSD protocol
and it was approved
by the Ministry of Health
and I went to Bern and I got the package,
and there I was very proud and I thought,
yes, I'm a legal holder of LSD.
I'm walking through the streets of Bern.
Even the police would not stop me
because I'm allowed to do that.
The study was for treating people
who suffer from severe physical illness
like cancer.
They suffer from anxiety
and existential distress,
and we wanted to show
that our treatment will help these people.
My study was the first study
with LSD after 35 years.
My first patient suffered
from stomach cancer.
This patient came to us really depressed.
It was a really deeply human experience.
Patient was crying
and this crying was so freeing.
The experience brought them back
into life again.
LSD makes this kind of meaningful change.
It's not an intoxication.
It's a kind of transformation
with so little substance.
That's That's miraculous.
It's an experience that helps us
to feel connected again
to the universe,
the creation, nature, to relationships.
I think this is one
of the healing aspects.
When I started to do the protocol,
Albert Hofmann said
that he would like that I visit him.
He told me that he is happy
that I am doing that work
because he was really suffering
with his problem child
over so many years.
And now it seemed to be again,
could benefit many people
and for me,
his appreciation for that
was like a kind of,
how should I say that? A blessing.
I would like that other people
would step in,
continue this work.
It should be not bad now.
If we look at the E-field,
which is going up in almost 25
- It's going to be fantastic.
- So, yeah.
- We'll have a good signal there.
- Yes.
- Can you go and fix that now?
- Yeah. Now I'm fixing
My lab is trying to understand
the effect of psychedelics
on a system level.
Not at the receptor level alone,
but they interact in with brain receptors.
We started to look at regions in the brain
where the sense organs come in,
act as a filter.
And LSD was very helpful because
psychedelics have a profound effect
opening the filter,
for at least the external information.
Sometimes so strong, such an opening
that everything becomes
a whole cosmic dance.
The receptors have been discovered
in being involved in the self
which is
the most complex experience we have.
What's the foundation of having a self?
We all think,
"It's me, I'm the owner of my thoughts."
But we don't really know how this
is going to be constructed in the brain.
And because psychedelics reduce defense
and ego boundaries and rigidity,
they allow us to study the foundation
of conscious mechanism
that you can hardly study
in "normal" states.
We learned, indirectly,
a lot from psychedelics.
Like how they can be used
in psychotherapy.
Psychedelics also reduce,
somehow, anxiety and pain.
From an early age,
I always had a lot of strange headaches.
It's called chronic cluster.
It's an almost unbearable pain.
As if a smoldering ice pick were stuck
into the back of your eyes.
Over the last year,
I've not had any pain-free days
Sometimes eight attacks a day
and that led to me losing my hair.
In Switzerland we have
an institution called Exit,
where you can choose suicide.
And that always remains
a realistic thought to me.
To what extent is a life worth living?
After it got really bad last year,
I started to do some research
and found out about
a study here in Basel
with LSD and cluster.
Since I've taken part in this study
I've had five pain-free days
and those days are extremely beautiful.
I'm definitely convinced that with LSD
there's a path to improvement
for my cluster attacks.
This opportunity gives me
a lot of hope for the future.
In America, sanctioned studies
of LSD are still considered taboo.
So I became very curious
when I began looking into
the latest trend of microdosing.
Citizen scientists have taken it
upon themselves to experiment
with low doses of LSD to help with things
ranging from creativity to depression.
Living in the Bay area
near Silicon Valley,
microdosing seemed to be going on
all around me.
Not surprisingly,
all roads lead back to Jim Fadiman.
I've been called, among other things,
the father of microdosing.
Microdose obviously means little dose,
between a tenth and a twentieth
of what would be called
a recreational dose.
Wired Magazine called me and said,
"We're interested
in doing an article on microdosing."
He wrote a lovely article
about a single individual,
a young scientist, a Stanford Graduate,
but the headline suggested
there was more people using it.
So suddenly, it was a fad.
It's no longer possible
to put the genie back in the bottle.
The question obviously, is,
what are the benefits of microdosing?
People who microdose report, about 80%,
that microdosing lifts their depression
differently than an antidepressant.
The most common comment is,
"I'm back. I feel like myself."
So I've known Ayelet Waldman
for many years.
I was skeptical about microdosing
and wanted to hear about it directly
from a trusted friend.
- Hey!
- Hello, Ayelet.
Hello, Michael. So good to see you.
Nice to see you too.
Come on in.
So I'm kinda curious
about how you reflect back on
- On my microdosing epic?
- Yeah.
Well I was desperate, you know?
I mean I was really actively suicidal.
And I You know, I tried all sorts
of things and nothing was working.
Nothing that worked before was working.
- When you say all sorts of
- Every med you can
- Prescribed?
- I think I had a mood disorder.
My father had very clear
bipolar disorder.
He would cycle between serious
depression and quite intense mania.
But then we also felt like
there was something wrong with us.
I mean, that was really
the experience for me.
When my father would have those cycles,
it made me depressed.
That's what I did to my kids.
That was why I was so desperate
to try to think of anything
that would make me feel better.
They'd come down in the morning
and there'd be this moment,
like, who is she today?
Is it good Mom or bad Mom?
And that's just
It's a terrible thing
for them to live with.
The thought that's the dangerous is they'd
be so much better off without me.
Like you're doing everybody a favor
by killing yourself.
When I started having those thoughts,
I knew I had to do something.
When you first heard
of microdosing, you followed
James Fadiman's protocol.
One day on, two days off,
and it was, it was really remarkable.
And really did like immediately
short-circuit this suicidal period
that I was in.
And like, mornings are very hard for me,
and I tend to just wanna sit grimly
with a cup of tea
until I would have
to braid someone's hair, you know?
Or make pancakes or whatever.
And um I was like making waffles
and you know, singing
- My daughter said, "Oh my God!
- Did your kids notice the change?
What's wrong with you?
Are you on acid or something?" And
It was so funny.
I'm like why would you say that?
That was insane.
Well, how Tell me, how did you feel?
I mean, here is this this substance.
A molecule that changed your life
and saved you. Really.
- At a very dark moment and it's illegal.
- Right.
If the drug war ends,
what's the peace look like?
You know? We don't know yet.
We have an idea
with what we did with cannabis,
but each drug is gonna have
to be treated differently.
After researching psychedelics for months,
I was finally ready to try LSD.
And despite everything I'd learned about
the moral panic and the supposed dangers,
I have to confess, I was nervous.
I was just passing through these places
and I would end up in a jungle
or I would end up in an Australian desert.
And I remember climbing ladders
and finding myself
getting higher and higher.
I kept meeting people in my life,
my son, and my parents, and my wife,
and feeling this incredible warmth
and love toward them in this,
you know, unacknowledged love
that needed to be expressed.
The importance of love.
That love is everything.
They're platitudes, but they're also true.
And so you're re-experiencing them
as if you heard it for the first time.
Oh, yeah. Love.
That's the most important thing
in the universe.
Duh. But you feel it.
I remember this phrase
of Albert Einstein.
He said that the deepest thing
a person can experience in life
is the mystery.
And it is something
that we experience also when we take LSD,
and at the deepest moments,
you feel something that is not explainable
in cognitive words.
We can try to talk about the mystery
yet it remains a mystery.
One of the things
psychedelics do
is reveal all sorts of secrets
about consciousness,
which is the biggest mystery of all.
Psychologists often talk
of two kinds of consciousness.
There is spotlight consciousness,
which is very directed.
We aim our attention at something
and we think about it,
and that's a very powerful tool.
And then there's this other kind
of consciousness
associated with young children,
and that's Lantern Consciousness.
And instead of illuminating
that one fixed point,
they're Illuminating everything
and everything's coming into them
and they haven't seen it before.
You know, a worm on the floor,
a ladybug on a leaf.
We talk about recapturing this joy.
This freshness,
this first sight and wonder of children.
It's as if you've cleaned the window
and you can see more clearly.
These drugs allow us to experience awe
in places we haven't experienced it
since we were young children.
You're reminded
about the world and its wonders
in a way you may well have forgotten.
Now, you don't want to be
in a state of wonder and awe all the time.
It's not a sustainable state.
You wouldn't get anything done.
But every now and then
it's a wonderful reminder.
A literally wonderful reminder
of what's out there.
My psychedelic journey
had changed my mind about LSD.
It also made me want to go deeper
and explore psilocybin next,
the chemical produced
by the mysterious magic mushroom.
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