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Michael Polen's new book: How to Change Your Mind


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NPR today aired an interview with Michael Pollan (42 minute audio is available free online) about his just published book:



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



I thought some here might find it interesting, I think there IS some relevance to people focused on longevity, in particular with regard to mental health and anxiety/depression.  In the interview they discuss the impressive Phase 2 trial results stemming from the work at Johns Hopkins with psilocybin, which is now moving to phase 3.  It seems to me there is considerable and growing interest in this area of active research.


The NPR interview bullets:

  • On how the psychedelic psilocybin is administered in therapy for depression
  • On how psychedelics can help change the stories we tell about ourselves
  • On how psychedelics can help dying people face their deaths
  • On his own experience tripping (on mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, and 5-MEO-DMT)


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I've long been interested in microdosing psychotropics, although I have not experimented with it. I think it could have definite value in increasing creativity and expanding the mind. The therapeutic value vs depression doesn't happen to interest me, as I have never suffered from depression, but if it works for people, then it could be a tremendous resource as depression is a terrible disease (I know someone who has it, and it's awful). I may have to get this book, thanks, Gordo!

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Well the depression angle is one thing, in fact just yesterday there was a bunch of buzz in the popular press about a new study: 

Depression Tied To Faster Brain Aging, Poor Memory In Seniors, Study Says


Then there is the treatment of addictions - this is a problem that has gained quite a lot of popular press attention in the last few years (mostly with regard to opioid abuse), the talk of many a politician.


The more interesting aspect to me is the treatment of anxiety - since that is a much broader application than depression or addiction, affecting pretty much everyone at some point.  I guess they are starting with the low hanging fruit, "death anxiety" but it will be interesting to see where things go from there... I didn't know about this underground therapy industry, I'm kind of fascinated by the idea - wondering how they are trained (is there a practitioner's guidebook?) and what they do if things go wrong?  Seems like a massive liability, especially considering the large number of people who are contraindicated.  I wonder what other conditions could be successfully treated with this method?  Maybe people with anger issues, history of abuse, life satisfaction/direction issues, etc.

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I don't know if the book deals with cannabis at all, but here's an interesting article from SciAm - now, important caveat, this study was in mice:


Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain


"Researchers led by Andreas Zimmer of the University of Bonn in Germany gave low doses of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, marijuana’s main active ingredient, to young, mature and aged mice. As expected, young mice treated with THC performed slightly worse on behavioral tests of memory and learning. For example, after receiving THC, young mice took longer to learn where a safe platform was hidden in a water maze, and they had a harder time recognizing another mouse to which they had previously been exposed. Without the drug, mature and aged mice performed worse on the tests than young ones did. But after the elderly animals were given THC, their performances improved to the point that they resembled those of young, untreated mice. “The effects were very robust, very profound,” Zimmer says."


"Other experts praised the study but cautioned against extrapolating the findings to humans. “This well-designed set of experiments shows that chronic THC pretreatment appears to restore a significant level of diminished cognitive performance in older mice, while corroborating the opposite effect among young mice,” wrote Susan Weiss, director of the Division of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who was not involved in the study, in an e-mail. Nevertheless, she added, “while it would be tempting to presume the relevance of these findings [extends] to aging humans ... further research will be critically needed.”

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