Imagine being able break from from the destructive thinking that characterizes major depression and other mental illnesses. A brain re-set in a single therapy session with a lasting power of up to six months. In How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (Penguin, 2018), Michael Pollan likens the depressed human brain as being a snow covered mountain with well-worn ski tracks on it. After a while, the tracks deepen and the skier is trapped skiing the same slope over and over again. What if a psychedelic “trip” produced by ingesting psilocybin mushrooms or LSD could flatten the entire slope, causing the overused tracks to disappear, freeing the skier to create new paths? Research into the therapy-guided use of these substances is showing promise for sufferers of mental illness, including cases where patients have been resistant to traditional treatments including the use of SSRI’s. FDA approval for the therapeutic use of several psychedelic substances could come as early as 2021. This is exciting news for sufferers of psychic pain as well as their families.
The key to the success of this kind of treatment, according to Pollan as well as researchers, is that the substance is taken in the presence of a trained therapist who serves as a guide during the experience. Another key feature is the “mystical experience” many patients report afterward that causes them to feel differently about themselves and the world around them.
In his book, Pollan tries LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and the crystallized venom of the Sonoran Desert toad. He has what qualifies as a mystical experience after inhaling the vapor of “the toad,” leading him to ask the question: Was what he experienced real or just a drug-induced hallucination?
Does it matter?