PSYCHEDELICS: James Fadiman on Frank Ocean’s podcast

The psychedelic renaissance is in full swing. Mainstream coverage of new developments in clinical studies on treating physical and mental health issues with plant medicines and master molecules has gotten so ubiquitous that it’s impossible to keep up with all of it. For those who interested in psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy and/or those who are curious about the value of psychedelics for “the betterment of well people,” we’ve entered a whole new paradigm. Michael Pollan’s best-selling book How To Change Your Mind went a long way toward making these subjects known and speakable to a wider audience. The Netflix series based on his book dropped this summer and also provides a valuable introduction, alongside Louis Schwartzberg’s documentary Fantastic Fungi.

One of the most interesting media manifestations for me is a recent podcast by groovy queer musician Frank Ocean in conversation with guest speaker James Fadiman. Fadiman is one of the chief authorities on the subject of microdosing. He and his collaborator Sophia Korb have collected thousands of anecdotal reports from people who have experimented with microdosing, and they are doing their best to create solid data from these reports. On this podcast, Fadiman gives an excellent and succinct description not only of the purposes and effects of microdosing but also, at Ocean’s prompting, provides a wonderfully detailed explanation of what it feels like to undertake a high-dose LSD session, with valuable information on the conditions under which such an experience would best take place. The entire conversation is underscored with a groovy loop, so it sounds like a lecture taking place at Burning Man with an art car nearby cranking in the background. The podcast can be found on Apple Music. You can listen to it here. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up for a three-month free trial. Check it out and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE…?: Michael Pollan on psychedelics in the New York Times Magazine

Michael Pollan, author of the best-selling book How to Change Your Mind, had a big impact on my life. His article “The Trip Treatment” in The New Yorker in February 2015 alerted me to the renewed clinical research on the use of psychedelics for medical treatment. What I read about how effective it’s been to treat cancer anxiety with psilocybin excited me so much that I went looking for any available programs for training psychotherapists to do this important work. Lo and behold, I discovered that the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco has launched the country’s first certificate program in psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy. At the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland, California, organized by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), I met the woman who envisioned and oversees the program, Janis Phelps, along with many participants in the first cohort of trainees. Altogether these experiences inspired me to enroll in the year-long program (officially called the Certificate Program in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research, or CPTR), which I’m halfway through.

Michael Pollan sat in on our first weekend of training in March and incorporated his observations into an article (“My Adventures with the Trip Doctors”) adapted from his book that appeared in the Sunday New York Times Magazine in mid-May. It offers a good summary of his book and the state of psychedelic research. How to Change Your Mind and Tom Shroder’s book Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal impressed upon me the rich potential of psychedelics for treating depression, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as for “the betterment of well people,” in the words of Bob Jesse, creator of the Council on Spiritual Practices.

Readers of this blog may look forward to more posts on this subject.