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Thursday, March 03, 2022

Review: This is your mind on plants

 This is your mind on plants is Michael Pollan's second book about his experiments with drugs. Two of the drugs, opium/opiates and mescaline aren't drugs I've ever used, and one of them, caffeine, is of course popular and easy to get, and even legal.

The first article about opium isn't actually very much about opium. It's about how he grew poppies, and then discovered that even the act of growing poppies is subject to legal problems. Fortunately, his publisher (Harper's) indemnified him against legal action, but most of this section of the book that I can remember is about how much trouble you can get simply by publishing an article about how to grow poppies, extract the seed pods, and then brew an opium-infused tea with it. The tea does give you a sense of satisfaction and elimination of pain, and apparently can be addictive.

The section on Caffeine is nothing you haven't heard about. Pollan makes a big deal out of quitting coffee, and then digresses into the history of caffeine, and attributing the rise of caffeinated drinks like coffee or tea as changing Western civilization. I can believe it, since the drink of choice before that was alcohol (not covered in the book), but I think he made way too much of a big deal out of it. I've quit coffee a few times and it was never a big deal. As an addictive substance it's pretty mild.

The last section is about mescaline/peyote, a cactus flower that's used in native American rituals. This drug sounds intriguing, as what it does is produce a hyper-awareness of yourself and your surroundings for up to 12 hours. I've had moments like at (during crucial interviews or other high intensity events), but I can imagine that if you don't regularly put yourself in those situations it would be a novelty.

I enjoyed the book. I found it much more readable than How to Change Your Mind, which I bounced right off of. 

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