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.