Michael Pollan introduces The Microdose.
There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics. What just a few years ago was an obscure corner of clinical and neuroscientific research has blossomed into a vibrant scientific field, yielding promising new treatments and important insights about the mind and brain. That research has already spawned an entirely new industry, with hundreds of startups, all with different ideas of how best to commercialize psychedelics. (A handful of these companies have already gone public, with billion-dollar valuations.) FDA approval of MDMA and psilocybin may be only a few short years away. Since 2018, upwards of a dozen universities – including Johns Hopkins, NYU, Berkeley, Yale, and Harvard – have launched research centers dedicated to studying psychedelics, all funded by private philanthropy. But then in October 2021, the National Institute of Health (NIH) made its first substantial grant for a psychedelic drug trial in more than fifty years to Johns Hopkins, for a study of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy for tobacco addiction. If proof of the promise and legitimacy of psychedelic research were still needed, it has arrived.
Things are moving so quickly on so many different fronts — research, business, policy and culture — that keeping up with developments in the field has become challenging. Which is precisely why, on behalf of the Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics, we’re delighted to welcome you to our twice-weekly newsletter, The Microdose.
Every Friday, The Microdose will bring you a handful of brief takes on developments in the field of psychedelics, covering everything from scientific research and policy to business and culture. On Mondays, a second installment will offer a Q & A with a newsmaker in the field—it might be a person you’ve heard of or someone you need to know about. Our goal is to keep you up-to-date and informed, whether you’re in the field or simply curious. The newsletter is free to everyone.
The Microdose comes courtesy of the newly established U.C. Berkeley Center for the Science of Psychedelics, which in addition to conducting basic and social scientific research into psychedelics and training psychedelic guides, has committed itself to a robust program of public education. The newsletter is just the first initiative in a program that will eventually include a massive online course (“Psychedelic Science 101”); a fellowship to fund journalists working on important stories about psychedelics; a podcast and a website rich with resources on psychedelics. Based at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, the public education program aims to do what independent journalism does best: inform, enlighten, and hold the burgeoning new field accountable. Psychedelics is not yet a full-blown journalistic beat but it deserves to be one, and Berkeley aims to help make that happen. The Microdose is our first step.
I’m pleased to introduce you to the head writer of The Microdose. Jane C. Hu is an award-winning science journalist living in Seattle. Her work has appeared in national publications such as Slate, WIRED, National Geographic, The Atlantic, Outside, Science, and High Country News. Before becoming a journalist, Jane was a psychology researcher; she holds a Ph.D. in psychology from UC Berkeley. Overseeing The Microdose is Malia Wollan, the Berkeley Center’s editor-in-chief, a long-time colleague of mine at the Graduate School of Journalism and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. I will also be involved, contributing my perspective and the occasional item.
I hope you’ll give The Microdose a try and subscribe. It’s free and you can opt out any time. But I’m confident that you’re going to find the newsletter an engaging and indispensable tool for navigating the crosscurrents of the psychedelic renaissance.
Yours very truly,
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