And If You Need Any More Proof That Drug Culture Is Dead


Hey! Would you like to be locked in a small room, blindfolded, and forced to listen to droning, repetitive music for several hours while a therapist stares at you? Oh, and also, you’ll be fed psychoactive drugs. Wait, where are you going?

In this week’s New Yorker (which I am only just now starting to read because my subscription doesn’t arrive until Thursday), Michael Pollan writes about the revived popularity of research into the effects of psychoactive drugs. The article starts with the story of a man who took mushrooms (basically) as part of his palliative care while dying of cancer. What he was subjected might seem to you to be torture (because it is), but it is also a weird impression of “drug things” by a nerd, in this case NYU researcher and therapist Anthony Bossis, who has no idea how to do drugs. Let me just say that this is important research and these people’s hearts are obviously in the right place, blah blah. But.

After four meetings with Bossis, Mettes was scheduled for two dosings—one of them an “active” placebo (in this case, a high dose of niacin, which can produce a tingling sensation), and the other a pill containing the psilocybin. Both sessions, Mettes was told, would take place in a room decorated to look more like a living room than like a medical office, with a comfortable couch, landscape paintings on the wall, and, on the shelves, books of art and mythology, along with various aboriginal and spiritual tchotchkes, including a Buddha and a glazed ceramic mushroom. During each session, which would last the better part of a day, Mettes would lie on the couch wearing an eye mask and listening through headphones to a carefully curated playlist—Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Pat Metheny, Ravi Shankar. Bossis and a second therapist would be there throughout, saying little but being available to help should he run into any trouble.

“A ceramic mushroom.” Are you fucking shitting me? Honestly, listening to Philip Glass on acid sounds like the most excruciating thing I can imagine (one can only imagine how boring/terrifying those placebo sessions were). The article reveals—shocker—that Bossis “had known little about psychedelics” before beginning his research. You don’t say.

If you need any more proof that drug culture is 100% over, just picture two men in suits cradling ceramic mushrooms and listening to Music For Airports while hallucinating some Simpsons version of the afterlife.


  1. I guess it’s vaguely funny that sometimes squares do drugs, but this post seems to miss the entire point of the article. Psilocybin, after years of blocking from the medical community and the government, is now being tested for really serious afflictions. PTSD sufferers, alcoholics, people with overwhelming anxiety, and dozens more. People who were on way too many sedatives and painkillers are now getting a very healthy alternative to help with their problems.

    The fact that they’re listening to some unexciting music in a controlled environment has nothing to do with drug culture, it’s to make sure the uninitiated have a safe space to engage with the unfamiliar chemical. If you’re really longing after some kind of experimental or freewheeling community, go do an article on the Deep Web drug markets or infiltrate some 2C-B college ring. This kind of snark and nose-thumbing is really below the magazine’s standard.

    • I understand that that’s the point of the piece, BUT I do think that there’s something weird/insidious about people who have no experience in drugs/drug culture devising the clinical situations in which other people will do drugs for the first time. Also it just sounds really super terrible to me.

  2. What a snobby and ignorant post. There is no homogenous “drug culture” that died, that’s ridiculous. There are infinite ways that one can experience and benefit from psychedelic drugs. And it would be great if patients could have the possibility to use psychedelic drugs in safe settings, if they choose to. Specially if they have severe psychological conditions and are doing it as an effort to overcome them.

    Studies like this provide the necessary scientific evidence that psychedelic drugs can be helpful for people in distress. Usually it’s how it starts in terms of policy, making that’s why legalizing medical marihuana is usually the first step priot to legalizing recreational use.


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