How to Change Your Mind - Chapter 4 Summary

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  • Catch up on "How to Change Your Mind" with the Chapter 4 summary.

Chapter four, “Travelogue: Journeying Underground,” takes the reader through Pollan’s personal experiences with three different psychedelic compounds. Once psychedelics were categorized as class one substances, the use of psychedelics went underground. Many people were, and still are, interested in using psychedelics and seek to undertake psychedelic experiences under the watchful eye of an underground guide. Despite not being formally regulated, many underground guides adhere to strict standards when assisting individuals under the influence of psychedelics. After meeting with a few different guides, Pollan found guides he felt comfortable with and undertook three different psychedelic trips. After speaking with his doctor, he chose to experience LSD, Psilocybin and 5-MeO-DMT. While under the influence of LSD, his experience focused on family relationships and centered around his son, parents and siblings. Although many people do experience ego death while on LSD, Pollan’s ego remained intact with the experience described as more of a “novel mode of cognition.” In the days following the LSD trip, Pollan was more positive and appreciative in his day to day life but the effects soon faded.

Wanting to experience a range of psychedelics, Pollan decided to take Psilocybin. Psilocybin produced a more potent trip with music having a very strong effect on the experience with parts of the trip being pleasant while others were more upsetting. Finally, after being offered the last minute opportunity, Pollan decided to try 5-MeO-DMT also called “the toad.” The compound 5-MeO-DMT is a psychedelic found in the venom of the toad Bufo alvarius. Unlike LSD and Psilocybin, 5-MeO-DMT produces a very short and intense trip. Pollan’s trip started out with feelings of terror and at one point he felt as though he was riding a rocket after which reality slowly reassembled. One of Pollan’s main motivations for his psychedelic trips was to experience the mysticism that many people who have undergone psychedelic trips speak of. Both Psilocybin and 5-MeO-DMT produced trips for Pollan that met the criteria to be classified as a mystical experience. All three of Pollan’s psychedelic trips were different and although he was able to detail the trips in the book, to do so required a lot of reflection and discussion with his guides. After experiencing psychedelics first hand, Pollan prepares to dive into the neuroscience behind psychedelics and their potential medical applications in the remainder of the book.

Andi DeRogatis is a graduate student at UC Davis in the animal biology graduate group. She is currently studying how the avian immune system is influenced by the process of molt. She loves all things birds and is passionate about getting others excited about birds as well! You can follow her on Twitter @AndiDerogatis.

Lindsey Mooney is a graduate student in the UC Davis Psychology Department. You can follow her on Twitter @Linz_Mooney.

For more content from the UC Davis science communication group "Science Says", follow us on Twitter @SciSays.

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