This Is Your Mind on Plants Book Summary - This Is Your Mind on Plants Book explained in key points
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This Is Your Mind on Plants summary

Michael Pollan

Examining the Human Attraction to Consciousness Altering Plants

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    This Is Your Mind on Plants
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    Throughout history, people have known opium to be both a blessing and a curse.

    Throughout the 1990s, the war on drugs raged in all its violent fury. In 1996 alone, more than a million Americans were sent to jail for drug crimes. Many of these convicts were not at all violent – yet they were forced to serve mandatory minimum sentences. The government also gained the power to confiscate private property involved in a drug-related crime, even if its owner hadn’t been charged.

    The drug war was touted as a boon for public safety. But did it actually reduce addiction or overdose rates? Hardly. Instead, it filled American prisons with hundreds of thousands of nonviolent criminals, many of them Black. Not only that, it distracted from the actual drug-related issue that was only just beginning: the opioid crisis.

    Opium itself hasn't always been such a hated substance. In previous centuries, humans treated opium for what it actually is: both an ally and an enemy.

    The key message here is: Throughout history, people have known opium to be both a blessing and a curse.

    Our relationship with opium spans more than five millennia. The drug’s main use was generally pain control.

    But in the nineteenth century, it began to truly conquer the world. Victorians used it much as we use aspirin. Romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge waxed lyrical about the drug. And Great Britain even fought a series of wars –⁠ aptly called the Opium Wars –⁠ over the right to control its exports.

    Now, of course, most people view opium very differently: first and foremost, as a deadly narcotic. But this perception has been warped and distorted by the drug war and the tragedy that we know as the opioid crisis.

    That crisis began when, in 1996, a company called Purdue Pharma began marketing its now-infamous, slow-release opiate, Oxycontin. Pain, claimed Purdue, was being undertreated, and their wonder drug could help people who were suffering.

    But what really happened? The number of Americans addicted to opiates ballooned from about half a million to two million. About 4,700 people died of drug overdose in 1996. In the US today, 50,000 die from opiate overdose alone every year. Four out of five new heroin users previously used prescription painkillers.

    Opium’s dual nature is all too clear from its history. Perhaps the Greeks and Romans were on to something when they used the poppy – from which opium is made – as a symbol for both sleep and death.

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    What is This Is Your Mind on Plants about?

    This Is Your Mind on Plants (2021) is a vivid, intricate probe into the history, chemistry, and effects of three plant-derived drugs: opium, caffeine, and mescaline. These substances – a sedative, a stimulant, and a hallucinogen – represent a large part of the human experience with drugs. It’s time to shed new light on how they’ve shaped our histories, cultures, and minds.

    Who should read This Is Your Mind on Plants?

    • Psychonauts and introspective thinkers
    • Botanists, plant lovers, and science geeks
    • Anyone interested in the history of the US war on drugs and its effects

    About the Author

    Michael Pollan is a journalist, author, and writing instructor at Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley. He’s written eight books, six of which were New York Times best sellers, including How to Change Your Mind, The Botany of Desire, and In Defense of Food. In 2010, he was listed in Time magazine’s list of the hundred most influential people in the world.

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