Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Ayelet Waldman.
Ayelet Waldman is a legal expert and the author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life (Knopf, 2017). In the book, she describes how a month of LSD microdoses improved her life, and she argues for the decriminalization of drugs and for the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
In this episode, we talk about:
- her experiences and the future of drug policy around the world
- her experience in teaching a seminar on the war on drugs
- how drug policy has always been about subjugating groups that threatened the power balance
- the consequences of the new crackdown on marijuana use.
00:29 Paul Austin: Hey, listeners, and welcome back to The Third Wave Podcast, we’re having another conversation about the third wave of psychedelics. And our conversation today is with Ayelet Waldman, author of a brand new book about microdosing, published by Knopf, which is called, “A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life” And just reading from the Amazon description here, “It is a true story of how a renowned writer’s struggle with mood storms led her to try a remedy as drastic as it is forbidden, microdoses of LSD. Her revealing, fascinating journey provides a window into one family in the complex world of a once infamous drug seen through new eyes.” So that’s the description.
01:16 PA: And Ayelet is a wonderful woman, you’ll hear our conversation very soon. This conversation is a bit more informal. I pretty much called Ayelet and we just got right in the conversation right away, so there was no introduction, we just started talking and we started chatting and she was a phenomenal guest. So you’re really, really gonna enjoy this podcast. We talk all about her microdosing experience, and we also talk about drug policy, we talk about the Trump administration, we talk about a number of other things. So this will be a podcast that you want to listen to. It a little shorter than normal, it’s only about 45 minutes, and I hope you enjoy it. And if you enjoy it, please leave a review on iTunes and let us know that you enjoyed it. So without further ado, here is my conversation with Ayelet Waldman, author of “A Really Good Day” a brand new book about microdosing.
02:11 PA: So how are things been going since the book launch? Fairly busy, I would imagine.
02:16 Ayelet Waldman: Very busy, crazy busy, lunatic in many ways. More busier than I ever expected, I had no idea there would be so much interest in the subject. I mean I hoped, but I never allowed myself to expect.
02:29 PA: And what sort of interest have you seen, what is that manifested in in terms of the interest that you’ve seen?
02:35 AW: So many interviews and TV requests, and just… I think people are really, really interested in the subject, in the range of subjects. I think people are interested in, primarily, this idea of the intractable nature of mental health issues and how our current medication regimens aren’t working for many. People who are feeling crappy and their medications aren’t making them feel any better. Or they are, but they’re also experiencing all sorts of side effects. So I think that is one thing. And then I think there’s really a resurgence of interest in the potential of psychedelic drugs, the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs.
03:16 PA: Right, right. And we’ve seen this with the research that’s come out of Johns Hopkins and…
03:19 AW: Absolutely.
03:20 PA: Imperial College, and NYU. And it’s a really fascinating time to be interested in these substances. And especially… That was one of my favorite parts about your book that you wrote about. It wasn’t necessarily just… Obviously, it was about microdosing, but all the narratives that you weaved in both from your personal life, but also the drug war and how racist the drug war has been and is. And I thought that it just created a really kind of well-rounded narrative that with… Microdosing I see as being this wedge that then helps you to get in the door with certain people that wouldn’t normally be listening to these ideas about how the drug war is racist, and how a lot of these social policy things are so involved with both psychedelics, but also drugs in general.
04:10 AW: My favorite review of the book was by this writer named Claire Vaye Watkins in The New Republic, and she described it as being a book about, a polemic about the drug war clad in… It’s sort of like a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down clad, and a bit down more about mental illness and motherhood and parenthood. And I think in a way that’s… I would not have just written this as a personal story, I don’t think there would have been any point to that. I had a larger purpose going into this. My larger purpose is to draw attention to the drug war, to draw attention to… Because I worked for so many years teaching a seminar on the war on drugs, this was my subject. And the idea that our criminalization of substances has much less to do with the substances themselves than with social attitudes including racial bias and, frankly, white supremacy.
04:57 PA: Right.
04:57 AW: I think it’s critical on understanding all of these drugs and the way we handle them. You can’t really understand the American fear of psychedelic drugs unless you cast your mind back to the 1960s, to the confluence of the anti-war movement, the Civil Rights movement, and Timothy Leary’s exhortations to “Tune in, turn on, and drop out”. You had white middle America suddenly facing the prospect of their children joining this anti-establishment, anti-war movement. You had the government responding to pressure from society of an ever-growing group number of proportion of society opposed to the war. And at the same time, you had African Americans for the first time in recent history trying to assert their constitutional rights.
05:46 AW: And basically what happens, all these white Americans became terrified that their poor kids were going to turn against them, that the world was going… I mean, does it sound familiar, that the world was gonna become a place where white Americans were no longer comfortably established in their places of supremacy? So the best way to… The boogeyman for attacking that became psychedelic drugs, and hippies, and, “Let’s crack down on drugs, let’s crack down on marijuana, let’s crack down on LSD.” And it really was about this moment in history where the anti-war movement and the Civil Rights movement and anti-establishment feeling were gaining prominence.
06:25 PA: And I think that’s a really interesting topic that you’re bringing up because we’re seeing then in some ways a similar movement today which is representative of that with the whole populist movement.
06:35 AW: Absolutely. It’s so ironic to call it a populist movement, which populace? Who’s the populace? I think that people who care… If I were in the medical cannabis or the legal cannabis business right now, I would be shedding my interest as fast as humanly possible because in the course of American history criminalization of drugs has always been closely tied to oppressive government response to people of color, and particularly assertions of civil rights and entitlements. And so, when we… The very first drug law was passed as directly to attack Chinese opium. And it wasn’t about opium in general because at the time there were… Every middle class white woman was tippling from her laudanum bottle. But it was directly attacking Chinese opium dens. Chinese was the operative word.
07:29 AW: And then marijuana, it really was about attacking Mexican-American communities. There was this whole… All this rhetoric about Mexicans who would smoke marijuana and become sexual predators, which is so ironic for those… It’s so hilarious really. Like marijuana never made anybody go out and become a psycho.
07:46 PA: [laughter] Yeah. Exactly.
07:49 AW: And then, similarly, cocaine was always tied to… There was this myth that cocaine made African Americans immune to small caliber bullets. So that’s why police guns became much higher in caliber. So, it’s always been tied like this, and this… So I was just talking about LSD, and now we have Jeff Sessions who’s about to be confirmed as Attorney General and he is a retrograde drug war warrior. And he has made himself very, very clear about what he plans to do with marijuana. And I find it so curious that nobody is listening to what Trump and his minions are saying. They’re telling you what they’re gonna do.
08:29 AW: I just read this op-ed in the USA Today where this woman said, “I voted for Trump. I didn’t vote for him to take away Planned Parenthood, to defund Planned Parenthood.” Yeah, you did you idiot because that’s what he said he was gonna do. Why do you… Your fantasy about what some fantasy candidate you voted for was gonna do is irrelevant. Donald Trump said he was gonna defund Planned Parenthood, that’s what you voted for you blithering idiot. I think the same is really true with him.
08:57 AW: I don’t see enough agitation in the legal marijuana movement in the industry because he has told America, Jeff Sessions has told America, that he is going to come down like a ton of bricks on marijuana and the marijuana industry in states that have legalized it. I believe, I am absolutely 100% sure that that that man is going to use DEA and ATF and FBI agents to raid legal marijuana dispensaries and businesses in Colorado, in California, in Washington State, and shut them down and incarcerate the workers and the owners for decades, decades. Our mandatory minimum laws are still terrible and draconian on marijuana. People are gonna go to jail for life.
09:45 PA: How does that balance… And I read a few of the interviews that you had done with Vogue and a few other places, and you had mentioned some apprehension about with writing this book and yourself and coming out, so to say…
09:58 AW: Terrified.
10:00 PA: With using. How do you deal with that then in terms of your own personal life?
10:03 AW: I don’t know. [laughter] My actual use… There’s a three-year statute of limitations on the possession of LSD, and I am comfortable that I have not committed an actionable crime. Could they prosecute me if they wanted to? Yeah, totally, and I’m scared. I wasn’t scared before Trump won the election but… But here’s the thing, my fears, the fears of this entitled white woman, comfortably economically secure, are just miniscule compared to the actual terrors, real, much more realistic, much more evidence-based terrors of young undocumented immigrants. So, I don’t… I try not to allow myself to indulge my anxiety because there’s so many people who have much more legitimate claim to it.
10:52 PA: Why did you out yourself in the first place? Why did you feel like it was important? Obviously, just in terms of getting into microdose, you were into that because you were struggling with a lot of these issues, and you felt that it was kinda like a last gasp.
11:05 AW: Because I felt like there was great potential here, and that enough… That people needed to start speaking out, and it wasn’t enough that people were speaking out anonymously. I felt like people needed to put their bodies on the line to support what they believe in. And I believe that these drugs have great potentials, great therapeutic potential. I think the psilocybin research has indicated that it has tremendous potential in treating depression, same with LSD research. I think the MDMA work with PTSD and with relationships is critically important. And I feel like you have to have the courage of your convictions. You can’t just use these things and be… I couldn’t just use these things and be anonymous. I’m not saying that’s not a reasonable choice for someone to make, but I felt like it was important for me to put my money where my mouth was.
11:56 PA: In a way, right?
11:58 AW: Yeah, maybe I’m… Say, if you’re an African American 19-year-old with profound depression and you found that LSD helps you, your risk of arrest and incarceration is much higher than me. So I would never say that someone like that should put their body on the line. I’m in a privileged position and with great power comes great responsibility, as Spider-Man once said. And so, privilege is power and thus, I have to assume the responsibility.
12:25 PA: And this is, I think, a conversation… I’m fairly within the psychedelic space, so I’ve been attending a number of psychedelic conferences. I have this website where I’m focusing a lot on providing information about psychedelics, and I find myself to be in a very similar position as you as a white male who is… I kinda do the Tim Ferris thing. So, you had met with Tim Ferris.
12:49 AW: Yeah. Do a microdose every few months or so.
12:51 PA: Well, more so the thing that Tim Ferris got famous for, which was writing this book The 4-Hour Workweek, and then running a little business. So I run a separate business, so I can travel anywhere.
13:01 AW: What’s your business?
13:02 PA: The other business that I run is online learning. So, it’s online language learning. I teach English as a second language and I have other teachers who help teach lessons and private lessons and self-study courses. And so for me, I had a very similar motive as you. And so for me, I’m in a specific position where my income is not tied to, for example, a traditional career-oriented role where if I come out in public saying like this I could get fired. That’s not necessarily the case.
13:33 PA: And then with having this discussion right now about Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump, and this repressive regime that we’re gonna find ourselves in in about two days, I do have that flexibility to just fly to Europe if I feel like things are getting uncomfortable. And so this is where I think it’s interesting and what you’re talking about is really interesting in terms of whenever there’s been this release of, we could say consciousness or whatever you wanna call it, like what happened with the ’60s, repressive regimes, like what happened with Nixon, came down and buckled it. But things are different now. How does the internet maybe change what could happen in the future, specific to these substances? Have you given that any thought?
14:14 AW: It’s interesting. I bet you’ve probably given it even more thought than I have. I mean, I’m at that point right now where I’m sort of reeling from… I’m an early and eager adapter of all things web and related, so it’s taken me a long time to get to this position where I find myself a latter day Luddite. I am so horrified by what they want, by what the internet has wrought. I do feel Facebook made Donald Trump, Twitter made Donald Trump, there would not be a Donald Trump without Twitter and Facebook. Just wouldn’t, because Twitter created the platform for him and Facebook created the platform for the news and thus we have this democracy-imperiling constitutional crisis that we’re dealing with now.
15:03 AW: But that said, the capacity of people to create larger communities… I was thinking what’s gonna happen if I get arrested, and how am I gonna pay for my legal defense and I have all these children and they go to college and am I gonna have to spend their college, my savings on my college, the amount that I’ve saved for them on my legal defense. And then I thought, “Well, maybe I can reach out to all the microdosers out there and they can help crowdsource my defense.”
15:34 AW: I think there’s a certain, there’s a power in community, and to see the community grow. But I think we were really at this amazing moment until this election, where we had a kind of cross-political consensus that the war on drugs had failed and specifically about psychedelics, that there was reason to rethink Schedule 1. Where like Republicans and Democrats alike were looking at Schedule 1 and saying “This is nuts”, although the DEA just said, “Yeah, it’s CBD oil.”
16:01 PA: Oh, my gosh! [chuckle] Well, and for me it’s like the DEA is losing all legitimacy I feel like in the eyes of the public.
16:09 AW: Well, that is like a credibility-defeating action if… Of all of their myriad credibility-defeating actions, this is such a credibility-defeating act. But I feel like it’s so… What I find hardest to wrap my mind around about this time period that we’re in is that we had this growing consensus, we had this momentum and it didn’t just stop, it got like whipped, it’s like a bungee cord, you know, you don’t just stop a bungee cord, you get whipped back a million feet. And that seems to be what happened to us is that we’ve been shot back. I mean screw the ’50s. We’re dealing with the turn of the last century here in terms of attitudes and open-mindedness. It’s stunning what’s going on. We’re in some sort of maybe, I don’t know, 1930s catastrophe.
17:04 PA: So do you think the Federal Government though still holds that much legitimacy in the eyes of the public? So for example…
17:09 AW: Well it makes me sick. I don’t. I think you’re right, I think that they don’t. And more importantly, I think for you and me and for people who’re actually interested in these things, I think they’ve lost international credibility. So, for example, it used to be that like when they were doing those incredible heroin distribution programs in Britain, there’s a program, a physician who was distributing heroine and he was showing, I got to write about this in the book, astonishing results, not just in keeping people alive, ’cause there was a safe space to inject and safe product to inject, but also in creating an infrastructure in which people actually got off drugs, much more successfully than any of the abstinence-based programs that exist in the United States. So this was an effective program and the United States put all of this pressure on Britain and they closed it down, and the patients all died, by the way.
18:01 AW: But I think the election of Trump has effectively defeated any sense of credibility the United States has on the international, thank God right, on the international stage. And I hope that countries like Portugal and Britain and others just flip us the bird and continue doing the work that we should be doing here. And you can move to whatever, Denmark and do our, Sweden, Switzerland, wherever they’re doing it, so where we can be safe.
18:28 PA: Well, and not only that, but on the same level of de-legitimizing the federal government with, now, all these states that have legalized marijuana, a lot of countries, for example, Mexico, Colombia, Peru are looking at the United States like, “What the hell? You’re the ones who forced us to get into this mess and now you’re going ahead and legalizing these substances that you say are bad and terrible?” I feel like that’s also led a lot of de-legitimacy to the efforts. We just had this UNGASS in April in New York where you had all these world leaders come together to talk about the world’s drug problem and many people in Latin America were like, “Screw this. We need to change something”, because of all these issues that they’re having as a result of waging a war on cocaine and marijuana in Mexico. And so I think that’s another level of delegitimizing our policies.
19:17 AW: It’s interesting because like I was saying earlier, I think Jeff Sessions’ response to that is gonna be to come down like a ton of bricks on all those illegal businesses. I mean that’s my work, right?
19:25 PA: Mm-hmm.
19:25 AW: My work is not that… But you know what? I’m such a… So I used to think that I was a pessimist, but I actually think I was an optimist. I just like to say pessimistic things. I like to like imagine the worst but I’d never believed it would really come to pass because if I really was a pessimist, I never would’ve written this book. But I do think that you’re totally right about us, about there being a certain… Maybe it’s just that the wave is unstoppable, maybe that’s what’s going on that at this point we have with the wave is unstoppable and it will mow down even Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. I hope that’s true.
19:56 PA: And that’s the hope, right. There was a recent Gallup poll 60% of Americans support legal marijuana and 80% support medical marijuana. And so my hope is… I think about this quite a bit. I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and it seems like in general, like nation states and these rules that they’ve created it seems like we’re going to move into a new… I don’t know whether it will be in 10 years or 30 years or 50 years, but at some point, the role that the federal government plays both in the United States and elsewhere, it seems like it’s becoming less and less necessary and so I just wonder how that will also play out, because basically when you have a Republican administration that was put into power by… Hillary Clinton won by three million votes, something to that degree.
20:44 PA: And again, these movements of marijuana and medical marijuana, they’re becoming increasingly popular. And I just wonder how that all is gonna come together because then too… We’re talking about to wage of another new war against drugs will require so much extra money in terms of just even paying people to do this, that in a Republican government which always has supposedly, supposedly emphasized small government, I wonder how that will conflict in the future, but again, that remains to be seen.
21:13 AW: Yeah, I mean… Yes and in a way I think the only people who can actually effectively do these reform are Republicans because the Republicans will stand in the way of Democrats making any kind of reform so it’s only them that can actually do it because the Democrats will be rational and reasonable and agree to the reform as opposed to the Republicans. But on the other hand, criminalization and incarceration… Over incarceration is a huge business in this country. Interdiction is a huge business it’s a… And there are a lot of people who make a lot of money off of it. So, I think that the Republican pretend that their incentive is not to spend money… For the government to spend money, but really their incentive is to enrich private enterprise.
21:54 AW: So for example, that’s why we have so many private prisons. It’s ludicrous to spend money on… Our incarceration is devastating for our… The economics bottom line, but it’s a dream come true for the bottom line of these prisons, for the prison guards unions for all of these industries and so and… I worry that the Republicans incentive is to enrich those private businesses rather than to behave rationally when it comes to the United States government budget. Don’t forget that there’s never been a Republican President who’s done anything to the deficit except tank it completely. It’s only Democrats that decrease our deficit but yet somehow that doesn’t seem to make any difference in the world.
22:38 PA: Right on the same topic, talking about economics, I’ll tie this back into what you wrote about in the microdosing book. It seems like a lot of the… Our future economy, many of it is gonna be… Come out of Silicon Valley and out of the tech world. Where do you see that relationship going with how prevalent psychedelics and microdosing is becoming in Silicon Valley and potential future economic ploys or economic interests?
23:06 AW: Well, I do think the fact that they’re so many people who drive innovation who are interested in this, is… Will be helpful, it gives me some optimism for the long-term future of psychedelic, therapeutic psychedelic per use. I think there’s certainly… If there are people who start to put their bank books behind… Like if they’re microdosing and they’re not just microdosing they’re actually writing checks to organizations like MAPS or Heffter to do research that’s great. That’s really… The power that people like that have, is the power of the pocketbook but there also is the power of inspiration.
23:40 AW: Sometimes I’m a little bit concerned about the tech boom in microdosing just ’cause I fear when… I remember someone was interviewing for a job and they said to me, well this young person, “I’m so excited, there’s everything on this campus. There’s a dry cleaner, they’ll give you dinner to take home to your families.” And I said, “You described this whole system that exists so that you never have to go home, you realize? It’s like everything is simplified so that you can stay at work longer.” And in a way, microdosing is like that too, if you’re in it for the better, stronger, faster effects, which is not illegitimate and I totally understand that, but in a way, to whose benefit is that?
24:18 AW: That’s to the benefit of your employer, if you’re self-employed then you’re… Then that’s something else, but I just… I worry a little bit that… I don’t want the therapeutic value to get drowned out in the kind of noise around just hooked into your computer for longer so that you can make more money for your boss.
24:34 PA: Right.
24:34 AW: That bums me out a little bit you know.
24:37 PA: Right, and what… And so this is… I was hoping we could get into this conversation because there was a really interesting quote that you had from Tim Ferris in your book where he… And I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said the reason why we have so many Silicon Valley types, tech types who are becoming interested in psychedelics is because they’re miserable people.
24:53 AW: Yeah.
24:54 PA: And…
24:55 AW: Maybe if people… Maybe not so much miserable people. I think mostly what he was saying is that they’re unhappy and that’s fine.
25:00 PA: Yeah, okay, yeah.
25:01 AW: And they’re problem solvers, they’re innovators, they’re trying to find a solution to their unhappiness, and I think… And that’s where sort of the spiritual element comes into play. They’re looking for some kind of spiritual fulfillment, and that’s not really about microdosing though, I think that’s about dose dosing. About those kind of spiritual experiences that you have, you don’t really get those… Or at least I didn’t get those microdosing although I will say that it definitely enhanced my capacity for mindfulness, which I resisted because I’m not so much into the whole… I may wear yoga pants but that’s just ’cause I like to over-eat.
25:38 AW: I’m not into the whole yoga universe.
25:41 PA: The Lululemon yoga pants?
25:42 AW: Yeah. I would say that there’s nothing… There’s no asshole as big as a Berkeley Buddhist, right? You know…
25:51 PA: Right. And so, yeah, my follow-up to… Go ahead, keep going.
25:53 AW: I think there is a kind of seeking, and a craving for meaning, and for fulfillment and that is… That people in Silicon Valley are looking to psychedelics for that. Some people are doing Psilocybin, and some people are doing LSD. But there’s that whole Ayahuasca, a sort of psychedelic tourism. And I know people whose lives have been transformed by Ayahuasca. I write about one of them in my book, Laszlo, this Hungarian holocaust survivor. He was a deeply traumatized person and Ayahuasca saved him. It really saved him. So I do not wanna denigrate the whole idea of having an Ayahuasca experience. But there’s also a piece in today’s New York magazine about sexual assault by Shamans. And I’m just really troubled by this idea that all of these American tourists are heading down to Peru to have these “Spiritual psychedelic experiences.” I just think it’s a situation ripe not merely for ridicule, but oh yes certainly that, but also for abuse and trauma. Because the thing is these things… I don’t wanna sound like a rue, but these drugs are really, really powerful. And set and setting is everything when it comes to psychedelic drugs.
27:10 AW: If you’re in a supportive and nurturing environment, you can have an experience like that can change your life completely. If you’re in a problematic environment, you can have an experience that will cause you tremendous pain. So I urge caution, before people head off to the Amazon with some Shaman they read about on the internet.
27:31 PA: Absolutely, and I think this is again where the role of vetting… I was at the World Ayahuasca Conference in October, in Rio Branco, which is in Brazil. And it’s a place, that’s where the… I believe that’s where UDV and Santo Daime have…
27:47 AW: Right.
27:49 PA: They’re the head of their churches, or whatever. And so, this is a topic that was often discussed is, this sense of being in a very… ’cause you are so vulnerable, when you’re under the influence of a psychedelic substance, which is why it’s so, so critical that more information is provided and people are aware of the downsides. And again, this was then talked about within a context of commercialization.
28:14 AW: Right.
28:14 PA: Where with commercialization of Ayahuasca tourism there’s a push to get as many westerners down here as possible, and that often come with the cost of…
28:24 AW: Totally. Any time you have that profit motive it can become problematic. That’s why we need… We need these drugs… Here’s my fantasy. My fantasy. Well, first of all, totally decriminalization. No, actually, I’m actually in favor of legalization. I’m not in favor of decriminalization, ’cause I want regulation and I want tested substances.
28:44 PA: Mm-hmm.
28:44 AW: Legalization. But this is how I wish everybody would take psychedelics. Imagine a spa, but with a sliding pay scale, so that people who didn’t have the resources would get it for free. And it would be this incredibly nurturing environment, very, very beautiful. And there would be a trained counselor, it doesn’t have to be a psychotherapist. It can be someone who’s trained specifically in this. A guide who would administer a tested substance at an appropriate dose for you and your weight and experience. And would then sit with you and nurture you through the next six to 10 hours. That’s how people should taking psychedelic drugs. I think. Maybe you could have one in a Glen, in a redwood forest. It would be an outdoor one. Like this time I got a massage in Hawaii that was in this little outdoor, it was a little open-air, a hulay, over the ocean. That’d be a great place to have a psychedelic experience. It was also a great place to have a massage.
29:44 PA: You could do both.
29:45 AW: You could do both, right. So I feel like in that way we can really take care of people and they can have the experience, be it therapeutic or recreational that they desire. And I’m a little bit of a Puritan about recreational drug use, but I know that’s a… I’m a judgmental person and that’s the work I have to do on myself. I have to be less judgmental. But that’s the way people should be doing drugs. I worry so much about this, like, “I’m gonna go down to Peru. Six of my girlfriends from my sorority and we’re all gonna take Ayahuasca. In a a place where we don’t speak the language? A substance we haven’t tested personally?” My rule with my kids is nothing goes in your mouth that you haven’t tested. And I have a closet full of drug testing kits. I have Molly testing kits, and I have LSD testing kits. And it’s open. I don’t check how many kits have been used. I just keep it fully stocked, and any of my kids or their friends can come and test their drugs. Because the place where people fall, people die when they’re taking unsafe substances, and so.
30:48 PA: This has just happened in Australia. This past weekend, there was this big news thing that two people died because they took bad ecstasy or something like that.
30:55 AW: I mean, it’s horrifying. The same thing happened to Wesleyan University. Right now in Santa Cruz, there’s all these new stories about people who took LSD and became violent. Well, you and I both know that they did not take LSD. They clearly took something else and we don’t know what it is, ’cause we haven’t tested it. And if they had tested it they could have avoided it. So it’s sort of like the idea you would schlep down a Peru and take a drug you hadn’t tested yourself is deeply troubling. On the other hand, my friend Laszlo’s life was undoubtedly and dramatically, and heart-warmingly transformed by his Ayahuasca experience.
31:30 PA: And I think the same can be said for many psychedelic experiences. I’ve even read that… Reports of what’s coming out of Johns Hopkins with what Roland Griffiths has done. And this is something that I wanted to ask you about as well, because in your book, you talk about how, and you’ve even made this fairly clear in this interview that you’re not exactly spiritual.
31:50 AW: No.
31:50 PA: Or you haven’t been.
31:50 AW: I resist it. I resist it with every fibre of my being.
31:54 PA: You resist it. Right, yeah, and you mentioned this in the book as well, the research that Roland has done at Johns Hopkins has shown that they can actually elicit a peak or mystical experience with high doses of Psilocybin within the right context. And so…
32:09 AW: Right.
32:09 PA: A peak or mystical experience has these six characteristics ineffability and a sense of oneness or connection. How do you then, going on in your head, or how have your views changed from before microdosing to what you’ve learned now about… Maybe the spiritual experience in terms of the ability of psychedelics to elicit this peak mystical experience. Do you think it’s legitimate or do you have a… Maybe a critical eye towards that type of paladin?
32:39 AW: I… Look, the thing I believe in most of all in the world, is that I’m infa-… That I am fallible.
32:44 PA: Okay.
32:45 AW: I don’t… I have all of these judgments and beliefs, but I know they could be wrong. And Owen is a brilliant man, and when I talk to people like that, I’m obsessed with, “Isn’t it real?” Is it the spiritual experience you elicited real? Or it is just in their heads? And their response to me is always, “A. What difference does it make? And B. Why are you asking?”
33:07 AW: And… So, I struggle. There’s no doubt about the utility of that experience, there’s no doubt that, that experience is part of what made those people, in his study in particular, die well. And there is no doubt that dying well is incredibly important. So, it doesn’t matter. And I need to be less obsessed with this idea of whether or not the spiritual experience that they are cultivating, is in fact, a connection to God, or a connection to a oneness with the universe, or is just a bunch of chemicals ricocheting around your brain. But, I’m not gonna be able to do that… [laughter] I’m trying really hard.
33:52 PA: Well, this is the challenge, right? I feel like this is the challenge [laughter] of living within the culture that we do, is we have this way of knowledge, epistemology, how we come to knowledge and often times, especially in the last 100-150 years, that’s been by way of the scientific method and…
34:09 AW: Right.
34:10 PA: Some type of reductionism, which is obviously at odds with any sort of spiritual experience, yet when we look at epistemology, the way that, for example, primitive tribes in the Amazon come to knowledge, it’s much different. And so the sense of spirituality and connection for them is… Makes more sense than, for example, the scientific method. And so this is often something that I struggle with myself in terms of… I’m not particularly… I was raised in a very religious household, then when I went to college, I had a big backlash where I was very atheist and read Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, and these sorts of people. And then, as I got more and more into psychedelics I started to unravel some of these ideas. And for me it seems like Dennis McKenna has a really good plug on this, where he says, “both are tools.” Like science can be a tool in a way to understand the world, but also the sense of spirituality can be a tool, the sense of neo-shamanism some people refer to it as, can be a tool to understand reality and understanding the context of when we should use both of them, can help us just to better navigate our experience of life. And so I like that in a way, we don’t…
35:20 AW: I like that too.
35:20 PA: They’re not mutually exclusive, you know what I mean? We can have both and still be able to understand the world then in a better way as a result.
35:27 AW: That is… Yes. Amen. And then, I will need my hand held during that because I am so… Because I think it’s actually an anxiety around the… Anything you have resistance to I think you could trace down like, “What’s the source of this resistance?” And I think realistically, there’s some fear-based resistance to it on my part, but I think he says that you just phrased that better than I ever could myself.
35:52 PA: Well, one of the theories that I operate on, and this is what I speak about when I’ve been doing a couple of these events on microdosing and when I speak about it on my blog, is my theory, is that microdosing then… When people go ahead and micro-dose they’ll be more likely to obviously that have a full experience or they’ll be more likely to entertain the idea of having a full experience. Has that been your case? Do you see yourself as being more likely now to maybe go in to have a full experience? Whereas before you started microdosing, it was absolutely no way.
36:22 AW: Yeah, it was definitely, absolutely no way. And now, I’m actually curious. That being said, the infrastructure that I would require to make myself feel safe is so elaborate that I don’t even know if it’s possible. [chuckle] So, like my…
36:40 PA: Is the infrastructure we were just talking about? Is it that type of infrastructure?
36:44 AW: No, no.
36:45 PA: No?
36:45 AW: Like this… I would need… Because I’m so… I even know I know that even people who’ve had bad trips, it’s sort of… That trip itself is… Has a utility and it’s that experience is an experience that is transformative. I am so afraid of that. I would need the most carefully constructed environment, I would need my husband next to me all the time, I would need a doctor with a syringe of Xanax, and a syringe of Valium to knock me out of it, if I got too freaked out. I would need anti-nausea medication because I’m… My stomach gets upset so easily, and even on MDMA I end up puking my guts out.
37:25 AW: I would just need… And I would need to know that maybe I’m gonna be the first person legitimately to overdose on a psychedelic so I would have to have access to… I’m like, “Whatever.” It’s just so crazy. Then this, the obviously fear-based… In order to construct that experience. Plus, I would have to be… Know that my children were safe and I would have to know that I wasn’t gonna get prosecuted. I mean, it’s…
37:47 PA: It’s a laundry list.
37:48 AW: Would be very hard to construct…
37:49 PA: It’s a laundry list.
37:50 AW: Yes. It… Until they’re those spa’s. I’m probably not gonna be able to do it, but sign me up for the first safe spa, LSD, psilocybin. I think I probably would have been maybe more inclined to try psilocybin unless that made you puke more than LSD.
38:08 PA: I think just eating like the full magic mushroom is more likely to have nausea than LSD, but eating the active ingredient like psilocybin that’s synthesized. I don’t think there’s a lot of nausea with it. So that might work a bit.
38:21 AW: Okay. So, that’s what I need. Maybe Rol… If maybe… I bet Roland Griffin, could create my perfect, probably could but he’s never going to because… [chuckle] I think the last thing researchers want is to be associated with someone who doesn’t ad hoc personal experiments.
38:35 PA: Right. Well, and so I wanted to say, one thing is these Spas that you’re talking about, MAPS has plans to build these exact Spas.
38:42 AW: I know.
38:43 PA: Okay, you are aware of that then? Okay.
38:44 AW: Yeah. It would be amazing. And it’s also like… As important as… I think they treat different… This would be sort of personal depression, anxiety, spiritual fulfillment, but I’m so… I really believe that that MDMA is a profound tool for couples and we know for a fact that it is astonishingly effective in treating PTSD in a way that no other medications or regimen is and that research and MAPS’s plans for MDMA are just exhilarating for me, as someone who uses it effectively as couples’ therapy, and who really I… In many ways my husband and I attribute the strength and success of our marriage to periodic use of MDMA, when Ann Shulgin said that she was able to treat couples with a single six-hour session of MDMA and achieve results… That she took six years of couples counseling, to achieve that I think that there’s really something to that. And even more importantly for if we continue to fight these many, many wars as we seen determine to do, we’re going to keep having soldiers coming home from these wars with horrifying PTSD and we need to be able to treat these people. It’s shameful. The suicide rates that people in the military now experience and we as a nation should be desperate to do whatever we can to alleviate that suffering.
40:10 PA: I think this comes back then to this interesting dynamic that we’re dealing with right now, that we were talking about earlier from a political perspective compared to what people need to heal. There’s this divide between evidence-based policy and what our actual politics are pushing. And I’m hopeful that because of the culture that we exist within that the evidence-based policy will win out, because as you…
40:31 AW: And maybe with the Republicans in power, certainly when Democrats are in power all republicans ever do is obstruct. They’re never willing to do anything but obstruct. So, maybe perversely with Republicans in power we may actually see that kind of change because the incentive to obstruct will be gone. Although Jeff Sessions appointment, doesn’t make that particular likely, but possible.
40:54 PA: Especially because veterans groups have… There are certain lobbying efforts that are done by veterans groups that can be influential and I feel like if you have a substance that is proved to be safe within certain dose levels and is three or four times as effective as normal talk therapy, I’m hopeful that that will be something good.
41:09 AW: I am hopeful too. Well, I have to do an AMA right now.
41:13 PA: I know you do, so I was gonna let you go ’cause I know you gotta get… You gotta get going.
41:18 AW: And maybe if you have a minute you can go ask me something nice. So I’m not just purely responding to questions about how fat I am, or whatever they’re gonna ask.
41:25 PA: Something nice. I think the last question that I was gonna ask, I had noticed that you… In one of your quotes, you said you might move to Sweden or something of substances were legal there? And I thought of this, I did this microdosing thing in Amsterdam, about a month ago where 80 people showed up, right? It was…
41:43 AW: Yeah, Jim Fadiman was telling me about that and in Holland is microdosing legal. And where do people source?
41:48 PA: So this is what I was gonna bring up is, there are these things called truffles in the Netherlands, which have Psilocybin in them and they’re completely legal to buy and consume in Smart shops, so you can go into a store in the Netherlands and you can buy these.
42:02 AW: And a truffle contains effectively a microdose of Psilocybin or you…
42:07 PA: It would depend on how much you consume, so you can consume as… These truffles are wet, so if you have 15 grams of truffles you have a full-on trip but if eat between one and two grams of the truffle. It’s like a microdose. So that’s why my question was gonna be, for you, considering the legality of these Psilocybin containing things in the Netherlands would you consider going to the Netherlands to check this out, in the future just to experience it because you had mentioned…
42:37 AW: To me, I mean, to me in all frankness, if given the incredible effectiveness of this particular medication in treating my mood disorder speaking purely personally. If I did not have four children who are happy in their home, in their schools and two of them are in college, I think I might actually consider relocating. I’m pretty quick with languages I can do my work anywhere. This month changed my life, and I am sad every day that I can’t keep people doing it legally. So, if I were in a different place in my life, I really probably would but unfortunately what am I gonna do? Say it’s a good-bye to my kids. [chuckle]
43:22 PA: Yeah. You have a few things tying you down I would say.
43:23 AW: “Hey kids, you’re a sophomore in high school. And now you’re gonna go and learn dutch.” It’s just not… It’s not feasible. I wish it were though, I really wish it were. My big… I’m just gonna focus on secession. “Kalex it, off we go.” That’s secede from the United States and be the paradise that we can be in this lovely state of ours.
43:45 PA: Absolutely well going on that same in the Netherlands. It could be possible. I know I’m going to start facilitating, experiences for people. The London psychedelic society is already doing it. So maybe if you’ve got people to fill out that long list for you, you could even do a quick trip to the Netherlands for a higher dose Psilocybin experience if that ever comes on your radar in the next two years, so that would even be better.
44:08 AW: All right, only if you’re going be holding my Paul.
44:10 PA: I will absolutely hold your hand all eight hours that’s totally no problem.
44:15 AW: Okay. All eight hours.
44:17 PA: Exactly.
44:17 AW: Well, thank you so much. It was really a pleasure to talk to you I hope we can meet in person some day soon.
44:20 PA: Are you going to the psychedelic science conference in April?
44:24 AW: I was gonna go, but I actually just got an offer to spend a couple weeks at The MacDowell Colony, and I owe a book to Knopf, and I think I’m probably just gonna go write my book.
44:33 PA: Okay, well I’ll be back in the Bay Area then I’m sure again soon. So when I come in to town I’ll shoot you an email, maybe we can get coffee or something.
44:40 AW: Where are you based?
44:41 PA: I was trying to move to Portugal, I was living in Lisbon, for like four months, which was really cool. But then the residence permit didn’t work out like I’d hoped. So now I’m originally from West Michigan and I’m moving to New York, fairly soon, I’m kinda in between places right now, I’m a bit nomadic so New York City will be the place that I moved to though in June.
44:58 AW: Okay, well it’s so nice to meet you, you’re really a pleasure to talk to you know your shit.
45:03 PA: Thank you, Thank you, it was lovely to me too, as well, you’re hilarious, and I really enjoyed your book. I’m gonna re-read it again ’cause it was that good. So great job, and thank you for doing this, thank you for writing that book.
45:14 AW: My pleasure.
45:14 PA: And thank you for speaking out. I think that’s so critical and so important.
45:17 AW: Well thank you. All right, so I’m off to my AMA.
45:21 PA: Good luck, I’ll be there, I’ll hop on and maybe ask you a couple of questions. Good. Bye-bye now.
45:26 AW: Bye.