Overall I enjoyed the book. Pollan provides an engaging history of psychedelics and the pioneers who conducted research with them in the 50s and 60s, as well as the researchers who reignited the work in the 21st century. I knew next to nothing about the scientific data regarding the treatment of depression, anxiety, and addiction with psychedelics, and found these sections of the book fascinating.
There were a couple aspects I found less compelling. The first was his detailed description of the neuroscience behind the drugs, although it’s quite possible that I was simply tired when I listened to that chapter. Secondly, I found his decision to experiment with various forms of psychedelics and report on his experiences throughout the book to be rather curious. His conclusion that the efficacy of the drugs is related to letting go of one’s ego during treatment (i.e., the trip) is curious given the out-sized role his own trips play in the narrative. Pollan also admits that the language used to describe the experience, and its lasting impacts, is limited and insufficient. However, that didn’t prevent him from attempting to describe his experiences in great detail.
These are minor critiques, however, and should not detract from what I suspect will be a conversation-changing exploration of the potential benefits of using psychedelics to treat a variety of intractable conditions.