RACHEL’S RUMINATIONS: Psychedelics: A New Therapy for Mental Illness and Addiction – Park Rapids Enterprise

You may be familiar with the work of Micheal Pollen. His most famous book is probably “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (2006).

A few weeks ago, I saw that his latest book, “This is Your Mind on Plants” (2021), had just come out in paperback, so I told my daughter, Cascade, about it. She mentioned another Pollan book, “How to Change Your Mind” (2018), which Netflix just released a docuseries on.

The book’s prologue eloquently sets the stage for the six chapters that follow. I had forgotten Pollan’s mastery of the English language and the extent of his vocabulary. I find his non-fiction style enjoyable to read.

Chapter 1, “A Rebirth,” reveals that psychedelics have come full circle. From around 1950 to 1966, psychedelics were widely studied and used by the US government and medical community to treat mental illness and addiction. In the mid to late 1960s they became part of the hippie counterculture movement and were banned by the US government.

I absolutely loved chapter 2, “Bemushroomed”. It was basically a biography of Paul Stamets, a modern American mycologist, world famous for his research and craftsmanship on all things mushroom.

I found this chapter particularly interesting because I heard Stamets speak at a medical conference. Additionally, I periodically recommend medicinal mushrooms (not psychedelics) to my patients for various health issues.

Although I found Chapter 3, “History,” a little tedious, Pollan mentioned Andrew Weil’s role with psychedelics at Harvard, as well as Ram Dass’s evolution from Harvard researcher to spiritual teacher – from anecdotes about well-known characters that really caught my attention.

Chapter 4, “Travel Diary”, was one of my favorites. These are Pollan’s personal experiences with the three psychedelics featured in the book: LSD, psilocybin, and 5-MeO-DMT (“The Toad”, or smoked venom of the Sonoran Desert/Colorado River toad ).

First, he and his wife tried psilocybin obtained during his visit with Stamets. His other experiences were taken under medical supervision, the fifth with ayahuasca, a tea infused from two Amazonian plants that he shares in the epilogue.

In Chapter 5, Pollan explores the neuroscience of psychedelics, which I found somewhat boring. The final chapter, “The Treatment of the Trip”, focuses on the main clinical uses of psychedelics – mitigating the mental and emotional component of death for patients with terminal illnesses and treating addiction and depression.

While reading the book, I reached out to several colleagues in Minnesota to learn about the state of psychedelic treatment options for people in our state. I learned that a few establishments currently use ketamine, which Pollan did not discuss in this book.

Rachel Oppitz lives in Park Rapids with her husband, Chris, and her dog Pax. She is a naturopathic doctor and owner of the Itasca Naturopathy Clinic. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, hiking, biking, canoeing, camping, travelling, meditation and trying new recipes.

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