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Michael Pollan on Psilocybe Azurescens (theatlantic.com)
151 points by benbreen on June 5, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 132 comments



Just want to mention for people interested in mushrooms or hallucinogens/drugs in general, check out Erowid: https://www.erowid.org/plants/mushrooms/mushrooms.shtml

This has always been my go-to for objective information on drugs and experiences people have while using them.


That site is as old as the Internet... I remember reading it when I was a kid looking to learn about drugs.

I’m in my mid 30s now. Looks like it hasn’t changed a lot since the 90s.


Just like Craigslist, they got it right the first time.


I recently just finished Michael Pollan's (author of this article) new book about psychedelics, and I absolutely recommend it. I've always been somewhat skeptical about the science, but the book eloquently explains the history and its exciting future.

"How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence" by Michael Pollan


Apparently, Paul Stamets of "Star Trek Discovery" is named after Paul Stamets in this article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/paul-stamets-...


The real Paul Stamets was interviewed on one of the episodes of After Trek as well.


Thanks! That immediately jumped out at me and made me question if the article was meant to be satire or something


Submission note: the title is admittedly sort of click bait-y, but the content is not. I've been making my way through the book from which this is excerpted (Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind) and have been really enjoying it.

Previous discussion of the book here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17087961


The recent Joe Rogan interview w Pollan is also quite interesting. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tz4CrWE_P0g


Yaeh, it made me subscribe to audible and listen it for free: https://www.audible.com/pd/Bios-Memoirs/How-to-Change-Your-M... I enjoyed the book, but the claim that quantum physics might suggest that matter can have mind (because of wave particle duality) kind of killed it for me. Also, I don't find opinions of proponents of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trepanning very relevant. But it's a nice overview of history of psychedelics and introduced me to some fascinating figures, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Matthew_Hubbard

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.


Erowid is I think is nearly as old as the internet, it's good to see that it's still around.


We changed the title above to something considerably less baity.


Sorry to bikeshed, but I feel like the new title is much less clear; I don't know how many readers would know what "Psilocybe Azurescens" means. I sure didn't.

If I may, I suggest: "Michael Pollan on Hallucinogenic Mushrooms"


I never really got what is so wrong with an interesting title, if the article itself is interesting.

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?


It's just cargo cult knee jerk reactions: "title is click-baity = bad".

Half of great books, movies, articles etc titles pre-internet and pre-clicks would also have been censored under such thinking.


They're more than "hallucinogenic", and the temporary changes to his perception aren't the thrust of the article.


And significantly more opaque. I’d say the title went from a B to a B- due to the moderation action.


Yep. 'Blade Runner' had no blades, and nothing was 'run'. A direct description of the topic is, by definition, not 'baity'.


Unless, of course, you're trying to conceal the real subject to protect the innocent ... or maintain some illusion.


nothing clickbaity about it! The title describes the content well. the main body of the text is indeed what the title suggests (even if the the introduction was a bit long for my taste). I get what you mean though. before reading the content the title sets off some bait-alarms.


Wonderful book. I enjoyed it so much, I used one of my Audible credits to purchase the audiobook version, narrated by Pollan himself. It was a delight to hear his experiences firsthand, retold in his pleasant tone.


Genuine question for people that have taken mushrooms, would you recommend it?


I'd like to take this opportunity to talk about something I rarely hear mentioned to newcomers:

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[1] and The Psychedelics Explorer's Guide[2] for some more detailed recommendations on preparing for and making the most of your experience.

[1] - https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Chief-Revealed-Myron-Stolaroff...

[2] - https://www.amazon.com/Psychedelic-Explorers-Guide-Therapeut...


A lot of people wind up chasing that magic later without success. Don't squander the opportunity. Prepare yourself well

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.


I'd like to counter this with the opposite advice. Don't read up and create expectations of anything. Like people meditating and wondering when their 'chakras' will activate.

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.


Ymmv, but my personal experience was great. It’s shorter than LSD and I got more out of it than any other recreational drug use. I would compare the psychological impact to spending an afternoon removing and cleaning all the books on your bookshelf, except the bookshelf is your own brain. You get to examine a lot of material, you delve into some volumes but not into others, you maybe rearrange in a way that’s slightly more pleasing (but it will never be perfect, it’s a bookshelf and you’re going to see it differently next time you look at it), and you get to rediscover things you may have forgotten. You also might make some connections that, having read some of your books years apart, weren’t immediately apparent. It’s also very serendipitous in a similar way. You’re going to look at most of what is there, and if you’re not in the right frame of mind, you might end up fixating on the journal you kept when you were going through a rough patch at the expense of paging through something more pleasant. You might get something out of that, or it might take you somewhere that’s not so great.

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.


Yes. But set and setting matter a great deal, as does context and intent.

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.


This sums up my experience. I've made some positive personal changes and also gotten a better grip on what I want out of life and why. Unfortunately it's so intertwined with larger drug culture, possibly due to its rise in the 60s music scene, and many users and critics see it as just that. But for me, it's a powerful tool for deep thought and introspection that is hard to achieve otherwise.


People are all over the place in my experience... there are plenty of folks who feel both ways about psychedelics.

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.


If you are risk averse, the answer is almost definitely no, because it's just way too unpredictable, even with the right setting / mood / people around you. The experience is so personal that anyone's anecdote bares virtually no weight for predicting how you'll react to it. Not even your close friends.

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.


> Ultimately it exposes the underlying machinery of your own consciousness in a way that you've never experienced before.

Have you "floated"? If so, did the experience compare to the above at all?


If you mean isolation tank, it's not comparable because you retain control. With LSD/mushrooms/mescaline/ayahuasca there is no control on your end. It's like jumping into a stormy sea and letting it take you wherever it wants, the force is just too much for you to resist or attempt to control it.

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.


Yes definitely. Non-addictive, pretty harmless (physically) and it can be very therapeutic and insight-giving, albeit a bit frightening when it kicks in. It’s an introspective, spiritual trip, it very much clears your mind of distractions and running thoughts and alters your perception to the point where it seems like you’re examining yourself.

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.


For those not familiar with Erowid, it is a great old-school independent website that serves as a hub for information on psychoactives:

https://www.erowid.org/

The New Yorker article that first introduced it to me:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/23/the-trip-plann...

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.


Yes, but one thing that I think is often missed is that you want to have 1-2mg of Xanax (or equivalent) laying around just in case things go wrong.

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.


Great advice. Those magical little rectangles are absolutely essential to have on hand.

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


I've learned far more from my bad trips than from my good ones.

It's important to look at whatever happens as a learning opportunity rather than trying to push it away.


This is correct and that's what I would recommend as well.

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".


Agree 100% in principle, but just want to PSA that 1-2mg of Xanax is a fairly hefty dose.


I second this, but I might also suggest swapping Xanax for some weed. I've had those hours of rolling panic attacks that ultimately led me to believe I was dead and it was utterly terrifying. In retrospect, the experience was amazing in its own right, but I still needed to be calmed and the weed helped me come to again. I'm glad the roller coaster ended when it did.


I must add to this, mixing a psychedelic (LSA) with weed was the most terrifying experience of my life, and I have heard others recommend against it many times.

CBD oil however, is probably a good alternative. I will report back in the future with results.


You don't need Xanax and that might just make your trip a lot weirder.

You can kill a mushroom high quickly with lots of caffeine and sugar - say one red bull.


Urban legend. Not true at all. Nothing can kill a trip except time. Not even Xanax - it will just help you relax and kill the panic and anxiety.

The caffeine part is particularly bad advice, as a stimulant is the last thing you want to ingest when you are already highly agitated.


enough lorazepam and you're done


YMMV, and there's not a ton of research on this stuff, but I personally wouldn't go near any stimulant while being on any psychedelic.


This is pretty awful advice...


Xanax will be good for LSD, but really unnecessary for mushrooms.


I agree that LSD is more prone to producing 'freak outs' or acute psychedelic emergencies than mushrooms are, but disagree that having a benzo on hand is 'unnecessary' for mushroom trips - I have seen a couple mushroom experiences spiral out of control which could have been aborted by Xanax.


Ive had a freak out on shrooms myself. I just am very careful about Xanax/Benzos because they’re highly addictive. Xanax is kinda like alcohol, it's a gaba-ergic drug - it will help, but the primary way to stop freaking out is to calm down and breathe properly, and be assured that things are ok. But I’m sure in an emergency it can be useful.


Are you sure about Xanax? it's the first time I read that using Xanax can stop the psychoactive effects of mushrooms.


It definitely won't stop the effects, but you simply won't care anymore, everything will seem like it's not that big of a deal, and you might fall asleep.


The sacred experience is utterly derailed when you involve a synthetic compound.


Better than ending up in the ER.


For mushrooms? Far more likely to have a Xanax accident.


I’ve always said that if you’re the kind of person that finds the idea of trying psychedelics appealing, you’re probably the kind of person who should be trying psychedelics.

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.


Just to counter the selection bias in the answers to this question; be careful. A friend of mine took mushrooms and it triggered schizophrenia. That was 30 years ago and he never recovered.


This. Your pre-trip research should include checking if there's any family history of psychosis.


Agree on the biased info. There are reports of cases of cardiac arrest and death after taking magic mushroms. Maybe not common, but it happens. I know the case of a girl that needed cardiopulmonary resuscitacion also.


Plus: "Different," and shorter-acting, than most other common psychedelics.

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.


In Ayahuasca ceremonies I attended, the sitters take a much smaller dosage to connect them into the ritual space. Their job is not to judge your sanity, but to keep you from harming yourself, or to attend to some needs (such as, getting to the bathroom). They are usually experienced with Ayahuasca, and know how to be guided by the plant spirit of Ayahuasca while bringing in common sense. Being experienced, they know what it is like to explore this, to give soqce when needed and when and how to help. In the group I was with, they often recieve training.

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.


I'm not saying they're 100% required but I've always been pro-trip sitters; preferably someone who's been there before that you're comfortable with. It can also depend on where you are / what you're doing. If you're at home vs. at a festival or out camping.

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.


My close friends and I spent 11pm-6am in his living room painting, talking, and listening to animal planet background noise. Best 7 hours of my life


I would say that my life is much richer for having tripped a few times. My experiences were varied: sometimes it was just like a great party vibe, other times more religious/mystical. There's risk in anything, but, IMO, the risk/reward ratio is very much in favor of giving them a shot. A tip, if you do try them: they are variable dose. So you can start with a half or quarter dose, see how it affects you, and then take a bit more if you're feeling up for it.


This mirrors my experiences. I second the advice to start small. As I get older, I'm far more interested and comfortable with relatively small doses.


Be aware of your mindset if you do decide to try them. I've only done them once, but I had a bad experience. Left me a little paranoid/questioning reality for at least a year afterward.


I’m not going to say one way or the other, but you should at least known the potential consequences and decide if you’re willing to accept the risks.

It’s worthwhile to at least read through some of the issues that others have confronted here:

http://hppdonline.com

For most people it’s probably fine, but for some it can result in life-long torment.


I guess that depends on your reasons. I took them to treat my depression after reading about patients being given psilocybin in a clinical setting. For me it was absolutely worth it. The first two times I also did prepare a tea which produced two nice trips, but the third time I just chewed the full dosage raw (15 grams of magic truffles of the sort ATLANTIS) which produced an out-of-the-world trip that unearthed things from my subconsciousness I otherwise would have never reached. Somewhere someone described the experience as getting your brain power-washed. That's an apt analogy.


No. My opinion changed lately on the subject. I think it is quite risky to mess with them. Maybe under a controlled environment it could be helpful to some people, but i would not recommend one to go alone.


Care to elaborate on why your opinion changed? I agree with not taking high doses alone, but a good friend nearby is controlled enough environment for me.


Depends on where you are in life. Do you have a full-time job? Do you have any serious adult responsibilities, like a mortgage, business, spouse, or child? Do you tend to dwell on negative things? Are you worried about anything going on in your life right now?

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.


Why would having a full-time job be a disqualifier for trying magic mushrooms? When I tried them I was employed, and had responsibilities - albeit "light" ones, bills and rent and such. I was also living with my long-term girlfriend who would become my spouse.

I don't really understand why any of the things you mention, except anxiety and negative things in life, would be a disqualifier.


The point is that your mindset going in to the trip needs to be pristine. If you're in a bad place, stressed out, or worried about anything, you WILL think about it during your trip, which can take you to a really dark place. It's hard to explain the horrors of a bad trip if you've never had one.

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.


> 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.


I think you and I take vastly different dosages. I would not recommend taking enough to have a bad trip for a first-timer. During my first time, reality definitely wasn't quite as... solid as it is on a day-to-day basis, but I was perfectly aware that it was just a chemical experience and enjoyed what otherwise might have seemed scary.

All in all, it was about as bad as a scary movie.


It's a stunner to discover you've invested so much into something that you may not find rewarding when you come down.

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."


To add to everyone elses responses, if possible, when dealing with psychedelics, it can be mentally helpful to have a xanax on you. Xanax kills psychedelics completely and totally within about 15 min, and bad trips are not something you want to experience. Bad trips are totally in your mind however, so I find that just knowing I have an off switch if I need it, prevents me from needing it, if that makes sense.


Nobody can really recommend you a psychedelic experience because each person is unique and each experience is unique, but you should definitively research a bit before trying it. Erowid is a good resource to learn more about psychedelic substances.

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.


Counterpoint: No. I feel like you just trade one set of delusions for another with psychedelics. Talking to plants or rocks isn't real, its just another way the ego and the imaginative part of the mind plays with itself.

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:

https://www.amazon.com/Why-Buddhism-True-Philosophy-Enlighte...

as its more sciency/modern than diving into the Pali Canon or popular but dated 1960s attempts to westernize Buddhism.


A lot of people come to Buddhism through psychedelics, and some use them to enhance their practice.

Check out Erik Davis' article "The Paisley Gate":

https://techgnosis.com/tantra-of-psychedelics/


Ego dissolution is an extremely common occurrence among mushroom users, and leads a lot of people to meditation, and eastern philosophy.

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.


The illusion of ego dissolution maybe, I mean this is difficult to quantify, but we do have research that shows the brain changes experienced meditators get dont happen to psychedelic users. Every psychedelic user is back to being an egotist quickly in my experience while the meditators I know seem far less egotist and are always advancing.

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've done it once, and it was one of the most joyous experiences of my life. Every detail of that day is a treasured memory, from the farm where we gathered them to the beach where we consumed them to the sky above the ocean... wow.


"Nature loves courage. You make the commitment and nature will respond to that commitment by removing impossible obstacles. Dream the impossible dream and the world will not grind you under, it will lift you up. This is the trick. This is what all these teachers and philosophers who really counted, who really touched the alchemical gold, this is what they understood. This is the shamanic dance in the waterfall. This is how magic is done. By hurling yourself into the abyss and discovering its a feather bed."

--Terence McKenna


Yes, some of the most profound experiences I've ever had. It's been about a year since I've done a full dose though. I've been microdosing lately.


Absolutely, yes. Don't be around assholes when you do.


I can't talk about mushrooms but I wouldn't recommend LSD and I think similar reasoning could apply to mushrooms as well.

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.


I agree about LSD. One of the better things about mushrooms is it wears off faster and allows you to sleep much quicker than LSD, which is incredibly stimulating and long-lasting. It’s also less harsh and more forgiving than LSD. (I’ve taken >100 doses of LSD and mushrooms about 8-10 times).

That said any psychedelic can precipitate a mental crisis. Especially at high doses. I’d say (subjectively) LSD feels more psychotic- state inducing though.


I'll second that too.

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.


> One of the better things about mushrooms is it wears off faster and allows you to sleep much quicker than LSD, which is incredibly stimulating and long-lasting. It’s also less harsh and more forgiving than LSD.

Thanks. I think that's why I've seen mushrooms recommended before trying something stronger like LSD.


Yes, if only because there's seems to be so much evidence (both anecdotal and now, scientific) that there a real benefits and not much risk.


I would if you really need to fix something, or just once or twice so you can permanently see the world differently ... but after that I would be hesitant. Check out this essay:

http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/28/why-were-early-psychede...


If you're prepared to give up control for the duration of the trip, yes. It could be light and fun, or challenging and introspective, but either way worthwhile.

The people that have trouble are the ones that can't submit.


> would you recommend it

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.


> ...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.


> Are those things really an important part of “the” human experience?

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 understand you getting downvoted; I wouldn't oblige it but would like to see psychedelics to not be frowned upon and considered complete evil by most of society. Because imo there is some truth in what you say: especially with people around my age I can tell after a couple of conversations with a pretty good success rate (say 80%) if they have ever taken psychedelics. Yeah yeah, small sample size, anecdotal and whatnot, but still... There's this particular openness of the mind quite a lot of non-users just seem to lack.


Ahh, but is it correlation or causation? :)


That is of course the major question :] Looking at myself though, psychedelics did definitely change something (as in, bascically from one day to the other, not only gradually, so there is something causal there)


People don't have an obligation to society to go through school or start a family, and they certainly don't have an obligation to try psychedelics. My experiences with them have not been pleasant and I have a problem with anyone suggesting to someone uncertain about the prospect that they're in any way obligated to move forward with them.


> People don't have an obligation to society to go through school or start a family

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."


Yes.


No. Judging by behaviours in Amsterdam walletjes when they were still legal, in the worst case scenario you would need: - a competent enough psychology major around - strong friends who can hold you down as needed


Question: if one of the potential side effects of this particular mushroom is muscle paralysis, is going for a 30 minute walk after ingesting them a great idea?


Depends on where you're walking and who you are with, and of course dose but that can be hard to control. In the right setting, it can be a great idea.

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.


Are you talking about psilocybin mushrooms in general, or the particular species of mushroom discussed in the article? In the article, the mycologist who identified the species and picked mushrooms with Pollan told him not to consume them on their camping trip because paralysis was not unlikely at normal doses.

I'm not asking the general question of whether taking walks while on mushrooms is a good idea. I'm sure it is!


Ah sorry I kind of skimmed the article realizing I listened to him about this book on Fresh Air and assumed that statement was more general since it's possible with psilocybin (and I guess psychedelic trips in general).

RTFA and you know what making an assumption and all that...


I always liked McKennas theory that the mushrooms arrived from outer space via spores.


If so, they have certainly managed fairly well to imitate the DNA of the rest of us.


It’s somewhat plausible considering their unique biology - radically different to plants and animals. His book on mushroom cultivation is a classic. But honestly later he had some crackpot theories.


I first encounters McKenna’s work when was 17, hiking though the woods on LSD in Erie, PA.

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.

https://thethirdwave.co/podcast/episode-48-anthony-adams/


That synchronicity is wonderful, and for me, characteristic of the psychedelic experience.

Also, I am commenting so my future self listens to your podcast!


Let me know what you think!

I just got invited to speak at the “Working With Psychedelics” workshop in NYC this month.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/working-with-psychedelics-tools...

If you are in town, it would be fun to meet you!


How is it somewhat plasubile? Visual differences in a mushroom's biology mean nothing. The fact that mushrooms have the same DNA + RNA structure as all the rest of Earthly life is a dead giveaway that this hypothesis is nonsense.


Well, bacterial spores can survive outer space, too!


I think psilocin has an affinity for 5-HT receptors, wouldn't imply we've evolved together rather than apart?


There's a theory that the psilocybe is a mechanism for discovering and communicating with intelligent life throughout the cosmos.


And what is that theory based-on?

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.


Aliens told me during a trip, and then I found out others had the same experience. If nothing else it's pretty interesting psychologically.


It's definitely interesting psychologically, especially N,N-DMT, considering many of the users all share many of the same trip experiences[0]

[0]: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/5gkkpd/dmt-you-cannot-ima...


Inside a trip it's indeed a nice idea to tinker with. But even then, and especially when sober, it always occurred nothing more than a thought experiment to me.


And then spores entered the atmosphere of the earth, burned and disintegrate, as spores always do when there is a flame around.


It's great to see a new subject from this author.

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)


> “Plants and mushrooms have intelligence, and they want us to take care of the environment, and so they communicate that to us in a way we can understand.” Why us? “We humans are the most populous bipedal organisms walking around, so some plants and fungi are especially interested in enlisting our support. I think they have a consciousness and are constantly trying to direct our evolution by speaking out to us biochemically. We just need to be better listeners.”

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.


> 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.


Mushrooms definitely give you the feeling that everything around you has purpose and motive. The tree to your left isn't just a tree any more, it reminds you of a dragon, and you can determine its character, etc. You feel connected to things and can sense the "life" in everything. It doesn't mean you have to update your physical worldview. But the feeling is powerful, and is accompanied by some strong insights into your own life. Highly recommended, even without any spiritual inclinations.


fwiw, i've done a bunch of LSD and mushrooms and I think it sounds as stupid as you do.

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.


Interesting, I’ve also experienced the temporary paralysis mentioned here on shrooms, feeling unable to move for almost 2 hours.


On Amazon, Pollan's "How to Change Your Mind" is $16.80 in hardcover form, and $27.00 in paperback.

Is this some attempt at gaming bestsellers lists or something?


That's because it's the Large Print edition paperback. Those usually are around $30.


I guess the "mostly plants" part of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" was to leave room for fungi.


I have such a hard time reading articles that I know are marketing a book. I just feel like I'm reading an ad the whole time. I'm not sure what authors can do about it though.


It's not an "article marketing a book"; it's an excerpt from the book. They're giving you part of the book for free, like a song played on the radio.




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