Psychedelics by David Nutt review – hope or hype?

An expert makes the case for psychedelic therapy, but we should beware the ‘Pollan effect’

There’s no more powerful mind-altering substance than a book. Five years ago, Michael Pollan wrote How to Change Your Mind, in which he described new research on psychedelic drugs, and how they can heal depression and anxiety while giving people the ultimate mystical experience. He tried the drugs himself, loved them and, thanks to the book’s phenomenal success, millions turned to psychedelics for relief and revelation. It was called “the Pollan effect”.

These days, psychedelic therapy has been legalised in Australia and the US states of Oregon and Colorado (with California poised to follow suit). Possession of psychedelics has been decriminalised in 20 US cities and municipalities, and the Food and Drug Administration appears to be on the verge of legalising the use of MDMA (ecstasy) and magic mushrooms in psychotherapy. Hundreds of psychedelic startups have launched, and dozens of books have been published. Most have flopped, like most of the startups.

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