Psychedelics like MDMA, ayahuasca and LSD have gained popularity in recent years. Not only in the recreational circuit, also in science these drugs are given more and more attention. There are applications in mental health care against, for example, depression, anxiety, or in the clinical treatment of addiction. Should we finally step away from President Nixon’s "war on drugs" (1971) and be open to the good things that psychedelics can bring us?
Neuroscientist Michiel van Elk researches these contentious substances. Growing up as part of the Pentecostal church, he stayed away from drugs for a long time and used to be skeptic of its positive qualities. In his psychology of religion class however, he taught his students about the Good Friday experiment by Walter Pahnke, in which a group of students were given psychedelics in a church and had a mystical experience. But how can you teach about a mystical experience if you have never had one yourself? Thus, his interested was sparked.
Can psychedelics change your life? Does microdosing with LSD really make you more creative? Is ayahuasca the solution to depression and addiction? And does MDMA help to deal with traumas? In this lecture and in his book Een nuchtere kijk op psychedelica (freely translated: a scientific perspective on psychedelics), Michiel van Elk explains how a single substance can change our experience of the world; he shows how psychedelics work in our brain and who should better not take them.
Dr. Michiel van Elk is associate professor at Leiden University, where he does psychological and neuroscientific research on psychedelics. In 2020 he published his book Een nuchtere kijk op psychedelica. Wat wetenschap ons kan leren over geestverruiming. at Das Mag Publishers.