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New Yorker: Out Loud

The New Yorker

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A weekly conversation about what's new in The New Yorker.

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Psychedelics as Therapy

February 2nd, 2015

Episode 411 of 447 episodes

In the nineteen-fifties and sixties, researchers explored the therapeutic effects of LSD on alcoholism, depression, and a number of other conditions. Then the counterculture came along, LSD became a recreational drug, and the research dried up. In this week's magazine, Michael Pollan writes about a new wave of researchers who are using hallucinogenic drugs to help terminally ill cancer patients cope with the fear of death. On Out Loud, Pollan joins host Amelia Lester, the executive editor of newyorker.com, to discuss the history of psychedelics research, the difference between a recreational psychedelic journey and a therapeutic one, and why he finds the effects of these drugs so intriguing. Whereas we don't typically trust the insights we have when we're drunk or dreaming, Pollan says, patients who take hallucinogens report having "a sturdy, authoritative experience." "It takes us into an interesting and difficult to navigate intellectual space," he says. "It's very exciting territory."

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