Who gets to trip?

Mike Jay

  • How to Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics by Michael Pollan
    Allen Lane, 465 pp, £20.00, May 2018, ISBN 978 0 241 29422 2
  • Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds by Lauren Slater
    Little, Brown, 400 pp, £20.00, February 2018, ISBN 978 0 316 37064 6

‘Wouldn’t you like to see a positive LSD story on the news?’ asked the late comedian Bill Hicks in one of his most famous routines. ‘Today, a young man on acid realised that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration – that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there’s no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we’re the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.’ It’s a shame Hicks was no longer around to see the Washington Post headline in 2016 claiming that ‘LSD could make you smarter, healthier and happier,’ or Men’s Health explaining in June last year ‘why LSD is your new Monday pick-me-up’. The psychedelic medical breakthrough has become a news staple: psilocybin for end-of-life care, magic mushrooms for OCD, ketamine for depression, ecstasy for PTSD, ayahuasca for addiction. The stories seem to write themselves: a dad-joke about hippies, or tie-dye or the Grateful Dead, followed by a grand claim that psychedelics are poised to revolutionise the treatment of mental illness with a quote from the lead researcher and an announcement of larger trials to follow.

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