Transcript: How Psychedelics Helped Adam Strauss Gain A Fresh Perspective On His OCD
Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Adam Strauss.
Although Adam Strauss named his popular show “The Mushroom Cure,” his psychedelic knowledge doesn’t end at psilocybin mushrooms. In this episode, Adam shares with us the good and bad of his psychedelic experiences – from solipsistic nightmares to curative perspective shifts. We hear about Adam’s opinion on microdosing, and how exposing his vulnerabilities on stage is just what some people need.
In this episode we talk about:
- The research chemicals that are best avoided
- How Adam integrated a nightmare solipsistic trip
- The importance of complimentary practices in psychedelic therapy
- How psychedelics helped Adam come to terms with his OCD
0:00:28 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to The Third Wave podcast. I recently got back to New York after spending two weeks in Amsterdam facilitating retreats for psilocybin at Synthesis. And once you hop back into New York, it never really slows down. So it’s been hitting the pavement and then Burning Man is coming up next week. So if you’ll be at Burning Man, I’m giving a… Or I’m on a panel at Camp Mystic from 12:30-1:45 on Saturday, September 1st. And the panel’s about ayahuasca, microdosing, startups and leadership. If you plan on going to the playa, maybe go ahead and check that out. There are a couple of talks coming up that you should be aware of. One is in San Diego about microdosing, it’s September 7; and then I’m giving a talk in LA on microdosing on September 8th. So put those in your calendar if you’re in the SoCal area. You can find out more details on the Aware Project website. We’ll put it in the show notes so you can check it out, if you wanna get more details about those talks, and those are going to be about microdosing. I will give a talk and we’ll have a small panel of people who have either experienced microdosing or have some understanding of it to discuss it.
0:01:48 PA: Today’s episode is with a good friend of mine, Adam Strauss, who is a comedian. He runs a comedy show called The Mushroom Cure, where he talks about curing his OCD with psilocybin mushrooms. But it turns out, in fact, and what you’ll learn from the interview is that he didn’t really necessarily cure his OCD with mushrooms, but that it’s much more of a journey beyond that. I went over to Adam’s apartment in Brooklyn. We sat down, had a great time, went back and forth about a number of topics including 2C-E, a psychedelic analog, bad trips with 2C-E, a little bit of Adam’s personal history in getting involved in psychedelics and where that’s led him. Because Adam’s a friend of mine and we were actually just out dancing last night on a rooftop in Brooklyn, this is a very casual, easy-going interview. It’s a great time and Adam’s fucking hilarious. So, I’m sure you’ll really enjoy this episode. Without further ado, I bring you Adam Strauss.
0:02:57 PA: You’ve had your fair share of psilocybin, huh?
0:03:00 Adam Strauss: I’ve had. I have. I’ve had fewer psilocybin experiences than people might assume, who just know about my show and the title of the show. I remember one reviewer said something like, something about the show, he was drawing a metaphor. He’s like, “Much like the mushrooms Adam Strauss loves so much.” I don’t know if I’d say I love mushrooms. I respect them. I think in terms of personal enjoyment, yeah, mushrooms have… They’ve never been particularly fun for me. Well, you haven’t seen the show yet, but if you come, you’ll see they actually… They led to some traumatic experiences for me as well that were ultimately healing. It was never an easy path for me with mushrooms.
0:03:34 PA: Are there other substances that you’ve then utilized? Like for example, I know with me, acid has always been my go-to. In fact, I love acid so much I got it tattooed on my ankle.
0:03:45 AS: Oh, really? The molecule?
0:03:46 PA: Yeah, the molecular structure. [laughter] Yeah, it’s just like…
0:03:49 AS: Just in case after the apocalypse, the formula is lost.
0:03:52 PA: Exactly, we’ll have it on my ankle.
0:03:52 AS: And you’re like… We still have fully functioning chemistry labs, but no one has the formula.
0:03:57 PA: That’s totally…
0:03:58 AS: You can bring your severed ankle to the whatever bastion it’s from, underground bunker and… Sorry, that got unnecessarily grim. Hopefully, your ankle will be attached to you.
0:04:10 PA: Hopefully. Yeah, that’s the idea, that I survive the apocalypse.
0:04:12 AS: Right. Because, right, you have value. They’re like, “Well, he can’t hunt. He can’t farm, but he does have the recipe for LSD tattooed on him.”
0:04:19 PA: Yeah, we’ll need that to birth a new world after the apocalypse, right?
0:04:21 AS: We will. We will. Absolutely.
0:04:22 PA: That’s undeniable.
0:04:24 AS: So I think mushrooms would do quite well in a post-apocalyptic world. They seem to thrive in situations of dissolution, decay, turnover, change. Yeah, so…
0:04:35 PA: Yeah, they’re a fantastic tool. Do you have these other psychedelics that you think are nicer?
0:04:38 AS: Yeah, well, I would say LSD would be top on the list for me. I had… The show is called The Mushroom Cure. It’s the true story of how I tried to treat my very debilitating, for many, many years, OCD with psychedelics. It’s called The Mushroom Cure ’cause the study that inspired my quest was, to date, still the only study of any psychedelic for OCD, was at the University of Arizona, Francisco Moreno. A very small pilot study of psilocybin for OCD, just nine subjects. I don’t know if you’ve read that study. It’s an interesting study in a number of ways. The short version is, it was effective. The study was called Safety, Tolerability and Efficacy of Psilocybin for, I think, treatment-resistant OCD and it definitely had efficacy. One of the interesting things is… So this was not, unlike the studies that are happening now of pretty much all psychedelic therapy is now really psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. So the medicine or drug session is embedded in a context of a lot of preparation, preparatory therapy sessions, integration sessions. This was not that; they just gave people psilocybin in an inpatient overnight setting.
0:05:46 AS: There were therapists present, but if memory serves, there wasn’t… I’m quite certain that wasn’t any sort of preparation in terms of what are you looking to achieve or… But people still had a remission. And the most interesting thing about this study, well, there are two things that are very interesting. One, is, I don’t wanna get too wonky here, but the dose-response curve was nonlinear. What I mean by that is, some people had pretty significant results on very, very low doses, which I thought was interesting and kind of speaks, I guess, I’m bringing it up because obviously microdosing is part of your mission, your…
0:06:19 PA: Repertoire.
0:06:20 AS: Your repertoire, yes. Your shtick.
0:06:23 PA: Your shtick, yeah.
0:06:25 AS: Awesome shtick.
0:06:26 PA: Microdosing.
0:06:28 AS: So it was interesting. But the other, the really interesting thing and the thing that inspired me, is one subject. So they didn’t follow up with people, I think, after. They followed up with them for like a week afterwards. And after a week, some people still had traumatic symptom reduction, some didn’t. But one subject, if memory serves, and I’ve done a lot of psychedelics in my life, so memory does not serve as well as it once did, but I don’t think they actively followed up. But somehow one of the subjects, maybe he reported back to them, six months later he was still symptom-free. And so they didn’t use the word cure anywhere in the study, but I read this and I read this study, holed up in my apartment, at the real depths of my OCD. I mean, I was not functioning. I was, yeah, my life was not worth living.
0:07:14 AS: And I was, you know, at a stage where I was contemplating ending my life. And I’d been on every possible medication, all the SSRIs, Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Effexor, benzos, Xanax, Lamictal, everything. Seen all sorts of specialists. Nothing had helped. And I read this study and I saw, “Okay. Six months later this guy doesn’t have OCD symptoms. That to me sounds like a cure.” And so I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to cure myself. I didn’t have a lot of experience with psychedelics at that point in time. Now I had done them in college, of course, as almost everyone does, but they didn’t work for me. And I now know the reason they didn’t work for me is because I was on high-dose SSRIs. I was on a very high dose. At that time in college, I think I was on Paxil. Some people on SSRIs still can work with psychedelics, but some can’t. And for me, they really didn’t. They didn’t have any effect. So I really had no psychedelic experience. But yeah, it was this case of, “I don’t have anything to lose.” So I read that study and I decided I would try to cure myself.
0:08:17 PA: So what was that experience like?
0:08:18 AS: Well, that experience was a 90-minute show, so it’s a long one to answer. I talk about it, in stand-up, I talk about this show sometimes, and I’m like… People ask me, “Well, did it work? Did you cure your OCD?” And I always tell the same thing. I say, “Buy tickets. I’m not just going to give you the answer.” And then they say, “But I’m your mother. I’m just concerned about you.” “I don’t care, mom. Go to themushroomcure.com, buy tickets.” No, I will give you the short version. It worked, but not in the way I thought it would work. I was looking at… Oh, yeah. So first to just close the loop on your last question. So the show is called The Mushroom Cure because that study is what inspired the show. But oddly enough, at this point in time, it was very difficult to find mushrooms in New York. So before I ever did mushrooms, I did LSD. I had quite a bit of experience with mescaline-containing cactus, Pedicia, I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that right, San Pedro, Peruvian Torch. And I also delved into the wonderful world of research chemicals. Basically Sasha Shulgin’s pet compounds.
0:09:18 PA: Which ones did you… [unclear speech]? Yeah.
0:09:19 AS: A lot of them. And I’m not saying I still have a lot of them in my freezer. So what did I do? 2C-E, which was at first very helpful and then turned terrifying. I had probably the most traumatic trip of my life. Not probably, definitely, on 2C-E.
0:09:34 PA: Is 2C-E an entactogen? Is it a…
0:09:36 AS: It’s a… Well, no, I wouldn’t call it that. Shulgin calls it one of his magical half-dozen. One of his half-dozen chemicals that he felt had the most potential to really alleviate human suffering and open minds and hearts and consciousnesses. But he also talks about it has a sort of, at best, neutral character. One of the reasons I love LSD is because there’s a bit of a lift to it. It’s not speedy in the way uppers are. It’s not like coke. I’ve had LSD trips that haven’t been fun, but it’s kind of hard, right? It pushes you in the direction of, I think, wonder and enjoy. So there’s a bit of a positive effective push, I would say, behind LSD. 2C-E is more neutral. It feels very, very clear. I love LSD also ’cause of the clarity. I mean, I’ve dealt with cops on four hits of LSD and been fine.
0:10:24 AS: I couldn’t imagine doing that on equivalent dose of mushrooms. 2C-E is even more clear-headed. It’s, it’s… Yeah. And that can be eerie in a way. It almost feels like sometimes you’re in this liminal space, but alone. By which I mean, certainly ayahuasca, it seems like most people have a sense of some sort of entity. Mushrooms, often people talk about mushroom consciousness. LSD, maybe not so much, but there is still that kind of push. And I certainly feel like there is an intelligence to LSD. Absolutely. 2C-E, there’s something that can feel a bit alien or impersonal about it. I had three trips total. One was…
0:11:05 PA: But not alien like DMT-alien. Alien as in like…
0:11:09 AS: No, not alien like that bizarre fun house. More alien like… Impersonal maybe is a better word. Also, I’m talking a little bit of bullshit right now ’cause I only did it three times at significant dose levels.
0:11:20 PA: Sure.
0:11:21 AS: About four times, which I don’t think is enough to really get the character of anything. And I’m a firm believer in set and setting. I think set, setting, and dose is a lot more determinative than a specific chemical compound. I’ve often thought that, like to me, high-dose mushrooms is more similar to high-dose LSD than high-dose mushrooms is to low-dose mushrooms. That’s my own personal… Yeah. So 2C-E… Yeah, I wouldn’t rule out doing it again. I had one pretty wondrous experience that actually seemed like it was potentially a breakthrough with the OCD. Do want to go down this rabbit hole now?
0:11:57 PA: Yeah, let’s go inside the hole.
0:11:57 AS: Alright. Alright. So we’ll see if I can, by the end of this, I’ll tie it all back round…
0:12:02 PA: Just this bonus footage for The Mushroom Cure.
0:12:04 AS: So The Mushroom Cure is now about a 90-minute long show. But if you look at earlier versions and earlier reviews, the reviews, I’m not gonna play false humility, the reviews have been very, very positive. But many of the earlier reviews also mentioned the show was fucking long. They might not have used the expletive, but Time Out New York, it was a great review. They named it a critic’s pick, but they also said something like, at over two hours, the show could really use a trim or two. And I’ve taken that to heart. Both out of respect for the audience, to be sitting and watching one person for over two hours is draining, but mostly for myself. I mean, yeah, the show is on a, from a stamina perspective, it’s a motherfucker to get through. So I’ve cut out a lot, and unfortunately, what I’ve cut out mostly have been the trips. So, there’s really only a few trips recounted in The Mushroom Cure, of course. There’s a mushroom trip, there’s a cactus trip, and one of the trips that was in the show that I really liked were this succession of two 2C-E trips very close together, that unfortunately got cut. And I’ll give you the short version of it.
0:13:07 PA: Alright. Good. [chuckle] This is nice. Good, this is good.
0:13:09 AS: Yeah, and it hurt me to cut these because this was part of the journey for me, so…
0:13:13 PA: So the 2C-E trip.
0:13:14 AS: This is circling back to The Mushroom Cure. So yeah, so I was looking for a cure. So this got cut ’cause it wasn’t instrumental to the cure, but these were significant experiences for me. The first time I did 2C-E… I actually had a quite a few more trips. First time I did it, I took, I think, with this woman who was my girlfriend at the time, who was sort of the other major character in the show. Now, it’s me alone up there on stage, but I kind of depict her and her story, she was training to get her PhD in psychology. I met her randomly, I met her in Time Square doing a comedy show. It doesn’t get more random in that. She was originally from Kansas, where she had just graduated college. She was about to move to California to get her PhD. She was in New York for a psychology conference. We met at this comedy show, we hit it off, we started a sort of long distance relationship. I didn’t know until we’ve been together, I don’t know, maybe it’s her second or third visit, that it emerged that she had inadvertently cured her suicidal depression with psychedelic cactus.
0:14:15 AS: It was a pure coincidence or divine intervention, however you wanna look at it, that very soon after I read this study, that set me off on this path of trying to cure my OCD with psychedelics, I met this woman who had done it and was a psychologist. And so she’s a big part of the story. So the first time with 2C-E was with her. We took fairly low doses, not super low. I had, and still unfortunately have, a pretty prodigious tolerance for psychedelics, I think because… I’ve been off the SSRIs for a decade now, but it seems like there’s still some sort of residual tolerance. Either that or it’s just my ego just [chuckle] clinging for dear life, but I take pretty, what McKenna would call heroic doses, but they don’t feel particularly heroic for me, it just feels like that’s kind of what I need to experience the effects. So, but with 2C-E, I knew its reputation. I’d researched it a lot online and I knew it had a reputation of, it could be wondrous, but it could also be terrifying. So I started off, I think, maybe 12 mg orally, a fairly conservative dose, though could be strong. I think she took eight. I remember we were walking around Central Park, and it was like, “Do you feel anything?” “I dont know.”
0:15:23 AS: Looking at bushes, and they kind of seem to be moving. It was one of these things where maybe there’s threshold effects, but hard to tell. Finally, eight hours later, we got back to my apartment. I’d wanted to get high on something. I was a little disappointed, so I was like, “Alright, let’s smoke some weed.” And I took a huge bong rip, and I exhaled the smoke, and I’m actually, in contrary to psychedelics, I have a low tolerance for weed. I get real high really easily. And I expected to get just obliterated, and it had no effect whatsoever. And it was kind of eerie ’cause I was like, “Alright. Well then, this 2C-E must be doing, must be affecting me in some way.” I clearly am altered and off baseline if taking a massive bong rip of high-potency marijuana has no discernible effect. So that was intriguing. At this point, she was in California. She went back to California. I was like, “Alright, let me try this again.” So, a week or two later, I just had to up the dose significantly. I took 20 milligrams orally, which is a high dose. And three or four hours in, I was, I remember I was in Washington Square Park and I’m watching the cobblestones, they were kind of waving. I’m doing hand gestures which, it’s not good craft for a podcast.
0:16:35 AS: They were kind of breathing and morphing a little bit, but I still feel totally clear-headed. I remember I called Hamilton Morris, who is and he’s a good friend and was kind of with me in a lot of these experiences. And I was like, “I’m four hours in, is it gonna get any stronger?” And he’s like, “No, it probably won’t get any stronger.” I was like, “Alright. Well, I guess I’ll go home and snort a little bit.” And I hope Hamilton won’t hear me saying this, but he was like, “Yeah, snort a little bit.”
0:17:00 AS: So I went back to my apartment and I snorted, I had a very accurate milligram scale that I may or may not have now, and I snorted, I remember, just four milligrams of 2C-E. And it came on real quick, and I lay down on my couch, and in about 30 seconds, I entered this state, basically what Shulgin would call plus four experience, which for listeners who are not familiar, on the Shulgin scale, plus four is the highest number, that he also stresses that it’s not sort of a linear ranking, but the idea behind a plus four is just what he calls a peak mystical experience. So kind of akin to Samadhi, and Zen, Kensho, this experience of oneness with everything. The dissolution of subject-object duality, the just is-ness. And I had that experience for, I don’t know how long it was ’cause time ceased to exist, and then my mind jumped in. I was like, “Oh, this is it. You’re having the plus four. This is gonna fix you.” And of course, once my mind jumped in, well now, I’m the subject in a world of objects and I lost it. And I tried to get back there but I couldn’t, but it was like, “Alright. This stuff is the answer. This is gonna lead me there, this 2C-E.”
0:18:13 AS: So I waited exactly one week, so that they wouldn’t be tolerance, and I figure I took 20 mg orally, snorted 4 mg. This time, I’ll take 24 milligrams orally, and I’ll hopefully have that experience for hours instead of moments. Did it. Four hours later, exact same fucking thing. I think I wasn’t at Washington Square Park, I think I was at Hudson River, but basically like some visuals, but feeling otherwise totally sober. So went back to my apartment and this time I snorted 6 mg and…
0:18:46 AS: I immediately knew I’d made a terrible mistake and I just was coming on just way too hard and way too quickly. But I was like, “Alright. Go to my couch again just breathe, just… ” And I’m trying to breathe. And it was like I was inhaling but I wasn’t exhaling. I was just getting more and more tense and full of air. And I’m like, “No, I’m everything, I’m everything. Just melt into everything. Just melt into everything.” And then I had the thought, “No, I’m not everything. I’m the only thing. I’m the only thing that’s real. I’ve created this whole universe to distract me from the fact that I am completely… ” Oh yeah, I forgot we posted about this moment on Facebook. Yeah, this is the experience.
0:19:25 AS: I created this whole reality to distract me from the horrifying truth that I am completely alone in the universe. I’ve always existed. I always will exist and I’ll always be horribly alone. And this wasn’t even a thought, it was a certainty. It was that psychedelic… How does Michael Pollan refer to it? I can’t remember the term he uses, but it just, it was in that moment, it was truth to me. I knew it was true, I didn’t want it to be true. And so I think I called Hamilton. I couldn’t reach him. I called my friend Dave and he picked up the phone and I remember I said… Because I still had some clarity even around this. I said, “I don’t know why I’m calling you ’cause I’m just talking to myself. I created you.” And he’s like, “I don’t think you created me.” And it got more and more horrifying and I was like, “Alright. I’m gonna kill myself. I’m gonna jump out the window.” And I actually open my window and then I realized, “Wait, I’m this building. I’m the cement I would impact upon. I’m the force of gravity causing this. I can’t die. I’m the only thing that is. I’m trapped forever in solitary confinement.”
0:20:34 AS: And eventually I came down. That’s the good and bad thing about drugs is you always do come down, despite what some of the anti-drug propagandists would have us believe. You don’t believe you’re a glass of orange juice forever. So I did come down but… And my rational mind started kicking in. Okay, well, I probably had a glimmer of that same oneness that I’d sensed the week before, but my ego got afraid so it put the spin on it that so that I didn’t go deeper into that. And yeah, I think that’s valid. But that residue of terror stayed with me. My OCD was much worse. I was a fucking wreck. I remember walking down the streets of New York and like a car would back fire and I would jump. I actually had some PTSD from this experience. And…
0:21:21 PA: And so how did you… What did that look like on-going then in terms of… Because what you’re referring to is, I believe they call it…
0:21:29 AS: Solipsism. Solipsism. It was a solipsistic…
0:21:34 PA: Solipsism.
0:21:35 AS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
0:21:35 PA: Because I had this when I drank ayahuasca.
0:21:37 AS: Yeah.
0:21:37 PA: In Costa Rica. It wasn’t near as dark as that, but it was this recurring thought after I drank ayahuasca for four straight nights. I remember I went to this little beach town called Nosara in Costa Rica, gorgeous place, and was just walking up and down the beach there and just thinking like, “Oh, yeah. I’ve manifested this entire reality out of my individual self.” And that in some ways is true…
0:22:01 AS: Yes.
0:22:02 PA: Which I think is part of the intimidating, scary element of when you’re experiencing that on psychedelics. There’s an element of it that it’s true. But it’s also obviously you’re interacting and there’s this sense of inter-subjectivity with you and the world around you. So it’s always… For me, it’s solipsism?
0:22:20 AS: Solipsism, I think is how it’s pronounced. I don’t remember… Yeah. I think solipsism.
0:22:24 PA: Solipsism. It’s like the sense of you can… Obviously, the hint of that is you can change your reality in a way, but the darker side is like you’re just creating this reality as you go along and everything that’s out here is from you… Which is really fucking scary if you get into it.
0:22:46 AS: And maybe the distinction is the question, “Are we the source or are we… ” Clearly we have some… I shouldn’t say clearly. But I believe, as it sounds like you do, that… Well, I think our thoughts shape our experience and that’s all we have is our experience. So I think we do shape our own reality but I also, at this moment in time, I don’t believe that I am… I believe that there is a source that I am of, but that is not solely Adam Strauss. And I think that’s the distinction. So yeah, I absolutely do. I believe that I don’t know what’s going on, but I think there’s something going on. I believe there’s an intelligence here. I think it’s wildly unscientific to say it’s just random. There’s order everywhere we look. I don’t understand that intelligence. I don’t think that intelligence originated with me, I think I’m part of it. Language breaks down as we talk about this ’cause I don’t think there’s… There’s not a good way… I mean language, by definition, it… Maybe not by definition, but it segments things.
0:23:52 PA: It boundaries. It puts the boundaries around things.
0:23:56 AS: This is a box. This is a sheet. This is a wall. This is a computer. I think there is that element of truth in that the way we choose to view things… I say this and stand up a lot, I think reality is subjective and if you think I’m wrong, you’re right. So I do… And I absolutely do believe that but I also think that there’s something going on that is beyond us, yet connected to us. But in that moment, it was more like what you’re describing where no, I’m the only thing, there’s nothing. It’s just me. So how I got out of it was I kind of staggered around New York for a couple of months and then I was like, “I gotta get the fuck out of this city. I just I need some nature. I need some peace.” And so I wound up subletting my apartment and getting a place in Martha’s Vineyard, a really cheap place, and spent a month there and it was actually a really blissful experience.
0:24:41 AS: And I brought psychedelics with me. So I didn’t even smoke weed after this experience, but I got to Martha’s Vineyard and about week three, I was… I started feeling such peace and I decided… One day, I remember I woke up, it was just this perfect little cottage I had near the ocean, and there’s bunny rabbits hopping across the lawn on this perfect June day and I just was like, “I’m gonna take some acid today.” And I did. And it was a good healing experience. But there is still a residue of that experience. Because I do think there’s some truth to that.
0:25:07 AS: That was the very traumatic 2C-E experience and then years later, I did a pretty high dose orally, just orally, also in Martha’s Vineyard, a solo trip where… I think that might have been the last high-dose solo trip I did. This was years after the period I talk about in The Mushroom Cure and it was more just… Yeah, I went into this experience without any real intention, which I think can be fine, but it was I think, the neutral character of 2C-E combined with being alone… It was just kind of… The visual enhancement, that’s what I’ll say about 2C-E. Even though I never got real visuals from it and I don’t get visuals from anything, really, just things look more beautiful and clearer and sharp. So that was fun being by the ocean, but there wasn’t much that came out of that experience. But I would do it again under the right circumstances.
0:25:56 PA: And so, 2C-E is one of the research chemicals that you were talking about?
0:26:00 AS: Right.
0:26:00 PA: It’s cool because on the podcast, I don’t think we’ve ever really talked much about research chemicals. I’ve experienced 1P-LSD, which is more or less the same as regular LSD.
0:26:09 AS: I’ve not done that.
0:26:10 PA: I’ve done 4-AcO-DMT.
0:26:12 AS: Oh yeah, I love that one.
0:26:14 PA: I love that one, as well, but ’cause it’s an analog of psilocin, is psilocybin right?
0:26:18 AS: Yes. Yeah, that one… I’ve done that more than any other, so that… Yeah Hamilton and I were big fans of that and I’ve taken that probably more than anything else, if I think about it. Because there was a period in my life, about a year, where I was doing that very regularly at all different dose levels. It was very interesting. I don’t know what your experience was, mine was… It was… It felt more controllable than mushrooms but it didn’t have the mystical, chaotic edge that mushrooms… That gives them some of their… It felt less magical, though still kind of magical. And I’m remembering this now, I would even use it as a social drug. I would take 5 mg and go out to a bar and drink…
0:26:58 PA: You’d microdose, basically.
0:26:58 AS: Yeah, yeah.
0:27:00 PA: And you’d… I used it before I gave a talk in Zurich a few months ago when I was talking about microdosing and self-optimization. And I took I think… It was a microdose, I think it might have been 5 mg, and I just remember it was a really good talk. And what it does, for me, it has that cognitive clarity of LSD, with the hard emotional feeling-opening of psilocybin. But you don’t get the kind of weird, fuzzy, chaotic edges of psilocybin.
0:27:29 AS: Yeah, damn I need to try this again soon. Yeah. Yeah, ’cause I really did. ‘Cause psilocybin is… I don’t like it at low-dose levels and I actually tried microdosing, and we can talk about this, but I tried microdosing recently. I didn’t give it a real fair trial, but 4-AcO-DMT I did like at low-dose levels and high-dose levels. And a high dose is… What I found about it was the trip itself I liked, but the afterglow was… I’d get this… I’d take 40 mg or 50 mg, I’d have this incredibly euphoric afterglow so for a while, I would time it out. If I was going to a party, I’d take maybe 40 mg at 6:00 PM, I’d work with a high, and then at 10:00 PM I’d pretty much… ‘Cause also, psychedelics tend to last not that long for me, so by 10:00 PM, the acute effects would be over. I’d still be a little bit high, I had this incredible euphoric afterglow that would just be a lot of fun.
0:28:25 PA: Yeah.
0:28:25 AS: Yeah, I haven’t done that in years. 4-AcO-DMT was a good one. 4-HO-DiPT another psilocybin analog for… So we had 4-AcO, the 4-HO, the 4… There’s one other. 4-AcO or 4-HO-MiPT, 4-HO-DiPT. There were five or six psilocybin analogs that I tried. One of them, I think it was 4-HO-MiPT, was interesting in that it was very physically stimulating. I think I only did it once or twice. And then the phenethylamines, 2C-E, 2C-T-7, 2C-B, of course. I did not try them, but I had them. DOM.
0:29:00 PA: Oh.
0:29:00 AS: Yeah, yeah. DOC.
0:29:02 PA: DOM is the one that lasts like three days or something like that?
0:29:06 AS: Probably not really three days. It’s… If you read… At high doses it can, but yeah, you’re in… It’s gonna be a probably 24-hour ride. But there some reports of people… DOM is notorious. So that’s a Shulgin invention and it was sold as STP in the… I don’t know, ’70s maybe? ’60s, ’70s? I think in the Bay area in California. Basically, Shulgin gave a lecture. It looks like someone probably copied down his slide, synthesized it, and they were selling it on the street but they were selling it in 10 mg tablets, which is a monstrous dose. DOM I believe… I mean I haven’t thought about DOM in years, but I think an active dose or a full-trip dose could be, I don’t know, 5 mg? 3 mg? And then, this was compounded. It could take four hours to come up, so you take a 10 mg pill of STP. People are used to LSD, of course, you feel effects relatively quickly. You wait an hour and a half, you’re not feeling anything, you take a second pill.
0:29:58 AS: You wait another hour, still not feeling anything, you take a third pill. Hour four kicks in, you have 40 mg of DOM flooding your system and it led to this flood of emergency room admissions, until someone eventually… Shulgin figured out what it was and so, yeah… I did not get to try that. It’s on the list, yeah. Probably 15, 20 different things that I procured. But yeah, the four substituted tryptamine, 4-AcO-DMT was the one I did the most and… But I will say… Yeah, nothing I tried exceeded LSD for me, in terms of enjoyment and insight, I would say.
0:30:35 PA: What about efficacy?
0:30:37 AS: Well, so for the OCD… So, the other reason the show is called The Mushroom Cure, even though the word cure was not used in the study, is because as someone with OCD… It’s a little tricky, do I still have it? I certainly have perfectionism and obsessive tendencies, but as certainly someone who had very debilitating OCD. OCD is characterized by very black and white thinking. Things are great or they’re terrible. Things are… This is gonna work or it’s not gonna work, so I was looking for this silver bullet cure, something that would just take away my OCD forever. In my mind, I had this almost childish view that if I could have a plus four, I’d be cured. ‘Cause this woman, Grace, my girlfriend at the time, had had a plus four on cactus, and it really had cured her depression. Again, she hadn’t aimed to do that, she was just a kid having fun and had this profound experience. But for me, it was like, “Okay I need to have this experience and it’ll cure me.” And so as a result, I was doing this stuff in a pretty stupid way.
0:31:28 AS: I was doing a lot of different drugs close together, various dose levels, not well-controlled set or setting. I was doing it sometimes when I was not in a good mindset. The setting was generally New York City which I’d say is not optimal for high-dose trips. It can be okay. So it’s a little hard to disentangle, “Well, what helped the most?” Certainly I had a number of trips that were helpful in different ways, including mushrooms were very helpful. The most traumatic trip I had was also… Which led to a 911 call and cops showing up at my… I was living in Martha’s Vineyard at this point, cops showing up. That ultimately proved to be very helpful, but LSD also proved to be very helpful. I had one trip particular in Brooklyn, where I was able to… Well, I’ll tell you what happened. So this also is not in the live show so it’s good. No spoilers.
0:32:33 PA: Good, no spoilers yet.
0:32:35 AS: So I was with this woman, Grace is her name and my girlfriend, and we were at my brother’s apartment in Brooklyn. And I think it was only the second time I’d ever taken LSD and I took three tabs and I’m coming up and she was in the living room. I’m lying in my brother’s bed and just trying to relax into the energy as I was coming up and feeling into it and suddenly, there’s this really loud sound. And it turns out that people are moving into the apartment below my brother’s and the whole reason we’d come out here to trip is his apartment was quiet. And so now, as I’m coming up on this LSD trip, suddenly the worst thing is happening. I’m not gonna have a quiet setting at all. There’s loud movers, people bellowing and dropping heavy shit and yelling up and down the stairs and I immediately got angry. My body tensed up and there was this fight in my body. It was like my body was, and my emotions and my mind, we’re sort of fighting against this. “No, I don’t want this to happen.” And then I became aware of it on a meta level.
0:33:43 AS: I suddenly realized, “Oh, I’m actually… I’m fighting what’s happening right now and that’s not gonna help at all.” And actually, right now, my entire experience has now become about the noise from these movers. And I was able to just kind of relax into it, allow the noise to be there. Not wanting it to be there, not even liking it, but not fighting it and kind of observing how that would feel in my body when they drop something. Really just being present with it. And the next day, Grace and I were at this Chinese restaurant, Joe’s Shanghai in lower Manhattan, which is a mad house and very popular, and we got seated. There’s always these group tables, we got seated at this table where, basically…
0:34:32 PA: I’ve been there.
0:34:32 AS: You’ve been there, yeah.
0:34:33 PA: What’s the traditional things?
0:34:34 AS: The soup dumplings.
0:34:35 PA: The soup dumplings.
0:34:36 AS: Yeah.
0:34:36 PA: That’s what you go there for, the soup dumplings.
0:34:38 AS: We should go, man. I haven’t been there in years.
0:34:39 PA: We should, yeah.
0:34:39 AS: We haven’t been there in years. Yeah those are great. Yeah and so I’m sitting there, and I’m seated right near a high traffic area and waiters are brushing by me and people are talking loudly and I realize I’m getting kind of tense about it. And I’m able to do the same thing I did on the trip the day before. I just kind of let it be there and I start being able to do that with the, not the LSD, with the OCD. I’d find an obsessive thought and I’d see, “Oh, it causes this tension to my body when I’m obsessing, this contraction. Okay, just relax into it. Relax into that energy that you don’t wanna be there. Let it fill you.”
0:35:13 AS: And it was pretty profound for a few days and then it did not last and I think part of the reason it didn’t last is… You look at the research happening now with MAPS and everyone else and there’s so much emphasis on integration and I didn’t have that. And it wasn’t even in my lexicon, it was like… Yeah, no the right trip is gonna fix me. So yeah, I didn’t really know or even give much thought to how do I apply this in a proactive, conscious way in my life? So it didn’t last but those sort of experiences, particularly mushrooms, but others, too… Ultimately, when I reached a point where I saw the OCD was… How devastating it was and I realized that psychedelics had given me the template to find some peace by essentially doing the same thing, by accepting.
0:36:05 AS: That’s how I’d say it helped me because I’ve been… See OCD, you have an obsessive thought. My thought, I don’t wanna get too much into my symptoms just because we could talk about it for hours, but classic example would be someone who has contamination fear. So their thought is, “I’m contaminated,” they have a ritualistic urge to wash their hands. My thought was more, “I’m making a mistake,” or, “I’m making the wrong decision,” and I would have an incredible urge to reverse my decision. But either way, you engage in this ritual, washing your hands or reversing your decision, because in the short term it works. When you engage in that ritual, the anxiety goes down for a little bit. You’d find some relief from that obsessive thought and that anxiety; but then it creeps back up. So then you repeat the ritual again. You wash your hands again, reverse your… And the anxiety goes down, but it creeps back up and you get trapped in this cycle.
0:36:55 AS: So I understood, intellectually, that if I could open up to the anxiety I was feeling and the obsessive thoughts, if I could allow them to be there, not necessarily believing them, but just let them be there, then I wouldn’t have to engage in this behavior to avoid them because they were already there, if that makes sense?
0:37:13 PA: That makes sense.
0:37:13 AS: Yeah, by accepting something you’ve undercut the incentive to engage in avoidant behavior. So I understood that perfectly well. But acceptance is such a, it’s such a fascinating, tricky thing ’cause it’s not an intellectual, cognitive thing. Acceptance is more of a physical action, or I often like to say, it’s a spiritual thing. It’s that letting go, but it’s something that really happens more in your body than your mind. It doesn’t really happen in the mind at all. Your mind can say, “I accept it.” At a physical level you have to let go of the resistance. And it was only on psychedelics that I had that physical experience. I had meditated for years. I tried all sorts of cognitive behavioral therapy. That had not given me that physical experience of acceptance. But psychedelics did. And once I had that experience, and once things got so bad with the OCD that I knew I had no other choice, psychedelics had given me now, this pathway where, okay, this is the way out, is I accept this. It may not feel good. I may still have anxiety. I may still have unwanted thoughts, but I’m not gonna be trapped engaging in rituals for nine hours a day, which I often would be.
0:38:16 PA: So as part of that process, what did you find helped then, with integration over the long term?
0:38:21 AS: Yeah.
0:38:21 PA: So is it just a constant matter? A metaphor that we’ve been using in our Synthesis retreats when we’re doing integration circles. Afterwards, we use the metaphor of like going to the dentist, right, which is basically like everyday you brush your teeth and you floss and that’s a mindfulness practice, whether that’s breath work, meditation, yoga, something that cultivates acceptance and presence?
0:38:43 AS: Right, I like that, yeah.
0:38:43 PA: And then every six months you have that more kind of intervention, so to say, where you go and get a deep clean.
0:38:49 AS: Right, yeah.
0:38:49 PA: With the dentist, but then with the sense [unclear speech] of calmness, experience, yeah, so.
0:38:52 AS: I love that, I haven’t heard that before. That’s great. I’m gonna use that.
0:38:56 PA: That’s how we try to contextualize it, right?
0:38:57 AS: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s helpful. It’s, it’s… Yeah, I really like that. So in my case… I was lucky in that… Well, I’d found this 12-step program for OCD called Obsessive-Compulsive Anonymous and that provided kind of this integration structure.
0:39:14 PA: Was this built off of Alcoholics Anonymous?
0:39:16 AS: Yes, it was. It was… Yeah, it’s basically… The idea is that OCD is an addiction.
0:39:20 PA: Okay.
0:39:21 AS: Which I absolutely believe. The more you engage in it, like any addiction, it works in the short term. An alcoholic, when they take a drink, they feel better; when they take five drinks, they feel even better. But over the long term, the next day, the next month, they feel worse and the same with the OCD, when you engage in the ritual, I think anyone with OCD if you really pay attention, you do feel better. That’s why it’s so fucking seductive, it feels good in the moment. And this is our evolutionary burden, unfortunately, is we evolved in a world where time was… It was, “Eat while you can, fuck while you can, you could die at any moment.” Momentary pleasure is… It outweighs everything and so, that’s why addictions are so hard to break. So yeah, so it’s basically a habit for OCD. Oddly enough I found it mapped very well on to the psychedelic lessons I’ve had because the idea of abstinence is, and the idea of turning things over to a higher power really worked well. I could look at it as, “Alright, I’m not gonna engage in my ritual.” That’s abstinence, and turning it over to a higher power, that’s acceptance. I’m gonna let it be there. I’m not gonna try to control and manipulate and figure out how to get this decision right, so that was very helpful.
0:40:29 AS: And now, and again The Mushroom Cure show experiences, those were years ago now. Now, yeah, now I do follow more kind of the… I meditate daily, sometimes it’s only for 10 minutes. I do yoga often only for five or 10 minutes, but trying to do those practices. It’s a struggle for me in the city though, in New York, because I think a big thing that really helps me is nature and that’s why, I don’t know, I think we’ve talked about this, I’m gonna make the Bay area more of my home base starting in October because really just for the nature.
0:41:01 AS: And I always wanna be clear on this, I’m not sitting here speaking as someone who’s has this stuff licked, you know? I suffer from OCD a lot less than I did, but I still go through… I’m still, I would say, more emotionally volatile than the average person. I experience strong emotions, positive and negative, and I struggle sometimes to work with them and not be swept away by them. I can experience moments of overwhelming anxiety, not infrequently. Despair. I mean we can just go have a litany. My own practices, I guess I mentioned that in the context of your question. Yeah, I’m looking, I feel like I can do, I don’t wanna say better, there’s a judgment there. I want to, for my own sake, I would like to place more of a premium on finding daily practices that I can do that can set me up to live a more balanced life, on a day-to-day basis. There’s a lot of joy in my life, but I certainly struggle with my obsessive tendencies. Perfectionism is a… It can be a real problem.
0:42:01 PA: So have you tried microdosing? It sounds like you have. So what has that experience been like for you?
0:42:07 AS: So, not positive but not… I’ll be the first to confess, I did not give it a fair try. So, LSD, I tried, first I tried, after going to The Third Wave website. [chuckle] I tried cutting up my… I had a tab. I tried cutting up my tab and I took, it would seem like, eyeballing it, a tenth of a tab, and it came from a reliable source in the Bay Area. I was back in New York, this was in, I think, March or February. I took a tenth of a tab, expecting… Now I’ve taken seven tabs of really potent LSD, and been able to ride that out, it’s been a ride, but. So I was like, “I probably won’t feel anything.” I was floored how it felt to me more like half a tab, it felt like I was, I mean I was fine, I was able to, I had some work to do, I was able to talk on the phone, but the effects were not subtle at all, and they were not pleasant.
0:42:54 AS: And I think part of that is set and setting. It was a grim February or March day in New York. I wasn’t looking for any sort of trip. I had a lot of my plate work-wise and it was quite unpleasant, quite unpleasant. But then, something remarkable happened. Maybe, I did keep a journal of this but I’m gonna say maybe seven, or eight hours in I had this wave of euphoria. I felt very present, quite joyful, like really, totally clear-headed. I wasn’t tripping at all, the trip was over, but it was this real afterglow that I’ve never had on high dose LSD. And so that was enough to make me think, “Okay, there’s something here.”
0:43:34 AS: So, I tried again three, four days later and I did what looked like a twentieth of a tab and still quite strong and still… And so, I tried three or four times. The last time I did… And so I did, alright I did the liquid dilution thing, I did that. And I took assuming this was a 100 microgram tab, which who knows but. I took what would have been the equivalent of three micrograms and I swear I felt something. I mean it could have been psychosomatic, it was very subtle. And this was… By this point I was getting ready to leave to go to the Bay Area to do the show out there. I was like you know what, I gonna have enough transition anyway, I’m gonna put this experiment on hold for now. I got to the Bay Area, did not resume it. But then, more recently, at the suggestion of a mutual friend of ours, I… I guess I could use her first name probably, I don’t know, yeah, Kim. I tried microdosing mushrooms and that I gave… I did it for probably about six weeks, and I was going for self-perceptual doses.
0:44:37 PA: Okay.
0:44:37 AS: So I didn’t really notice anything positive or negative. Yeah. Didn’t notice anything positive or negative. And then, this is exactly a week ago, was it? Yeah, I think it was last Tuesday. So someone who’s fairly experienced with this suggested, “Get it to the point where you actually do have some perceptual effects.” I don’t know what your thought is on that, but…
0:44:58 PA: That’s my belief.
0:45:00 AS: Yeah.
0:45:00 PA: As well.
0:45:00 AS: Yeah.
0:45:01 PA: Like you wanna experience the range.
0:45:03 AS: Yup.
0:45:03 PA: Of impacts.
0:45:05 AS: Okay.
0:45:05 PA: So that you have… ‘Cause from my perspective, microdosing is less about sub-perceptible, and it’s much more about how you can integrate psychedelics in a more consistent daily way to optimize health and well-being.
0:45:18 AS: So it’s not that it’s working under the baseline of awareness, it’s more like it is the way it’s altering your experience you can actually use to…
0:45:26 PA: Well, it could be, right? So, I think physical wellness you can take some sub-perceptible doses and this’ll still have an impact because of the efficacy of psychedelics in gut inflammation, and we know that gut health is directly tied to things like depression.
0:45:38 AS: I don’t know about this. What is the efficacy of psychedelics and gut health?
0:45:41 PA: Okay, so psychedelics, especially like psilocybin and LSD activates something called the 5-HT2A receptor.
0:45:47 AS: Right. That I know. Right right, and that’s present in the gut as well as the brain.
0:45:50 PA: And 90% of serotonin 5-HT is present in the gut, only 10% is in the mind. And when we activate those serotonin gut receptors with psychedelics, it has an anti-inflammatory effect in the gut. It basically significantly cuts inflammation. And what we know from recent research is that gut inflammation is directly tied to depression, addiction, PTSD, some of these other things. So I was just…
0:46:13 AS: I’m only peripherally aware of that, but I know there’s been some… Yeah.
0:46:16 PA: Right, so I was just interviewing someone who is…
0:46:18 AS: But I don’t think, I mean, can we go that far? I don’t think. Can we go so far as positing a causal link? Is the science that far along, or is it more just that there seems to be some connection?
0:46:30 PA: That’s a really good question, I think. I think there has been…
0:46:31 AS: Yeah. I’m always leery of kinda jumping the gun on this stuff.
0:46:34 PA: There’s been some preliminary studies that have been done.
0:46:36 AS: Yeah, yeah.
0:46:37 PA: And we know that… So it could be more “speculation”, but I know there has been some. What we’ll do is, in the show notes for the show…
0:46:47 AS: Okay, cool.
0:46:47 PA: We’ll kinda dig it up and put that in.
0:46:49 AS: Yeah, Yeah, I’m very curious of this.
0:46:50 PA: Because I recently did, how this ties into trauma, for example, OCD, addiction, depression, all these things, is I was interviewing Will Van Derveer.
0:47:02 AS: I’m not sure who he is.
0:47:03 PA: Who is in Boulder, Colorado. He runs an integrative psychiatry clinic where he does ketamine treatment for people, and he was on the MAPS Phase II trials, helping…
0:47:13 AS: Okay. For MDMA?
0:47:14 PA: For MDMA, for PTSD in Boulder. I think he was helping to run one or helping out with that process. And I interviewed him and we were talking about this relationship between ketamine, but also generally psychedelics and physical well-being, and that before people can actually start to process the emotional trauma that is directly linked to things like addiction, depression, OCD, some of these things, like the developmental trauma, they first have to address the physical issues. So in other words, going into the emotional stuff is best… Is first best approached by actually looking at diet, exercise, and sleep. And then once diet, exercise, and sleep are better, then it’s a little bit easier to dig in.
0:47:53 AS: Yeah.
0:47:53 PA: And kinda let those things off. So what we were talking about is this relationship between ketamine and physical wellness, and how ketamine and psychedelics basically turn off inflammatory pathways in the gut. There’s been research that has been established about this. And by turning off those inflammatory pathways, it basically improves physical well-being, which again, allows us to dig deeper into the emotional issues.
0:48:13 AS: Wow. Yeah, yeah…
0:48:14 PA: So that I think could be… That’s one of my hypothesis for why microdosing is effective at, for example, treating depression. Because I think some of it is what’s going on in the mind. For example, we know that the 5-HT2A receptor is directly tied to neuroplasticity. There’s just this recent research published about DMT in rats, and how DMT can help with the growth of new dendrites and synapses. Kinda getting back to the point, which is microdosing and what you were doing, are we looking at just physical wellness? Which sub-perceptible doses will help with, almost like taking fish oil.
0:48:48 AS: Yeah. Right, right.
0:48:48 PA: I mean, think of it as like a supplement. Or are we actually trying to take this as a “drug” that has a perceptible effect that we can then utilize to orient ourselves to having more creativity, to be more present in relationships? You were talking about how you used to do 4-ACO-DMT and go out. You were doing that for a very specific purpose, right?
0:49:07 AS: Yes, yeah.
0:49:09 PA: And I think there’s something similar with microdosing, and that is how can we… What’s the difference between 10 mics, 20 mics, 50 mics and 100 mics? In terms of we take 10 mics for the physical wellness, we take 20 mics for brainstorming creativity, we take 50 mics to go to a concert and enjoy and experience, and we take a 100 mics to actually dig into self-reflection and self-awareness. So that’s how I try to think about microdosing, as less sub-perceptible and much more like, “No, we can play with these dose levels to facilitate certain outcomes.” To be here and now essentially.
0:49:39 AS: And so what’s your personal regimen now?
0:49:42 PA: Yeah, so my personal regimen is I’ve been microdosing with, I’ve been doing the Paul Stamets Stack. Have you heard of the Paul Stamets Stack?
0:49:48 AS: No, no.
0:49:49 PA: Okay. So Paul gave a great presentation at Psychedelic Science.
0:49:54 AS: I saw that, I did see that. I don’t know what the Stack is though. I actually I missed the beginning of it ’cause it was completely packed. I eventually weaseled my way into the back of the room.
0:50:02 PA: So he gave this, if you look at the video on YouTube, it’s from the 12-minute mark to the 18-minute mark.
0:50:08 AS: Okay. So I probably missed that, yeah.
0:50:09 PA: You probably missed it. And he leads in by talking about Terence and Dennis McKenna’s Food of the Gods theory, and how psilocybin helped with co-evolution.
0:50:16 AS: Right, right. Visual acuity and peripheral arousal and all that, yeah. Good stuff, yeah.
0:50:20 PA: All this things. And then he went on to say, “Look, all this stuff about microdosing is really interesting because it kind of ties in to this element of evolution.” And I actually did, kind of side note, but I did this really interesting interview with Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes, who is a philosopher based in the UK. He writes for Psychedelic Press, and talks about the metaphysical aspects of the psychedelic experience and panpsychism, which comes back to what we were talking about earlier, in terms of everything has consciousness embodied in it. And we had a really interesting conversation about the relationship between microdosing and transhumanism. In terms of how microdosing can help with this next evolutionary step, so to say, of what we are going through. Which I think if you look at like Daniel Pinchbeck’s work, How Soon is Now, this next evolutionary step is being facilitated by ecological crisis.
0:51:08 AS: Actually, I had coffee with Pinchbeck yesterday, and I had to tell him I haven’t read his book yet.
0:51:13 PA: Okay, that probably didn’t go over so well.
0:51:16 AS: No, no, he was fine. Well it was actually, ’cause I was staying at the house where he is, we have a mutual friend, and they had a copy there and I saw it on my way out, and it was like, “I probably shouldn’t take this.” But yeah, I’m looking forward to reading it very much.
0:51:28 PA: And it’s a really good book.
0:51:28 AS: Breaking Open the Head is one of my favorite books, yeah.
0:51:31 PA: Paul talks about an entropic stack in that presentation that he later talked as well about in the Joe Rogan podcast. I don’t know if you saw…
0:51:38 AS: No, I didn’t.
0:51:39 PA: His interview there. Where it’s basically you take lion’s mane, which is a medicinal mushroom, and you combine it with psilocybin mushrooms, and then you take niacin as well with it, which helps for the capillaries to open up, for the central nervous system to open up so that the lion’s mane and psilocybin, there’s better absorption of those substances. So I have these specific supplements that were made for me, that are psilocybin and lion’s mane combined. And then you take it with niacin, and I’ve been trying that for the past week and doing it about three times a week. And so I’m taking it as like a nootropic stack, to see the impact on efficacy, on just like cognitive clarity and general well-being, inflammation. And that’s how mostly like I’ve been going about it lately. Otherwise, besides that, before I give public talks, I’ll usually microdose with acid or 4-AcO-DMT. That’s more of like I wanna facilitate a certain outcome.
0:52:34 AS: Yeah, right.
0:52:34 PA: So I’ll microdose because it makes me more extroverted.
0:52:37 AS: Yeah. See I would microdose if I had noticed those effects. And again, maybe I didn’t give it a fair trial. I certainly didn’t give it a fair trial. So I was taking different batches, but I was typically taking about… Very low doses ’cause I was typically taking about 50 milligrams of not psilocybin, psilocybin-containing mushrooms. And on Tuesday, a week ago, a friend again, who had suggested, “Well, take it till you get some perceptual effects.” And this friend is a trained… He’s part of this whole underground guide community in the Bay Area and has a lot of experience. So I did 100 mg. My last full mushroom journey was 8 g. So this is what? This is 1/80 of my last full mushroom journey. And I did not like 100 mg. I really, it was… And I was, in contrast to my LSD microdosing experiences, I was in a good mindset. It was, yeah, I was well-rested and it just kind of made me… I felt a little bit de-personalized. It felt like I couldn’t quite… It’s hard to put into words, it’s hard to articulate.
0:53:43 PA: It is.
0:53:43 AS: I felt not well. I didn’t like the way my body felt. These were subtle effects, but I felt worse than I had felt before I took it. Quite significantly, noticeably worse. It felt like it kind of had almost a heart-closing effect to me. It felt like the joy that I’d felt when I woke up that morning, looking forward to, it was a nice day out, it felt like that joy was kind of shut off. And it’s an end of one, it’s one trial, so I shouldn’t extrapolate too much, but based on that I said, “Fuck it. I’m done with this microdosing thing.” And this was my logic. My logic, which again is not scientific, but my logic was like, “Alright, well, if this is what it has, if this is the effect it has at barely perceptible doses for me, then why would I assume that it has a positive effect at sub-perceptible doses for me?” And so I didn’t flush my stash down the toilet, I still have it, but I’ve not taken it in a week. So, yes. So what say you to that?
0:54:39 PA: Yeah. That’s interesting. I don’t have much at all to say to that. But I’m noticing a couple things which I wanna comment on.
0:54:45 AS: Yeah. Please do, ’cause I am very open to… It’s not like I’m… I’m not at all anti-microdosing. And yeah, I would, certainly with all the promising anecdotal data is enough to make me wanna see if it can work for me.
0:55:00 PA: Well, I just think there’s some interesting dynamics here. ‘Cause on the one hand, you said that you’re not sensitive at all to psychedelics, so that, like a heroic dose, for you actually isn’t as heroic as it might be for other people. Yet, with you talking about acid and mushrooms, in talking about your microdosing experiences, it seems as if you are in fact very sensitive if 100 mg of psilocybin, ’cause the dose levels that I’m taking right now are 150 milligrams. And those are barely perceptible at all for me. I have to take two and then I have this, just like a feeling, kind of opening. I have to sit with it. It’s not like acid where I’m trying to come up with all these new ideas. It’s like I have to sit with myself and be with myself. But that’s at 300 mg.
0:55:45 AS: And when you say you have to sit with yourself, or be with yourself, what is that feeling? Is it a pleasant feeling or is it a…
0:55:51 PA: Not always. Sometimes, the last time I did this was in Amsterdam last week, I was tearing up quite a bit and I was getting quite emotional. Had a little anxiety. I was a little concerned about some things. So it’s not always positive necessarily. LSD tends to be more positive, on a whole. It tends to just have that more stimulating, like happy, extroverted effect, whereas with psilocybin, even when microdosing, it more can amplify how you’re feeling. And I think, at least with me as a man, and both as someone who’s very dopamine-driven, I’m not always really sitting with those feelings, so when mushrooms kinda put me into that, it’s like, “Oh I’m actually feeling sad or I’m feeling alone or I’m feeling… ” I don’t know if that’s what it was for you, but that’s how it’s been for me oftentimes, is how I contextualize it.
0:56:37 AS: It is interesting that I have this sensitivity, and I do seem to be very sensitive, I mentioned, to marijuana. And it may be that I’m sensitive to low-dose effects, but it just takes high-doses to really get me to a place where it feels like I’m not totally in control. I don’t know, it is interesting.
0:56:52 PA: What are your future plans?
0:56:54 AS: My future plans? Well, so The Mushroom Cure is running in New York through early September. I think right now we’re closing September 7th. We may go one more week, but probably not because I’m working on a new show that is going to premiere in San Francisco, starting either October 5th or October 12th, I’m finalizing that right now. That show, I don’t really know what it’s about yet. I’m trying… It’ll be more stand-up focused. I’m sure psychedelics will be a part of it, I don’t think it’ll be, it won’t be as psychedelically-heavy as The Mushroom Cure. So there’s that. I do stand-up pretty much every night when I’m in New York or most nights. And then, yeah, and I’m gonna be launching my own podcast, I hope. So the last three podcasts I’ve done, I’ve announced this with the idea that, by the time that podcast comes out, I’ll have my podcast up and I’ve failed. I announced it on Shane Mauss’ podcast and on Duncan Trussell’s podcast, both of those have been out for a while, and my podcast is not out. And this is kind of…
0:57:57 PA: Are you starting a podcast just ’cause all your buddies have podcasts?
0:58:00 AS: I just wanna be cool, man. I just wanna be cool.
0:58:04 AS: Everyone’s like, “Oh, what’s your podcast?” And I’m like, “Oh it’s… It’s… It’s… You haven’t heard of it yet. My podcast lives in Canada.” It’s called… No, I do have a title, it’s called Adam Strauss Is Obsessed, and it will be about things I’m obsessed about, which is a pretty broad topic. But yeah, people who I like talking with, subjects I’m fascinated by, obviously psychedelics will play heavily. I recorded one already with Joe Toffer, like a year ago…
0:58:34 PA: Nice.
0:58:34 AS: It was a fucking year ago. A year ago, in this same apartment. And I didn’t release it ’cause I was like, “Ah, I didn’t like it.” Joe was great, I just felt like, I felt like I did not do a good job interviewing him. But this is sort of the struggle of perfectionism.
0:58:48 PA: I was just gonna bring that up, I was just gonna say that’s like… Yeah.
0:58:50 AS: And this is why I gotta do it, because really for me a podcast… There’s a lot of… I think that’s a severe weather alert.
0:58:58 PA: Yeah, that is the severe weather alert. Probably worried about flooding.
0:59:02 AS: It’s like, alright, okay…
0:59:03 PA: I got that Saturday morning as well.
0:59:04 AS: Yeah, you’re gonna die someday, so get over your perfectionism.
0:59:08 PA: Yeah. [laughter]
0:59:08 AS: It’s some cataclysmic natural disaster that can happen at any moment. So yeah, I really am committed to doing a podcast because I enjoy this format of having conversations ’cause there’s a lot I like talking about that I could talk about on stage, but there’s a certain obligation to entertain if people are spending money and getting a babysitter. Whereas this, there’s… So, I wanna do it. But yeah, the perfectionism is definitely… Can make that challenging because it’s like, “Well, I didn’t like the way that went, so I won’t put it out there.” But I am gonna put stuff out there. Look for it. “Adam Strauss is Obsessed” will be out sometime in 2073, I think, is when I’ll finally…
0:59:43 PA: There we go.
0:59:45 AS: All the guests I would have recorded over the years will be dead by then.
0:59:48 PA: By the time you die.
0:59:49 AS: It’ll be the first posthumous podcast.
0:59:52 PA: Yeah, exactly. That’s the Adam Strauss Live? That’s what’s coming down the pipeline?
0:59:56 AS: That’s the Adam Strauss Live. Yeah, there may be other… I don’t know exactly what’s gonna happen with The Mushroom Cure after this. I feel like I’ve done it enough and it’s a very personal story, and it’s my story, but I sometimes wonder if there’s something… Unhealthy is maybe a strong word. Night after night, I not just recount, but if I do a good job with the performance, I’m reliving a very traumatic time of my life. Don’t get me wrong, the show is funny, there’s a lot of laughs, and it feels good to have people laugh, and I laugh when I’m doing it. But there’s also a lot of… There’s some dark moments, and to really do the show well, I really do have to relive that.
1:00:38 AS: I have to relive when I was at my worst with the OCD and I just wonder if there’s… Kinda like the argument against porn. I never thought about it in these terms, where it’s like, “Well, it’s not healthy to be just relating sexually to these fantasies.” That starts to define you maybe in certain ways. I wonder if it’s a little bit the same with this where like, yeah, I start to… A good part. I’m only doing this show once a week now, and this is part of the reason why. But when I’m doing a typical run, I could do the show sometimes six nights a week. So I’m spending a fair amount of my waking hours reliving someone who I no longer am. I am that person, but I’m in a different stage in my life, and I wonder if that maybe I pay a price for that psychologically.
1:01:18 AS: So I’ve done the show a lot, I value doing it, ’cause I think it helps people and people enjoy it. Not everyone clearly, but some people. And I do think it can be a very healing experience ’cause I think most people have never seen anyone be as open and vulnerable as I am on stage with this show. I think people haven’t seen people that way on stage or even off stage. I really don’t hold back, and I think it has an effect. I didn’t realize this when I was first writing it, but I think seeing someone be that open about their own suffering and struggle has the effect of making people feel better about their own suffering and struggle. ‘Cause I think this is one of the insidious things about social media, but just human interaction in general, is we tend to present a positive version of ourselves to the world. And it’s very easy, at least for me, to believe the positive version that other people present while knowing my own internal struggle. And therefore to conclude, “Well, if everyone else is doing fine, why am I struggling?” So I think it’s healing to see someone paradoxically showing their suffering and showing that. So I value doing the show for that reason. Of course, as a solo show, it’s incredibly lucrative, tons of groupies, it’s always… Yeah. [chuckle]
1:02:27 PA: That’s always the way you, you put it…
1:02:29 AS: Your listeners can’t see this, but I’m in my 10,000 square-foot penthouse in Tribeca right now.
1:02:37 PA: It’s incredible. It really is. This is a multibillion dollar…
1:02:39 AS: Where is my butler? Why am I… No, not another second. I want the drink butler, not the food butler. I want the massage butler. It’s…
1:02:46 PA: [chuckle] I want all the butlers.
1:02:49 AS: All the butlers. I value doing it, but I feel like it’s time to move on to other things. So maybe the show will be filmed and run as a special. That’s a possibility, nothing definite is happening there. I am doing The Mushroom Cure in Texas, in San Antonio at the Tobin Center in mid-November. I’ll be doing it in Portland some time in January, but other than that, I don’t think I’ll be doing the show again. So yeah.
1:03:13 PA: Okay, so Mushroom Cure is wrapping up, Adam Strauss is moving on to new and bigger things.
1:03:17 AS: I’m moving on to new… That’s right. Right.
1:03:19 PA: That’s fantastic. The podcast?
1:03:21 AS: Yeah. Hopefully.
1:03:23 PA: A new show. Buying that $10 million penthouse back in Tribeca. That’s coming up soon.
1:03:26 AS: Yeah, my second $10 million penthouse in Tribeca. And continuing to try to figure out how to live. And I do think psychedelics will continue to be a part of that. I haven’t had a real experience. I had a guided mushroom trip in May, which was powerful, but it’s been hard to trace definite benefits from that. I don’t regret it, I would do it again, but. And then I get ayahuasca a lot. I drink 10 times in 16 nights in Peru at Nihue Rao, where Joe Tuffer was in February and March of 2017. So that was the last really extended ceremonial thing I did, and I feel like it’s time for something else.
1:04:10 PA: Something else. Maybe some 5-MeO.
1:04:13 AS: Yeah. I haven’t done that in more than a decade.
1:04:17 PA: You did it a decade ago?
1:04:19 AS: Yeah, yeah, synthetic.
1:04:22 PA: Okay, that’s a story that we’ll have to save for the next time ’cause I wanna hear about that.
1:04:24 AS: There’s a story, yes, there’s always a story.
1:04:25 PA: Totally. Well, Adam, thanks for joining us on the podcast.
1:04:31 AS: Thanks for having me.
1:04:31 PA: It’s great to have… We have conversations every now and then, but I think this is the most extensive one, so I appreciate you sitting down and doing this. Thank you.
1:04:40 AS: Yeah. Thank you, thanks for having me. My butler will show you out.