But psychedelics are different.
The Book of Michael by Lesley Choyce
Psychedelics are to drugs what the Pyramids are to architecture — majestic, ancient and a little frightening. Pollan persuasively argues that our anxieties are misplaced when it comes to psychedelics, most of which are nonaddictive. What it does argue is that psychedelic-aided therapy, properly conducted by trained professionals — what Pollan calls White-Coat Shamanism — can be personally transformative, helping with everything from overcoming addiction to easing the existential terror of the terminally ill.
LSD was first synthesized from a grain fungus in , by a chemist working for the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Sandoz.
Its management decided to send out free samples to researchers on request, which went on for more than a decade. By the s, scientists studying LSD had discovered serotonin, figured out that the human brain was full of something called neurotransmitters and begun inching toward the development of the first antidepressants. LSD showed such promise in treating alcoholism that the A.
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So-called magic mushrooms — and the mind-altering psilocybin they contain — arrived a bit later to the scene, having been reintroduced to the Western world thanks to a Life magazine article, but they proved just as rich in therapeutic possibilities. All this ended thanks to the antics of Timothy Leary and other self-styled prophets of acid. By , LSD had been outlawed and declared a Schedule 1 substance. Psychedelics, it was concluded, sundered rather than opened minds, and any research that suggested otherwise was buried.
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Before long, these taboo substances once again seemed less a malign narcotic than a potentially powerful medication. As is to be expected of a nonfiction writer of his caliber, Pollan makes the story of the rise and fall and rise of psychedelic drug research gripping and surprising. He also reminds readers that excitement around any purportedly groundbreaking substance tends to dim as studies widen.
In the early s, for instance, SSRI antidepressants were hailed as the answer to human melancholy; these days, most perform only slightly better than a placebo. The challenging topics woven within the book seem guaranteed to spark interest and discussion among readers. Highly recommended.
Choyce could have taken an easy way out, but opts instead for an ending that challenges the reader. It paints a vivid portrait of the tempestuousness of the teen years. This is a powerful book with a conclusion that haunting, controversial, and unexpected It will undoubtedly leave people thinking about it for a long time to come. Lesley surfs year-round in the North Atlantic, teaches at Dalhousie University and calls Halifax home.
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