cover image Psychedelic Outlaws: The Movement Revolutionizing Modern Medicine

Psychedelic Outlaws: The Movement Revolutionizing Modern Medicine

Joanna Kempner. Hachette, $32 (384p) ISBN 978-0-306-82894-2

In this enlightening report, Kempner (Not Tonight), a sociology professor at Rutgers University, sheds light on the individuals and organizations working to legitimize and legalize the medical use of LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and other psychedelic drugs. Her account centers on Clusterbusters, an online community for individuals suffering from cluster headache (a disease that causes excruciating bouts of acute pain). Kempner describes how Chicago construction worker Bob Wold founded the group in 2002 after discovering that small doses of psychedelic mushrooms gave him the relief that dozens of prescription treatments had failed to provide. Clusterbusters was initially focused on sharing how to grow and use mushrooms to treat headaches, but the group’s ambitions swiftly expanded to include convincing the medical establishment to take psychedelic therapies seriously. Kempner profiles major players in Clusterbusters’ campaign, including Rick Doblin, whose psychedelics advocacy organization MAPS helped Wold interface with medical research institutions, and R. Andrew Sewell, a renegade Harvard doctor who in the mid-aughts worked with Wold and Doblin to research psychedelics’ efficacy in treating cluster headaches. Kempner’s empathetic reporting illuminates how collaborations between patients and medical professionals are reviving scientific interest in psychedelic therapies, and she provides historical background showing how moral panics around drugs in the 1970s and ’80s halted promising research on medical applications of MDMA and LSD. This will open readers’ minds to the health benefits of psychedelics. Agent: Bridget Wagner Matzie, Aevitas Creative Management. (June)