Ben, who has suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) since childhood, describes how trying just one thing caused when intrusive thoughts occurred he recognized them as “unimportant” and “useless”.
What was this thing? Use of psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in what are colloquially known as “magic mushrooms”.
“I’ve been away for several months,” Ben says of the time since he participated in a study to examine the effects of psilocybin on OCD. “My symptoms suck. They do follow-up questionnaires, and I just don’t have OCD, clinically.
As someone who works with people with OCD and other anxiety disorders, I was blown away. To be able to progress, we facilitate the use of therapy and traditional psychotropic drugs can take months or even years. Sometimes there is no progress, not to anyone’s measure. According to Ben’s account, he changed his mind and his life almost overnight.
Based on the book by Michael Pollan
I learned about Ben’s story by watching Netflix’s four-part documentary “How to Change Your Mind,” based on Michael Pollan’s book.
When I read Pollan The omnivore’s dilemma at the end of the years, I took it back, but I put part of it back. I guess I wasn’t quite ready to accept his thesis – basically, that we live off corn. Now, many years later, from a sustainability perspective and in the wake of a global pandemic that has forced us all to recognize the fragility of the supply chain, I imagine I could re-read The omnivore’s dilemma and get a lot more out of it.
When I prepared to embed “How to Change Your Mind” (or at least the Netflix version!), I approached it with some skepticism. As a kid in the 80s raised on the “it’s your brain on drugs” campaign, I was interested in the idea that substances that have been heavily regulated by the US government may have benefits which have not been fully understood and should be more accessible to the general population.
Ultimately, I was blown away by the stories told in “How to Change Your Mind”. Part of my wonder comes from the fact that we are where we are – in a time of constant uncertainty, looking for ways to make life less difficult. “How to Change Your Mind” offers us a chance to do just that – change our minds about what we might have thought was possible to change in our minds.
As much as I was moved by Ben’s tremendous recovery, I was moved by Pollan’s social justice grounded exploration of mescaline, the psychoactive molecule San Pedro, and peyote cacti. Pollan’s conclusion was that the masses should not use it; it is too precious and meaningful to the Native Americans who cultivate it. We’ve had enough – don’t take that too.
Takeaways from the documentary
What are the takeaways from “How to Change Your Mind,” at least from where I’m sitting (on my couch!)?
- People turn to these psychedelic therapies when nothing else in the realm of treatments sometimes covered by insurance has advanced their recovery. Profound suffering often occurred before psychedelic therapies were considered or explored.
- There are risks for some people, especially those at genetic risk for serious mental illness. While a “bad trip” may not be as common as we 80s kids (or 60s clean people) have been led to believe, it is possible that psychedelic therapies have lasting negative effects. As with any medicine, there are risks.
- As someone who makes mindfulness and the practice of meditation a part of my life and my therapeutic approach, some (but certainly not all) of the benefits of psychedelic therapies can be experienced through continued practice of meditation. meditation. If you’re thinking of changing your mind a bit, meditation or mindfulness can be a place to start.
Copyright 2022 Elana Premack Sandler, All rights reserved.
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