Mental health and a new cure

I have copied text from Tim Ferris Blog and Instagram page “FORTUNE” below.

For me, this solution to a mental health problem is not a solution. This is typical Medicinal cover over. Feel good medication that helps relieve symptoms but leaves the cause untouched.

In all Innerwealth and Real Spirit training and coaching we do not recommend the use of medications unless they are for the temporary relief of pain or to prevent self-harm during coaching.

I believe that nearly all mental issues come from imbalance. I believe working in and with nature, we can heal those without feeding Tim’s need for another investment and quick fix solution.

I’ll leave the choices up to you… but at Innerwealth, Real Spirit and my coaching I believe that cherry picking half stories isn’t wise. We clearly do not recommend the path below.


The movement to advance psychedelics as a potential elixir for a murderers’ row of psychiatric afflictions, including OCD and PTSD, opioid addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, cluster headaches, and suicidal ideation is in full swing.

There’s an opportunity to use relatively small amounts of money to have billions of dollars of impact and to affect millions of lives. There just aren’t that many opportunities that are so dramatically obvious.”

The need for a change in approach is clear. “Mental illness” is an absurdly large grab bag of disorders, but taken as a whole, it exacts an astronomical toll on society. The National Institute of Mental Health says nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with some form of it. According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder. And there’s a death by suicide every 40 seconds—that includes 20 veterans a day, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, per the U.S. Surgeon General, and things are only getting worse. The Lancet Commission—a group of experts in psychiatry, public health, neuroscience, etc.—projects that the cost of mental disorders, currently on the rise in every country, will reach $16 trillion by 2030, including lost productivity. The current standard of care clearly benefits some. Antidepressant medication sales in 2017 surpassed $14 billion. But SSRI drugs—antidepressants that boost the level of serotonin in the brain—can take months to take hold; the first prescription is effective only about 30% of the time. Up to 15% of benzodiazepine users become addicted, and adults on antidepressants are 2.5 times as likely to attempt suicide.

Meanwhile, in various clinical trials, psychedelics are demonstrating both safety and efficacy across the terrain. Scientific papers have been popping up like, well, mushrooms after a good soaking, producing data to blow away conventional methods. Psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, has been shown to cause a rapid and sustained reduction in anxiety and depression in a group of patients with life-threatening cancer. When paired with counseling, it has improved the ability of some patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression to recognize and process emotion on people’s faces. That correlates to reducing anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure. The other psychedelic agent most commonly being studied, MDMA, commonly called ecstasy or molly, has in some scientific studies proved highly effective at treating patients with persistent PTSD. In one Phase II trial of 107 patients who’d had PTSD for an average of over 17 years, 56% no longer showed signs of the affliction after one session of MDMA-assisted therapy. Psychedelics are helping to break addictions, as well. A combination of psilocybin and cognitive therapy enabled 80% of one study’s participants to kick cigarettes for at least six months. Compare that with the 35% for the most effective available smoking-cessation drug, varenicline.

There’s plenty more data where all that comes from. So much so that the U.S. Federal Drug Administration has granted breakthrough therapy designation status to MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, and to psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Both compounds have been cleared for fast-track review by the FDA and could find their way into hospitals and treatment clinics within a few years, if not sooner. 

The Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research, the first U.S. research centre of its kind. is being funded to do more research. Billionaire hedge fund magnate Steven A. Cohen and his wife, Alexandra, via their foundation, which has donated millions to move the needle on Lyme disease research and intends to follow suit with psychedelics. 

The money is meant to give researchers the security and freedom to explore how psychedelics work and to be ambitious in investigating the boundaries. Beyond money, Tim Ferriss is using his platform to raise the profile of psychedelics-oriented researchers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and authors—on his podcast and at standing-room-only panels before audiences at the Milken Institute Global Conference and SXSW

Across science, culture, politics, and business, a diverse community of supporters is forming to push psychedelics out of the shadows and into the mainstream. They’re acting toward similar ends but within the bounds of their own interests. You’ve got underground hippies and nurses pushing psychedelics across a whisper network, while offshore purveyors are offering cushy retreats for adventurers and bon vivants. There are mystical shamans, Silicon Valley legends, dueling patent attorneys, and financiers aiming for IPOs. VCs are starting psychedelics funds. Activists are eyeing universal access, while nonprofits and philanthropists are urging caution.

The increasing acceptance of marijuana—now legal for medical use in all but a handful of states, and for recreational purposes in 11 states—is an obvious source of optimism. But there’s also a fear among some that a misstep will cause a tragedy that derails the movement. Given that advocating, handling, concocting, ingesting, distributing, and administering psychedelic substances remain crimes that can carry first-offense trafficking penalties of up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine, there’s a lot of work ahead. What will it take to expand the consciousness of regulators, drugmakers, law enforcement officials, and voters about the benefits of psychedelics? 


Ferriss was drawn to psychedelics by a history of family depression, friends lost to suicide and drug overdoses, and a perpetual search for meaning. He narrowly escaped suicide himself—a dramatic tale he recounts in a TED Talk—and despite runaway success, says he has often felt hopeless and a general sense of being lost. Which hardly makes him unique. “I know spectacularly, absurdly wealthy people who are completely miserable. I know spectacularly absurdly fit athletes who are completely miserable,” he says. “Everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.”

In his teenage years, Ferriss says that every summer he and some buddies would grab a handful of mushrooms and go for a long walk. Their only intentions were to enjoy their own company and be amazed. He soon noticed that after each trip, he’d feel a certain glow—a sense of being renewed, refreshed, and hopeful for a month or two. Then one summer he nearly got hit by a car while walking off a heavy dose. He stopped the ritual cold turkey. 

A decade or so later, he found himself in a persistent funk. “It was like there was always a pebble, or a handful of pebbles, in my shoes,” he says. “And they were causing worse and worse symptoms.” He decided to try to evoke that glow again in a safer setting. He found a guide to facilitate a journey in a yurt and took a huge, seven-gram dose, followed by a two-gram booster. He describes it as equivalent to a decade of highly effective talk therapy. “I came out with a deeply renewed interest in exploring this world,” he says. “I felt there was a possibility that you could walk into the experience and walk out a very different person.” 

Ferriss’s career has been built on a series of curiosity-to-obsession cycles, and the interest in psychedelics fits the pattern. He found his way to Roland Griffiths, the director of the Johns Hopkins facility, who has been studying psychedelics for 20 years and has lately become a beneficiary of Ferriss’s largesse. Sitting together in the Baltimore center where almost 400 patients have taken more than 700 psychedelic journeys, the white-haired, bespectacled Griffiths and I discuss his own epiphany and fascination with consciousness. “I went into psychedelics as pretty much a skeptic. The level of unbridled enthusiasm among psychedelic proponents made me suspicious,” he says. “By no means did I think we would find what we have found.”

For example: In the first research since the 1970s to administer psilocybin to psychedelic-naive participants, conducted at Griffiths’s lab, 67% rated it among the top five most meaningful experiences of their lifetime; 79% said it increased their well-being or life satisfaction. Years later, Griffiths and team demonstrated that a single session produces large and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer. They’ve shown psilocybin’s effectiveness in curbing cigarette-smoking addiction and its overwhelming tendency to increase spirituality, empathy, and a general sense of connectedness to nature and other humans. 

How does psilocybin work its magic? “We know psilocybin produces marked alterations in brain network connectivity during the time of drug action and, to a lesser extent, after it has left the body,” Griffiths says. Psilocybin and other psychedelics also produce neuroplasticity, which increases psychological flexibility and openness. This often leads to psychological insights. A brain on psychedelics is also more interconnected. In a normal brain, visual regions talk primarily with each other, for example. When the brain is on psychedelics, communication happens more broadly. Psychedelics also decrease activity in the default mode network, a brain network implicated in a sense of self, or ego. A brain on psychedelics tends to be more childlike, playful, imaginative, and creative—and less judgmental. Think of taking psychedelics like rebooting a computer to clear out glitches, except when the computer restarts, it has a new outlook on life.

Griffiths has found that people who undergo a psychedelic session are often overcome with feelings of humility and love. “You see compassion, understanding, and a connectivity toward mutual caretaking. This sense that we’re all in this together,” he says. Psilocybin tends to increase spirituality or the belief in a higher power, but “it doesn’t have to be about religion. It’s really the golden rule.” 

I went into psychedelics as pretty much a skeptic. The level of unbridled enthusiasm made me suspicious. By no means did I think we would find what we have found.


Ferriss and Griffiths first met at a San Francisco event where Griffiths was speaking. Ferriss approached. “I had no idea who he was. He said, ‘Gee, this is really interesting. I’d like to help out,’ ” says Griffiths, who is generally wary when approached by enthusiasts. Ferriss had a unique follow-through. “I remember saying, ‘Well, these studies are really quite complicated, and it’s not easy to raise money.’ And he said, in a really modest, understated way, ‘I may have some leads that could be helpful.’ ”

Ferriss is focusing on the science behind psychedelics because he believes a stronger scientific foundation will make it more difficult to push the medicine back into the shadows. He considers the Hopkins center a model and is imploring his friends to put their money into many similar centers he hopes will be announced later this year.

I ask Ferriss for the pitch to a potential investor. It usually starts with a text: “I’ve spent the last handful of years looking for attractive targets in the psychedelics space that can knock over a lot of other dominoes,” Ferriss will write. “I’m pre-negotiating the documents so it’s as easy as possible to come in. Two conditions. One, a minimum of $2 million, $400,000 a year for five years, a tax-deductible donation. Two, it cannot be anonymous, because that would only reinforce the stigma we’re trying to remove. If you want to bend the arc of history, I think this is one of the best opportunities you will ever have.”

He says he often closes the donation without so much as a follow-up call.


This seems like a good time for me to come clean as something other than a disinterested narrator of this story. In the fall of 2018, I read Michael Pollan’s bestselling book How to Change Your Mind. It struck a chord. Around that time, I had been experiencing an unshakable ennui. A birthday with a really big number was approaching. The weather in the Bay Area was awful—gray and wet for weeks on end. The Groundhog Day nature of my daily routine was weighing on me. I briefly considered a psychedelic journey but didn’t know how to start. Plus, it felt risky. 

At my annual physical exam my doctor diagnosed mild depression; we discussed an SSRI prescription. I completed a survey about my symptoms and waited to hear back. Then one morning while walking the dog, I got a call from an old friend. He said he’d been taking underground psychedelic journeys to cope with the tragic deaths of his nephew and a childhood friend. I asked if his guide might recommend someone near me. That’s how I found Matthew, a Bay Area transplant with an old-school Marin County guise—beads, perpetually bare feet, painted toenails, a soothing voice, and gentle disposition. Matthew and I come from similar backgrounds and are of similar age and immediately connected. We sat on a bench in his garden and discussed my malaise as well as, in the parlance of the community, my intentions. We took hikes and discussed death and spirituality, nature, family, and what to expect. I was nervous. I asked about the medicine’s provenance, dosing, duration, and safety, his training and experience. He answered with patience, but we both knew that taking the journey would require a leap of faith. 

Matthew recommended I start with MDMA, a drug that promotes empathy, to “open the heart.” When the day came, we sat cross-legged before a makeshift altar in a therapist’s space not far from my office. He made me agree to three terms: 1. For my own safety, I could not leave the room until he declared the journey complete. 2. He would not allow me to hurt myself or him. 3. He would not allow me to engage in any sexual activity with him. Those conditions seemed acceptable but somehow did little to calm my nerves. Just how open would my heart be?

He lit sage, said a short prayer, instructed me to consider the medicine carefully, and left the room. I swallowed the capsule hurriedly and waited for his return and for the journey to begin. My mushroom session proceeded similarly, except I chewed five grams of dried stems and caps. In each case, I began by lying flat on an air mattress, a blindfold over my eyes. Matthew played a soundtrack that eventually seemed to conduct the whole experience. I was largely unaware of his presence until he’d encourage me to drink water or ease me toward my intentions. But I leaned on him heavily during the integration sessions. All told, we spent about six hours together during each journey, plus about six to eight hours of counseling.

I came out with a deeply renewed interest in exploring this world.


I experienced moments of both serene spirituality and postapocalyptic bleakness. On MDMA, I vaulted into the tableau of a recurring childhood nightmare. But instead of my boyhood anxiety, I felt wonder and safety. I traveled back in time to visit my wife during our early days of dating and forward to peer into the adult eyes of my 10- and 13-year-old sons. I was waiting for an elevator; the doors opened, and there they were as twenty­somethings. It took my breath away. All I could think of to say was, “What do you do?” When the elder opened his mouth, I raised my hand. “Don’t answer,” I said. “I can wait. You guys are going to be okay.” It’s all a father ever wants to know. 

I emerged from the journey with two gifts, one short-lived and the other more enduring. When I fell under the influence, I began feeling music with my body rather than merely hearing it with my ears. My arms drifted upward and danced like charmed snakes. This persisted for a week. Whenever I listened to music, especially classical, my hands would float and dance. If I concentrated fully, my arms would elevate. On the first day I worried about brain damage. Then I embraced it. The effect eventually subsided. I miss it.

The other gift was a new voice. One of my intentions was to be more present, to soak in the now rather than constantly worrying over a future scenario. The medicine spoke with my voice, but in an octave and with a sense of compassion that I don’t typically employ. It repeated softly, “Be here.” Six months later, I still use it as a prompt. When I say those words aloud, I feel pins and needles in my shoulders.

The mushrooms were, as they say, next-level shit. My intentions here were more about coming to terms with mortality and finding avenues for growth. I died at least a dozen times. My body dissolved into water and seeped into soil. I became a seed, curled into the tightest ball, then a sunflower sprouting upright, reaching for energizing sunlight, until collapsing with the onset of winter. This scene repeated until I was spent. I finally screamed, “Not this time!” And with that I became a tree, drawing energy and strength from my powerful trunk. I felt rooted, and an overwhelming sensation of love. Then I was a human baby, with his entire life ahead of him. Eventually, I became a sea turtle, lazily navigating the ocean, and then a red-tailed hawk, soaring through the sky. 

When I confronted my professional fears, the medicine told me, simply, to write. About what? It told me this story would be a good place to start. I have the chance to help people. I wept. 

As the effects faded, I repeated a refrain that becomes increasingly lucid on my recording. Using my new voice, I’m offering myself instructions for navigating forward. Strong like a tree. Explore like a sea turtle. Soar like a hawk. Feel as a human. 


If you feel like the psychedelics train might be headed for a cliff, you’re not alone. This is the obligatory part of any story on the topic that traces the trail of psychedelics through the ages. There’s evidence that magic mushrooms, for example, have been used for thousands of years, and many psychedelics are legal in Brazil, Jamaica, and the Netherlands, and on Native American reservations. But the relevant backstory comes from the psychedelics renaissance of the 1950s and ’60s, when the focus was primarily on LSD, and a thousand papers were published on psychedelics’ safety and efficacy. 

This was a time of larger-than-life characters that included Albert Hofmann (the Swiss scientist who discovered LSD), Ram Dass (the healer and the author of Be Here Now), and the psychedelics poster child, Timothy Leary, he of the memorable mantra “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Long version short: Psychedelics became a rallying point for the counterculture in the anti-war movement. Soon after, President Richard Nixon categorized them, alongside heroin, as Schedule 1 substances with no acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse. MDMA received similar treatment in the mid-’80s after flooding the rave scene, despite having been administered by thousands of therapists over the years. And psychedelics entered into a long, dark winter.

So here we are anew, with scientists signaling the remarkable potential of psychedelics. But this time the conversation has shifted toward medicine as the costs of mental illness have skyrocketed. Far from advocating a counterculture, advocates are now aiming for the mainstream. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), founded by Rick Doblin in the ’80s, is currently running a Phase III clinical trial—at a range of locations including the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Sheba Medical Center in Israel—to test the efficacy of MDMA on PTSD. “The interim analysis should come back around the first week of April,” Doblin tells me. “That’s the moment of truth for us.” He’s hopeful that an MDMA product will be on the market in 2022.

In anticipation, MAPS is training hundreds of facilitators—because the medicine alone is not enough. “We don’t use the word ‘guide,’ because it implies someone knows where the journey should go,” he says. “Think of it more like a midwife.” In 2019, the Israeli Ministry of Health approved MDMA as a compassionate treatment for PTSD. And the FDA recently approved compassionate use for 50 PTSD patients. Doblin, 66, takes this as a good sign. He’s working with VA hospitals in hopes of administering MDMA to the more than 1 million veterans riddled with PTSD, which costs the VA on the order of $17 billion a year. Ultimately, he envisions tens of thousands of psychedelics clinics.

MAPS has played a key role in lowering cultural resistance to psychedelics over the past three decades, and it continues to bang the drum. Doblin, who holds a Ph.D. in public policy from Harvard, just returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where MAPS hosted peripheral events to educate global business leaders on the power and economic potential of psychedelics. “Next year we’re hoping we’ll be invited to the main event,” he says. MAPS created videos of soldiers and cancer patients who have benefited from psychedelics. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have shown sympathy toward the cause, including Andrew Yang on the left and Iowa Representative Jeff Shipley on the right.

Nevertheless, there’s palpable anxiety that the movement is one bad trip away from disaster—a headline-grabbing overdose perhaps. And there is no shortage of finger-pointing. I pay a visit to Jennifer Mitchell, a neuroscientist at UC–San Francisco. She’s worried about the underground. “I recognize how important the underground community has been at continuing to shepherd these compounds in the Bay Area,” she says, sitting in the room where her team is facilitating studies on MDMA and psilocybin for various afflictions. “But I don’t want the whole thing derailed because of some narcissist who’s pretty sure he’s been called upon by the powers of the universe and the spirits of the wind to administer these compounds in his living room on Saturday nights and something goes terribly wrong.”