This has always been my go-to for objective information on drugs and experiences people have while using them.
I’m in my mid 30s now. Looks like it hasn’t changed a lot since the 90s.
"How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence" by Michael Pollan
Previous discussion of the book here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17087961
N.b. Pollan presents his subjective experience. If you liked it, you will love reports on https://www.erowid.org/ and there's a lot of information on https://psychonautwiki.org/wiki/Main_Page if you decide for firsthand experience.
If I may, I suggest: "Michael Pollan on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms"
If an interesting title gets someone to read an interesting article, what's wrong with that?
Conversely, a boring title on an interesting article is likely to make lots of people miss out on something they'd enjoy or learn from, and that is a loss.
It's bad enough that there are so many interesting articles with boring titles out there, why do we have to make even those with interesting titles more boring?
Half of great books, movies, articles etc titles pre-internet and pre-clicks would also have been censored under such thinking.
It's very common for one's first or early psychedelic experiences to be really special.. more powerful, more magical, more intense than any later experiences. A lot of people wind up chasing that magic later without success.
Don't squander the opportunity. Prepare yourself well. Think of it as a trip to another planet which you'll only get to take once. Think carefully about why you're going, where you'll be, when you'll go, what you'll bring, how you'll travel, and who you'll travel with. These could make or break the experience.
It's also important to try to bring back and integrate what you learn from your trip. Try to record what you learn in some way: write it down, paint it, draw it, sing it, something... even if you're exhausted afterwards. Like dreams, psychedelic insights are so fleeting. If you don't get them down soon you could easily lose them.
Check out The Secret Chief Revealed and The Psychedelics Explorer's Guide for some more detailed recommendations on preparing for and making the most of your experience.
 - https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Chief-Revealed-Myron-Stolaroff...
 - https://www.amazon.com/Psychedelic-Explorers-Guide-Therapeut...
Hear, hear, this is solid advice. How I'd wish somebody would have told me that when starting with all that magic. Problem still being: I likely wouldn't have listened anyway, thanks youth for screwing me over again :P So looking back what I'd really wish now is that I would have waited until I was somewhat more adult and wise, and would have properly prepared myself.. Not that I'm not happy with the good side of what the experiences teached me, but in hindsight I could have avoided much of the bad side of it.
Know just 2 things:
- setting is crucial, pick a place where you are comfortable and won't be disturbed, and people there are very close
- mindset, be in a good mood! if you are stressed or recently lost someone, hold off.
If you get scared of something, move towards it. Don't run, as soon as you accept it, it will vanish.
I don't mean to bash OP but I absolutely disagree that you need to feel this sense of urgency, or importance to capture it all. Just enjoy yourself.
Edit: Also, for anyone interested in mushrooms or any other kind of psychoactive substance, read the Erowid article and any other material you can find. Drug use is risky. Some risks are minor, some are major. Don’t engage in any recreational drug use without a clear understanding of the hazards you’re exposing yourself to.
Personally, I have found psychedelic experiences incredibly helpful in my life. I'm 40, for reference.
I also have done a lot of basic work on myself, doing things like getting a degree in philosophy, seeking help from professional therapists, engaging in long-term learning exercises in fields like music, workin on personal research into various forms of psychotherapy, quitting drinking, keep up meditations, and starting to eat healthy and keep up my yoga and other exercises. And then just generally trying to be a curious and helpful person to the people around me.
In that context, I still end up taking small-ish (by comparison to what I was doing in my 20s) doses every couple of months, and not using them to party as much as to help with introspection and questioning.
I find it a bit grating to be around folks who want to party on them, but people do what they want to do. When I've been in really dark places (I've had long-term life partners leave me), I stay away.
But as an aid to the same kinds of learning that I was getting out of my studies of philosophy and psychotherapy, I've found it helpful... it is certainly true that the feelings of profound revelations while on drugs are usually transitory say the least, as the psychedelic experience dissipates I do find some lasting useful insights into my human experiences.
In short, drugs aren't a very useful shortcut to enlightenment, but I do find them to be an useful for gaining some insights that are otherwise unavailable.
I'm working at the Kerrville Folk Festival (on stage crew and my remote dev job), and there are all kinds of people here... people who are quasi-religious about the experience and people who just want a better light show for the music.
Having played with people in early psychedelic rock bands (13th floor elevators) and known a significant number (to me, not of the population) of folks in their late 60s/early 70s who where on the front of those movements, I think that most of the people on that scene were really just partying down, got caught up in some strong cultural changes, and made a mistake in thinking that the drugs would change people.
IME, people change if the want to, and the drugs can help motivate that change, but by themselves they won't make much happen.
Entitled baby boomers are gonna be who they wanna be, same with trustafarians and festy kiddos. But on the edges of the edges there are a lot of good, healthy people learning a lot about the world.
Ultimately it exposes the underlying machinery of your own consciousness in a way that you've never experienced before.
How you'll react to that sort of exposure is anyone's best guess. Tread really, really carefully with psychedelics. They are not to be taken lightly in the same way that weed or alcohol can be.
That being said, when in the right environment, it can be a fantastic, eye-opening experience.
Have you "floated"? If so, did the experience compare to the above at all?
At best, you may be able to -- a (diminished) degree -- guide how the experience unfolds, but that depends on dosage and how experienced you are with psychedelic states.
Finally, it's also a matter of what it does to you. LSD/mushrooms can go way beyond mere hallucinations and at high doses let you witness the fabric of perceived reality before blowing it and 'you' into pieces. There is no coming back from such annihilatory experiences, the transformation will last for the rest of your life. For some people, this is the whole point of the psychedelic experience.
It’s also largely side-effect free unlike say MDMA. That’s what’s nice about psychedelics.
Certainly worthwhile but do your research first so you know what to expect (Erowid) and have some friends to look after you until you’re a bit more experienced.
The New Yorker article that first introduced it to me:
Personally I would never touch psychedelics in anything but a carefully controlled clinical settings. Reading the field reports suffices for me for the time being.
A lot of people into the hippie side of psychedelic culture don't like pharmaceuticals because they're unnatural or whatever, but in practice, there's a chance that your psychedelics are going to trigger hours and hours of rolling panic attacks that feel like you're dying, to the point where you may convince yourself that you've certainly died, or perhaps that you've never been alive.
You're considering ingesting some very weird chemicals. Have Xanax on hand just in case, so you can essentially put yourself down. If you have to take it, you'll still be tripping but you simply won't care, you'll not remember much, and you'll have turned one of the possible worst PTSD-triggering experiences of your life into a "meh, that sucked" experience.
That said, you might have a great trip that opens your mind and changes your perspective on life. I'd say it's 100% worth it if you're in the right set/setting, but not worth the risk of having a terrible time without an benzodiazepine escape hatch, because things can get seriously uncomfortably weird.
However I would add that working through a 'bad' trip or 'seriously uncomfortably weird' experience can be the exact opposite of bad. More often than not, the inability to let go or a fixation on something negative happens for a reason. (Not to say this is the case every time - sometimes hitting the panic button is the right reaction).
These drugs amplify and reveal what's happening in deep parts of the psyche - subconscious, unconscious, habits, 'ruts' we have been stuck in so long we forget they're ruts. In my experience, the most profound growth and change comes from diving headfirst into the discomfort and following it all the way down to its origin.
Source: 50+ psychedelic experiences
It's important to look at whatever happens as a learning opportunity rather than trying to push it away.
It is 100% better to be able to work through a bad trip than to take the escape hatch, but I sure wouldn't go into the experience knowing that my only option is to work through whatever happens. Knowing there's no way out might make it impossible to work through things where I would otherwise say "ok, I can go a bit further, I can always bail if I have to".
CBD oil however, is probably a good alternative. I will report back in the future with results.
You can kill a mushroom high quickly with lots of caffeine and sugar - say one red bull.
The caffeine part is particularly bad advice, as a stimulant is the last thing you want to ingest when you are already highly agitated.
But I also think that you might be introducing instability in your life so if other people are depending on you, you may want to think really hard about the risk that you’ll come out of it wanting to make major changes in how you’re living.
I spent a lot of my 20s doing various psychedelics and don’t regret it at all, but at 40 with a wife and child and well paying job, I can’t even imagine it. It’s not that I’m worried about it doing damage to me or anything, it’s just that I’m happy with my life as it is right now and I don’t feel like engaging in a huge amount of introspection or rebuilding my personality from the ground up right now sounds like something I want to be doing.
Minus: Can be really rough on your guts, relative to other psychedelics. Do not eat beforehand, consider making "tea" with lukewarm water.
Contrary to popular advice, I am not a fan of "trip sitters" because the presence of third parties tasked with judging your sanity can be a little stressful. If you are not comfortable being totally alone, the psychedelic experience might not be one you enjoy. Or it might be.
Like the one time I started talking with the consciousness of fire via the (convenient) camp fire started outside. I had learned how to progressively acclimate to greater degrees of heat (something useful if you have ever experienced kundalini arousal). I stuck my foot on the top of the fire to try to wake up the energy channels there (something I had only managed to pull off three years after this experience outside of ceremony space using Taoist neigong training).
The sitter with me was concerned but let me continue.
One of the things with working with this consciousness is that inhibations burn away. Things that seem risky now seem like fun.
The Fire invited me to hug the Fire and get closer. A different guide went "no, don't do that".
Then the sitter said, "Ok, I smell bacon" (meaning, my flesh is cooking) "get your feet off the fire"
I went "awww" and complied.
It's nice to be able to turn to someone and say, "Hey, let's go get a Powerade." and not have to worry about how to make that happen.
It’s worthwhile to at least read through some of the issues that others have confronted here:
For most people it’s probably fine, but for some it can result in life-long torment.
If you answered yes to any of the above, I would strongly advise against taking psychedelics (especially mushrooms). Mushrooms will completely take you out of your normal reality. It will take you to a place that's "above" your reality. Depending on how much you take, you may even doubt that you exist, or what existence even means. This can be profound in the right mindset or horrifying in the wrong one.
Shrooms can be a very positive experience. It can give you a glimpse into your own consciousness that's impossible to achieve any other way, but the second you start worrying stuff going on in your life in the middle of your trip, you're totally fucked. You'll feel like your brain has been destroyed and it's never coming back. Bad trips are absolutely terrifying, and they're very difficult to get out of.
I had a lot of fun dabbling with various substances in college. Now that I'm married, work full-time, and own real estate, the thought of taking psychedelics has zero appeal to me. In fact, I'm a complete teetotaler at this point.
I don't really understand why any of the things you mention, except anxiety and negative things in life, would be a disqualifier.
Also, going back to work on Monday after having your mind blown isn't the same as coming in to work with an alcohol hangover. You may not be able to function as a normal human for a couple days after a heavy trip.
altered insights is kind of the point... Not finding work the most important thing anymore could be seen as a plus.
All in all, it was about as bad as a scary movie.
That said, there's no reason why a person can't take away the beneficial aspects of the journey and incorporate them into their daily life.
> "...it's a profound, powerful, (potentially) destabilizing experience."
Some common advices: be with people you can trust, in a non-harsh environment, and don't try it if you are tired or going through hard times. You could also start with a very small dose the first time to have a grasp of it (although it's difficult to measure dosage with mushrooms, but you could try a small amount of dried mushrooms which are less psychoactive).
My experiences with mushrooms were great, but not really life changing or anything like that, just pretty interesting, fun, and maybe even artistically inspiring. The only substance that have had a real impact on me was (tested pure) MDMA: I only did it one time many years ago, but it helped me understand the value and significance of interpersonal interaction, which I believe made an important positive effect on me.
If you're looking for consciousness expanding activities, I found my meditation practice and buddhist readings were 1000x more powerful than my drug attempts. For an HN'er I'd recommend starting with this:
as its more sciency/modern than diving into the Pali Canon or popular but dated 1960s attempts to westernize Buddhism.
Check out Erik Davis' article "The Paisley Gate":
Also to brush off the 'imaginative part of the mind', i.e. your subconscious so readily is absurd. It drives us far more than our intellect would care to admit, and having a chance to interact with it so directly is very 'real', and not a delusion.
I don't think there are shortcuts to enlightenment and drug culture posturing is just fraudulent to me, or at best, a cheap and ugly temporary fix that ultimately distracts people from the proper path. That said, it does push some people to the right path, so it can't be all bad. The larger issue is that a lot of people have latent schizophrenia and its impossible to know if you do and drugs can set it off. Its not worth the risk imo.
This happened to someone close to me and it was difficult and heartbreaking.
I wouldn't recommend LSD not because I had a bad experience but because I felt why someone could. It's a scary drug that you really don't have a lot of control over until its effects start to wear off.
With something like alcohol or marijuana you mostly have control, you can kind of regulate how much of their effects you want to experience by consuming more or less, their effects wear off relatively quickly, and you can sleep them off. For the most part.
Anyways, the main reason why I wouldn't recommend LSD is because I think an individual that's interested should research it themselves and decide if they want to themselves. They shouldn't try it because someone said it was good or that others are doing it.
That said any psychedelic can precipitate a mental crisis. Especially at high doses. I’d say (subjectively) LSD feels more psychotic- state inducing though.
LSD has much more of an edge and has caused long lasting psychological issues for me (having dropped a dozen times) that I still find myself struggling with on occasion to this day (about a year after my last dose).
Mushrooms are much softer on you, and I believe they can be much more useful. In the right setting, with the right people I would be inclined to take mushrooms again at some point in my life, but I wouldn't take LSD again.
Thanks. I think that's why I've seen mushrooms recommended before trying something stronger like LSD.
The people that have trouble are the ones that can't submit.
If you're healthy enough, I think it's something that people have an obligation to society to try. It's also just an important part of the human experience, and imho going through life without ever trying psychedelics is akin to never going through school, dating, having a job, starting a family, etc.
Are those things really an important part of “the” human experience? I'm surprised to hear psychedelics mentioned in the same sentence as such a normative prescription.
Yes, but important in the sense of them being the most salient human experiences, not important in the sense that you should do them. E.g. I’d put going to war in the same category.
I didn’t say they did. The reason I think people should try different drugs is largely that it’s not possible to fully understand the art, laws, institutions, culture, etc. of a society without having had the qualitative experiences that inspired them. The reason I think there is an obligation is the potential to have new ideas and experiences that benefit society. E.g. given the current drama around gay rights, if you can swallow a pill that gives you the qualitative experience of being gay for a couple hours then I believe that’s something you have the moral obligation to do.
"I am human, I consider nothing human alien to me."
I would argue that such an effect is seen more at high doses and rarely at that. If your setting is a nice woodsie stroll then you can probably safely lay on the ground and watch the leaves until the moment passes. What's interesting is you'll suddenly realize your ability to move and have striking appreciation and respect for that, and that can stay with you forever. You'll also have just spent 20 minutes with the bugs and watching the trees and have strong feelings about all of that. All sorts of thoughts and perspectives you've built up over decades of life shattered. It's a great idea to see where the experience leads you.
That said, if you are dosing high enough that you expect wild effects in general, you probably shouldn't be in a setting where temporary paralysis is going to be an issue. Yeah it would be an issue to have to lay down on a sidewalk in a populated area, but so would heavy visuals and associated strange thought processes and perspectives in that setting. You don't want to talk to a stranger on high doses, and definitely not the police or an EMT.
edit: At doses that could cause paralysis, there will likely be debilitating sensory perception and cognitive processes in general, like synesthesia and your vision turning into a recursive zoom tunnel of over saturated hues, not understanding or abiding by some social constructs and speaking in metaphors that make a lot of sense to you and no one else.
I'm not asking the general question of whether taking walks while on mushrooms is a good idea. I'm sure it is!
RTFA and you know what making an assumption and all that...
A young hippy materialized out from behind a tree and told me he had spent time on McKennas farm in Hawaii. He recommended I read True Hallucinations & The Archaic Revival.
A day later I walked out of my local coffee shop and saw the same kid sitting on the street, which reminded me to get the book.
Some twenty years later, I was just interviewed on a podcast after Dennis McKenna about my experiences with psychedelics.
Also, I am commenting so my future self listens to your podcast!
I just got invited to speak at the “Working With Psychedelics” workshop in NYC this month.
If you are in town, it would be fun to meet you!
Psychedelic research has been slow for years, and it's partly due to reasons such as people believing that a mushroom is a mechanism for communicating with intelligent life throughout the cosmos. I'm not saying the theory is wrong (though I'm pretty certain it's wrong) - but given that we have zero proof of intelligent life outside of Earth, and that the speed of light is a limiting factor in the speed communication (ignoring entanglement as a potential form of communication for now), how has it been extrapolated that a mushroom could be the solution to these limits?
It's likely the theory has come from a user of psychedelics, and one thing that frequent users of psychedelics fail to understand at the time (this is from experience) is that reality is pretty slippery. I would estimate that in a single year (a few years ago) I experimented with N,N-Dimethyltryptamine 200+ times and that's just the kind of theory that I'd come up with at the time.
I've read several of his books, which just seemed like re-writes of the same topic in more concise formats each time.
Omnivore's Dilemma (450 pages) -> In Defense of Food (256 pages) -> Food Rules (140 pages)
That statement just killed my enthusiasm to ever try mushrooms. If using them results in this sort of thinking process, I think that I would be better off steering clear.
This is a normal sort of thinking process, psychedelic or not. Let's look at this sentence:
> ...so some plants and fungi are especially interested in enlisting our support. I think they have a consciousness...
Pollan is exploring a metaphor. The metaphor in question is "plants as people": plants are "interested" parties, plants "have a consciousness." He's using the metaphor to better understand how plants work. Anthropomorphization is a major feature of how humans understand their environments.
You'll note we use similar mental constructs with software, if you look closely at the language... Metaphor is the root of all abstract understanding.
That said the experience of a psychedelic trip feels completely impossible and indescribable on every level so I can understand how people reach for absurd metaphors to come to terms with the experience. It's a very difficult experience to integrate.
Is this some attempt at gaming bestsellers lists or something?