When you start your day with a cup of tea or coffee you are ingesting a consciousness-altering drug, which you are quite likely to be addicted to. That drug of course is caffeine, the stimulant used by 90 per cent of people on earth, and it is one of three mind-altering molecules that bestselling author Michael Pollan has been investigating for his new book This Is Your Mind on Plants, alongside morphine, produced by the opium poppy, and mescaline, found in certain cacti. And on July 12 he comes to Intelligence Squared to examine our complex attitude towards these substances and to invite us to rethink our entire relationship with them.
In conversation with the medical doctor and broadcaster Guddi Singh, Pollan will explore humanity’s longstanding and powerful attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and why do we then hedge this desire with laws, customs and fraught feelings? And why do we categorise these compounds so reductively – calling them either a licit or an illicit drug? For, as Pollan will argue, when we take these psychoactive plants into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways possible.
At a time of renewed interest in the therapeutic and social benefits of these plants, with the opioid crisis under the spotlight in America, and the increasing decriminalisation of certain drugs in parts of the US, there has never been a more timely moment to reflect on our complicated relationship with the psychoactive substances of the natural world. Join us for what promises to be a mind-opening event.
Book bundles include one ticket for the online debate, plus a copy of Michael Pollan’s book This Is Your Mind On Plants with free UK P&P. Books will be posted within 1-2 weeks of the event finishing. Click here to purchase a book bundle.
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Speakers subject to change.