Intrigued, I did a little more digging and discovered that ketamine—a dissociative hallucinogen that is already legal for supervised medical use, including in the Ohio thank You Frank Solich Signature Shirt Furthermore, I will do this treatment of depression—seemed to draw out the mind in a way similar to psilocybin by putting the brain in a “neuroplastic” state, explains Julie Holland, M.D., a New York–based psychiatrist and the author of the 2020 book Good Chemistry. “They have different chemical properties, but both ketamine and psilocybin have an ego-dissolving effect, where you’re breaking the mental loop that’s symptomatic of conditions like depression and anxiety and addiction, and allowing the brain to form new connections. Maybe a little ego-dissolution was the answer, I mused as I stamped out another butt in the ashtray next to my laptop and googled “ketamine therapy—New York.” THE TRUTH IS, WE DON’T REALLY know how this stuff works,” Michael Pollan, author of the best-selling psychedelics primer How to Change Your Mind, tells me. “A leading theory is that psychedelics quiet the brain’s ‘default-mode network,’ and that opens up new pathways for thought.” As Pollan goes on to explain, the default-mode network is where “the ego has its address”—it’s the part of our brains where we construct the narrative of who we are and, thus, the place we get stuck in destructive thought patterns about ourselves. “That could be ‘I’m a worthless person who doesn’t deserve love,’ or it could mean telling yourself that you can’t get through the day without smoking,” Pollan continues. “Either way, the idea is that, by muffling those thoughts, psychedelics help you out of the rut.” Pollan’s précis on the science of psychedelics is reassuringly down-to-earth. For years, I’d been put off by the drugs’ woo-woo connotations, and to judge by the refined, minimalist aesthetics of new ketamine-therapy chains such as Field Trip Health, which has serene locations in New York City, Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles, I’m not the only person with zero interest in a tie-dye mental makeover. It’s all a far cry from Timothy Leary and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. But Leary—who famously conducted psychedelics experiments at Harvard in the early 1960s, before he ran afoul of the law and, in turn, helped prompt the criminalization of psilocybin and LSD—does continue to exert an influence: His “set and setting” theory is a cornerstone of all contemporary psychedelics-aided therapy. “Set basically refers to mindset, going into your journey, and setting is your environment,” explains Ronan Levy, who cofounded Field Trip in 2019 after establishing—then selling—Canada’s largest network of cannabis clinics. “They matter as much as the drug you’re taking,” he continues. “You need to be in a place—mentally and physically—where you feel inspired and at ease.”
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Because I’d chosen to work with Mindbloom, thanks to their COVID-friendly process, the Ohio thank You Frank Solich Signature Shirt Furthermore, I will do this setting for my four, hour-long treatments, was my bedroom. To be perfectly clear, I wasn’t microdosing. Nor was I popping a pill just to see what colors spilled out of my head. Prior to receiving my Mindbloom package, I spent over an hour on Zoom with a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner who quizzed me on everything from my family medical history to my typical responses to stress. (According to Mindbloom founder and CEO, Dylan Beynon, about 35 percent of potential patients are screened out at this point, for reasons such as past experience of psychosis or, at the other end of the spectrum, not meeting the threshold for a diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression.) “Set” was established in conversation with Laura Teodori, my psychedelic-integration-support coach, who—after obtaining confirmation from my boyfriend that he’d check on me every 20 minutes—helped me formulate an “intention” for the trip immediately after our call. My goal, we ascertained, was to recall moments in my life when I could create without smoking. With that in mind, I tucked the tablets inside my mouth, pressed play on the Mindbloom-curated soundtrack that would be piping through my headphones, lowered my eye mask, and waited for my default-mode network to go off-line. HALLUCINOGENS COME IN MANY FORMS, from the low-dose ketamine I was taking to wallop-packing plant medicines, like ayahuasca and ibogaine and peyote, that have been used in sacred rituals for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years (and that are illegal in the United States). But a feature common to all is the sense of coming into contact with the cosmic. “It’s like there’s no boundary between you and others, or you and the universe,” notes Johns Hopkins’ Barrett, saying that virtually all subjects in psilocybin studies have reported such a feeling of oneness. “Some people call this an experience of God, or nirvana.” I went into my first ketamine journey matter-of-factly, with a problem to solve, and even so, that first trip commenced with a vision of the world rewinding, a kind of reverse big bang that exposed the heretofore invisible filaments connecting everyone and everything. The vision moved me—tears puddled behind my eye mask—and then it yielded to more personal impressions, such as a recurring image of myself, age six or seven, playing with my dollhouse. What do you think was important about the dollhouse?” Teodori asked me in our post-trip call. I was still pretty woozy as we Zoomed—the effect wore off by the next day—but suddenly, it was like a light bulb went on in my head. “I think…I think I was remembering what it felt like to create without smoking,” I told her. “When there wasn’t any pressure, and I could just play. This download is part of integration, another cornerstone of modern psychedelic medicine. “The goal is to take advantage of the neuroplastic state, which lasts for about a week after dosing,” explains Beynon. “You want the changes in your brain to stick, so the question becomes, How do you turn these new thoughts into new behaviors?” For me, this entailed finding ways to get back in touch with that dollhouse sense of play.