Commentary #74: The “New Science of Psychedelics”

The New Science of Psychedelics

Image Credit: NPR

Many of you know that I enjoy listening to podcasts. One that I listen to regularly is NPR’s Fresh Air podcast.

This week, Terry Gross interviewed Michael Pollan, a world-renowned author. His books have typically focused on food and agriculture.

However, his new book, titled How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, discusses the history of psychedelics, and the “new” uses of them to help treat anxiety, depression, and helping cancer patients face their mortality.

There have been two phases of clinical trials up until now, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved Phase III, which is “testing of drug on patients to assess efficacy, effectiveness and safety.”

In researching for the book, Pollan himself became a “reluctant psychonaut” with LSD and psilocybin (magic mushroom) to see if these effects were real.

I won’t tell you Pollan’s results, but it’s a really interesting process. I recommend listening to the podcast version of the show, as it’s an extended edition, where Pollan and Gross discuss the history of psychedelics, which is so fascinating to learn. It’s amazing to learn how LSD was first synthesized, and how it has had a turbulent history. Pollan also discusses psilocybin to an extent, which is another interesting part of the story.

For me, I was definitely more than a little skeptical. I’ve never used any drugs or psychedelics in my life. I’ve seen counselors and therapists.

However, Pollan lessened my skepticism a bit during his interview with Gross. One of his interview subjects was a woman who had survived ovarian cancer. She was absolutely terrified of it recurring, and she was paralyzed with fear. She found a guide, a therapist who administered small doses of one of these psychedelics, and helped her along her trip. She discovered this “black mass” underneath her rib cage during the trip, and originally though it was her cancer. The guide helped her understand that it wasn’t cancer, but in reality it was her fear and anxiety. During the trip, she commanded the black mass to leave her body, and it did.

When Pollan’s fact-checker called to verify her account right before the book’s publication, Pollan’s original words were something to the effect of “this black mass was significantly reduced after her experiences with psychedelics.”

The woman corrected the fact-checker over the phone and said, “No, it wasn’t ‘significantly reduced.’ It was extinguished.”

Again, some of my skepticism remains, but as someone who has a diagnosed anxiety disorder (GAD), hearing the woman’s story gave me hope. I truly believe these psychedelics helped her.


For more information, check out the following links:


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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Getting Personal #41: Declaring My Love for Podcasts

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Image Credit: Capterra Blog

“If you want to stand out as a leader, a good place to begin is by listening.”

– Richard Branson


This little purple app on my iPhone makes me deliriously happy:

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Image Credit: support.apple.com


Podcasts are certainly not a new thing to me. I had to create a three-part series for my Advanced Broadcast Production class at Longwood in the spring of 2011.

It was certainly interesting, but given that I hate / absolutely loathe the sound of my recorded voice, it was a challenging assignment.


Then, fast-forward several years.

For my personal phone, I upgraded from a non-smartphone to an iPhone 6 almost a year ago.

About a month into this new experience, my wonderful husband officially introduced me to the Podcasts app, and I haven’t looked back.


As I started playing around, I discovered that National Public Radio (NPR) had a lot to offer. So, I started there.

It was information overload. There were way too many to choose from!

Now that I’ve settled into a regular routine, I love listening to these episodes in my car. I almost always play at least one episode to get me through the drive to and from work, five days a week. My commute is roughly 30 miles, and it takes anywhere from 35-45 minutes to get to and fro (sometimes longer), so these anecdotes have definitely kept me entertained!


Here’s my current podcast playlist (alphabetical order):

Out of this list, there’s seven that are produced by NPR, and I love all of them.

Ask Me Another and Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! both satiate my game show and trivia palates on a weekly basis. I’m actually hoping to get on both programs, at some point.

I love learning about history and cool stories – Most of these podcasts give me that fresh feeling every week!

The Nerdist is hilarious – I love the cast of characters that Chris Hardwick gets to interview! The best part is I get to pick and choose what I listen to, and when I want to do so. Recently, he’s interviewed the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mayim Bialik, Summer Ash, and Sarah Jessica Parker!

Several of the podcasts that I subscribe to have a “seasonal” format. Embedded, Invisibilia, and Serial have done this. It’s like a TV show – They produce a certain number of episodes, and then take a break to prepare for the new season.

It can be frustrating at times, but I know these men and women are hard at work and dreaming up even bigger things!


I’m always looking for new or interesting recommendations. If you have any podcasts that you crush on or love to listen to, I’d love to hear them!

Also, here’s a thought:

  • If you were to dream up an idea for a podcast, what would you do, and why?

Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂