Michael Pollan: There's a dangerous message that psychedelics will solve all your mental health problems

By Gabriel García November 10, 2023

Psychedelics are substances that alter the perception, mood and thinking of the people who consume them. Some of them, such as LSD, psilocybin or ayahuasca, have been used for centuries by various cultures for ritual, religious or therapeutic purposes. However, in recent decades, these compounds have aroused renewed scientific interest for their potential to treat various mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress or addictions.

In a recent interview published in the newspaper El País, the American journalist and writer Michael Pollan, author of the book How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Death, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence (Debate, 2018), talks about his personal experience and research into the world of psychedelics. Pollan explains how these substances can help people break negative thought patterns, reconnect with their deeper self and find meaning in life. He also warns about the risks and limits of their use, and advocates for legal and ethical regulation to ensure their safety and quality. Now, the author of a key text in the resurgence of scientific research on psychoactive substances, fears the creation of a ‘bubble’.

“Since my book came out, substances have taken center stage in the culture. We have a mental health crisis, especially among young people, but rates of depression, suicide and anxiety are going up. COVID made the situation worse. New approaches to treating mental health were needed. And, at the same time, the rejection I expected to find from psychiatric and mental health institutions did not materialize. They accepted it better than I thought they would. And the reason is that they know that the problem also overwhelms them. And they know that their tools are not very good, that the antidepressants don’t work as well as they used to, and they never worked as well.”

‘There’s a dangerous message that psychedelics will solve all your mental health problems’

“There are some dangerous messages…that all the psychedelics [can] solve all the problems in the world, and [will] solve all your mental health problems. I mean, I’ve heard people seriously say that here. And I don’t think we’ve proven that …. I think there are dangers in therapist abuse. [There are unscrupulous underground therapists who take advantage of people. There is profiteering. People [are] charging outrageous amounts of money for psychedelic therapy because the demand is so high. There are guides who just advertise that they are guides and they don’t know what they are doing. They just put up an ad. What are they going to do when something really bad happens? They are going to call 911 and worry about their own legal situation, their own tremendous risks,” he told El País in the interview.

More and more studies add to others that have demonstrated the efficacy and safety of psychedelics in different clinical contexts, provided they are administered under medical supervision and with adequate psychological support. In addition, these studies have revealed some of the neurobiological mechanisms involved in the effect of psychedelics, such as modulation of the serotonergic system, brain neuroplasticity, deactivation of the default mode of brain functioning, and induction of mystical or transcendent experiences.

Pollan is not the only one who has explored this fascinating subject. In Spain, the publishing house Argonowta has recently published the Guías del Psiconauta, a collection of books that offers rigorous and practical information on psychedelics and their possible therapeutic effects. These guides are written by experts in the field, such as psychologist José Carlos Bouso, anthropologist Manuel Almendro or physician Jordi Riba, and address aspects such as the history, pharmacology, benefits, risks, precautions and recommendations for the use of different psychedelic substances, such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT or MDMA.

If you are interested in learning more about psychedelics, their effects, their history, and their therapeutic and spiritual potential, we recommend the Psychonaut’s Guides book collection. These books are an excellent introduction to the world of psychedelics, written by experts and with a rigorous and accessible approach. You can find them on Amazon.

The Psychonaut’s Guides from Argonowta Publishing is a collection of books that explain in a rigorous and accessible way the scientific, historical, cultural and experiential aspects of psychedelic substances. These guides offer updated and contrasted information on the therapeutic and neuroscientific applications of psilocybin, LSD, DMT and MDMA, as well as practical advice on how to prepare, carry out and take advantage of psychedelic experiences. The Psychonaut’s Guides are a must-have reference for anyone interested in learning about the psychedelic renaissance that is transforming mental health and changing lives.

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