A look at Michael Pollan’s psychedelic documentary on Netflix
Michael Pollan’s psychedelic documentary is currently streaming on Netflix. There have been few people more responsible for the growing mainstream acceptance of psychedelics than Michael Pollan, and the announcement of a new Netflix documentary on psychedelics should only further cement that reputation.
The acclaimed journalist and author is known for his long, in-depth and accessible format that immerses readers in an eclectic array of topics, often experiencing the subject matter first hand.
Pollan’s most recent book was How to change your mind: what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, death, addiction, depression and transcendence, a very experiential deep dive into the world of psychedelics. Pollan’s eloquent and impassioned book and media appearances have gone a long way in convincing the public that psychedelics are a legitimate option for mental health treatment.
Last week, Michael Pollan’s psychedelic documentary debuted on Netflix, a four-part series called How to Change Your Mind that gives a captivating look at the history, rebirth and potential of psychedelics. Pollan delved into this one, not only by immersing himself in the history and science of psychedelic medicine, but by taking the drugs himself and getting an intensely personal experience of the powerful therapeutic potential.
The series is divided into four parts, with each episode exploring a psychedelic substance (LSD, psilocybin, MDMA, mescaline). The first chapter was about LSD, taking viewers back to 1938 when LSD was first synthesized by Albert Hofmann, an unofficial grandfather of modern psychedelics. We’re presented with interwoven stories about Hoffman’s lab work, his famous bike ride (a mega auto-dose of LSD believed to be the world’s first trip on acid) and other developments like the work of Aldus Huxley, Ken Kesey and Timothy Leary.
Then comes the part of the story that many psychonauts know all too well, but will be news to most mainstream viewers. In the 1950s and 1960s, LSD was an extremely promising compound, with hundreds of trials and studies showing positive results in a variety of conditions (alcoholism was a primary focus at the time).
But then came the hippies and Vietnam and the culture wars, LSD had escaped the lab and conservative forces in America started a war on drugs that effectively shut down research for over 3 decades.
There are stunning images of LSD research from the 1950s and 1960s, showing the beginnings of psychedelic therapy, as well as interviews with pioneers and examines the positive results of this all-too-short era. Pollan then meets fellow author Ayelet Waldman, a mother who was healed from a lifelong battle with depression and mental health issues by introducing microdosing of LSD into her life.
Overall, the first chapter was an informative and beautifully presented look at the history and potential of LSD. This Netflix series should go a long way in bringing psychedelics out of the shadows and into mainstream acceptance.