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How to Change Your Mind?

Posted by BoMToons - April 19th, 2019

Answer: Psychedelic drugs apparently.

Thanks to a suggestion from @TomFulp for the book "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan, I got to go on a "trip" into the history of LSD, Magic Mushrooms, and even a little hallucinogenic toad venom.


The full title is: "How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence"

The book got off to a rough start for me because of how the author approached retelling the history of hallucinogenics. He jumped around a lot and I got a little lost because of the non-chronological approach. However, the ending more than made up for the beginning and I ended up thinking a lot about consciousness, my identity, my ego, reality, and therapeutic "drugs."

The thrust of the book is that hallucinogenic drugs got a bad reputation when they were first discovered and have been mislabeled as overly dangerous, addictive (they're not at all), and unfortunately tied to "counter culture," anti-authority, and mysticism.


But, in reality, these "medicines" have incredible potential for helping people, both the sick and the "well." Some of the therapeutic benefits include:

  • Helping the terminally ill come to grips with, and be ok with passing on (hospice care)
  • Curing addiction better than any other clinically-tested drug
  • Curing depression and many other disorders
  • Helping people overcome serious trauma

The most-fascinating section of the book (the end) discussed the science behind what occurs in the brain when on this specific brand of drug. Interestingly, the drugs do not necessarily INCREASE blood flow and activity in all parts of the brain, rather they REDUCE blood flow and activity to the very important "Default Mode Network" which, among many other things, is where we get our sense of identity, self, or ego. Thus these drugs tend to "dissolve" a person's ego, infuse them with a sense of wonder, and make "all things new" and fascinating.


This part of the brain is also associated with our sense of remembering the past and planning for the future, so when it's inhibited, a person tends to only perceive the "now." What really got me thinking is the fact that certain other activities, like breathing exercises and especially meditation have the same effect on the DMN. This really makes me want to learn more about meditation since I don't think I'm going to be trying hallucinogenics any time soon (though I'm much more open to the idea now...)

Another quirky part of the book I liked was a discussion around Magic Mushrooms aka: Psilocybin in which the idea was tossed out that there's really no good evolutionarily-apparent reason for mushrooms to include hallucinogenic properties in their "fruiting members" (the parts that stick out above the ground and make spores). So, some people think that the hallucinogenic properties of these mushrooms are actually an attempt by these organisms to COMMUNICATE with humanity, expand our consciousness, and help us understand our place in the larger ecosystem of the planet.


This is a neat idea to me because I think it's very unlikely that communication between species (or with alien lifeforms) would be in a format we're used to. So, the idea of wise, visionary mushrooms "drugging" us with chemicals that affect our brains in very specific ways that lead to lifetime attitude changes that ultimately benefit them (and us) is kinda fascinating!

The book also highlights the inability of the current US drug bureaucracy to handle these particular kinds of drugs because they don't conform to the established methods of "double blind" testing (because there's no effective placebo: both users and observers can tell in a few seconds if the person got the "real" drug or not). There are other aspects to the incompatibility of these drugs with the modern medicine world too, mostly around how, for "best results," these drugs should be taken in the presence of a guide who can "hold the space" in reality for the person taking them to keep them safe, but also to help them prepare before and interpret and unpack the experience once it's over. You can't really see that kind of practice catching on in modern, cold, clinical doctors' offices.

You have to respect the author for putting his own health on the line in this book. He actually took each of the drugs he talks about, despite being 60+ years old (and having a heart condition!). His descriptions are pretty fun to read... especially his "diamond-encrusted urine" dump.


I have other thoughts about the evolution of drugs in general. They often start out as recreational until valid medical use cases are discovered/developed. Unfortunately this period of purely-recreational use can brand something with great potential as "dangerous" or frivolous making legit usage tough to roll out because of how slowly public opinion changes. This happened a long time ago with nitrous oxide, and recently with marijuana/cannabis, and it looks like we're turning a corner with hallucinogenics now too.

So yeah, I recommend this book pretty highly. It changed my mind about a lot of things and gave me a lot to reflect on.

I'm currently reading "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson which helps you get a, surprisingly deep, look into "nearly everything" having to do with SCIENCE.

Next on my list is a co-worker's sci-fi suggestion: "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein.

Drop me a message, I'd love to hear from you!


Comments (6)

I have taken most hallucinogenic drugs plus many other drugs. Each experience was amazing. I have regretted the use of some substances, but not these ones. I think it's something everyone should do at least once.

From LSD dissolving my ego and just walking around the house with friends forgetting my sense of sense, just enjoying being a human around other humans. The wavyness of the walls, the carpets twirling up and forming mini cities. Shrooms giving me amazing colours and deep introspection.

Then theres DMT. The stuff made in your brain to make you dream. This trip was unlike any other. It was 6 hours of LSD in 10minutes. After injestion my body was paralyzed to the couch as the couch lifted up on the wall. The music in the background shot through my body like eletricity and out my eyes into fireworks. I could think in about 10 different minds at once, and eventually you leave your body to be greeted by aliens/god/diety after a tunnel of light. The same reason people see a tunnel of light when they die because the DMT is released in your brain.

Do drugs lead to creativity? maybe. But for me it more opens your mind to one thing you never considered, simply changing your perspective can change the entire world. Perhaps every person does not see the same perception of reality as each other.

Pretty much exactly what's described in the book! I totally agree that a seemingly small shift in our fundamental perceptions, or a brief experience of "something else" can affect us positively forever after.

thank you for this post
it cleared some doubts about thinks of the past
and it made me realize why things happened
psychedelics are always an interesting topic
don't try them if you don't feel ready

I doubt I’ll ever try psychedelics, I’m more interested in the "natural" methods of achieving similar results... ie: meditation.

Yep thats it. It definitely can cure depression, one thing you need to be careful of is the "hippy effect"... (I named it myself) Where you lose too much of your ego and then have no ambitions or goals as a person whatsoever. So interestingly it can be bad, not in the sense of health, but in the sense of completely losing sight of whats important.

But yeah... do it :D

Interesting warning! Maybe losing ambition and aspiration, when done in view of recognizing the arbitrariness of the rat race, could be a good thing. Those "hippies" might be happier, overall, than you and I! ?

I have to go ahead and disagree with @Eggy just a little bit. While it seems my experience has been overall similar - in that even my worst trips ultimately became positive experiences and helped me to grow as a person - I don't think "it's something everyone should do at least once."

The fact of the matter is, psychedelics or other hallucinogens like dissociatives, simply aren't for everyone. Baba Ram Dass, author of "Be Here Now" dedicates a chapter in the last section of the book (The Cook Book for a Sacred Life) where he talks about psychedelics as an "upaya", which I understand to mean something like a "tool". They can be helpful, but it's possible to achieve the same growth without using them. Psychedelics can help you to think differently, to grow, and certainly in particular circumstances help you get out of extremely depressive states (as they did for me), not even to mention all the many medical benefits that institutions like MAPS and the Heffter Institute have showed various psychedelics to have. However, very few people in the world have access to lab-grade psychedelics, and professionals to guide them through psychedelic experiences, which are both key aspects to achieving the medical benefits as far as things like PTSD are concerned. If someone living somewhere where these substances are illegal wanted to, for example, try taking MDMA to help with their PTSD, and they buy it from a street dealer, they may end up inadvertently taking methamphetamine and making the whole issue worse. Same goes for LSD, as another example. A lot of people buy "acid" thinking they're getting LSD, and instead get some research chemical like 25i-NBOMe that may be harmful.

Aside from the above issue, there are honestly a lot of people in the world who just should not take psychedelics in almost any case. People with family histories of schizophrenia, for example, should probably not take that risk.

Another group of people who probably shouldn't take psychedelics are people who don't WANT to take psychedelics. If you don't have any interest in it, then don't let people try to convince you to try it anyway.

If anyone reading this is interested in trying out psychedelics, I strongly recommend doing your research before hand. Check out erowid.org for a very extensive and unbiased source on practically any drug you can think of, and always stay safe!


Since I have @Eggy 's attention, I also wanted to add to what you were saying about DMT and the human brain. Some scientists suspect that DMT is produced in the pineal gland and affects not only your dreams and what you experience at death or near-death, but some people even go so far as to say that DMT may be partially responsible for the very way in which we interpret reality! DMT might just be the very reason we're even conscious!


Great post @BoMToons ! Thanks for sharing :)

Thanks for you response and perspective. It looks like you've done a bit of research in this arena, including some hands on experience.

What's mentioned in this book is that "bad trips" often deal with repressed trauma (when the DMN is inhibited, it loses its repressive powers, sometimes unleashing traumatic associations), or can be attributed to poor (or no) guide.

Does that match up with what you know?

@GoodL @BoMToons Good thoughts and read. Didn't expect this to turn into a conversation haha.

You are correct @GoodL not everyone should take them. When I said "Everyone" I guess what I meant was all people of sane mind who have an interest in it. This immediately wipes out a lot of people for sure. My dad personally has schizophrenia, for a long time I was scared it was genetic, even put my body under extreme stress of various substances that I reached the edge of what could be called crazy. I somehow survived unscathed and would never recommend anything I go through to anyone themselfs. However I personally needed to know, it's something that they must ask and be willing to do on there own without influence. Also to any people new to it, I recommend having an xanax or valium nearby just in case needed to stop bad trips.

But on a side note, theres growing evidence that says hallucinogenics can have a protective effect against developing psychosis.

Your 2nd issue about acquiring it and knowing it's safe/pure to me is unfortunately a non-issue due to experience and intelligence in the area. In other words, if you have those troubles then you should either not be doing it, or willing to accept the risks and consequences with it.

I'm glad you wanted my attention. Well you got it. USE IT WISELY. YOU HAVE 3 QUESTIONS REMAINING. *counter goes down one*

I agree with the DMT part, it's definitely the most wildest thing I ever took, it was way different to acid. Acid changes the world around you and morpths it. But DMT breaks the literal bends of reality. I took it for depression, halfway through the trip a million voices screamed back at me that it was not the cure for depression and I have never taken it again. Once was enough.

@BomToons The argument you just mentioned is actually a very common debate among these crowds of people. Think about it, if I took away your ambition you never would have made that amazing art and games you have on Newgrounds. But at the same time if all you had was ambition you would end up as a celebrity that suicides when fame didn't bring him happyness.

But hey, like Cypher tells the agent in the matrix when he wants to be plugged back in - "Ignorance is bliss" ---- you will notice dumber people always seem happier.

The idea is to find a balance between the two. Losing your ego is good for a while, but if we all did it, the entire world as we know it would never have advanced as far as it did. Do not underestimate how powerful evolution is and our subconsious, it uses dopamine as a doggy treat and we are the dog. When we have sex, eat food, complete a task, it says good doggy and gives us a dopamine spike in the brain. We are essentially trained like a subtle push into everything that furthers humanity as a species.

Thanks, it's good food for thought. I agree, balance is important in all these considerations.

@BoMToons I'd never really thought about that before, but I suppose it does. Psychedelics do have a tendency to pull back memories, both good and bad, and things like having a guide and being in the right set and setting certainly make it easier to deal with those negative recollections.