Rick Doblin: Psychedelics | Lex Fridman Podcast #202 | Summary and Q&A

July 20, 2021
Lex Fridman Podcast
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Rick Doblin: Psychedelics | Lex Fridman Podcast #202

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In this video conversation, Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), provides an overview of psychedelics and their different categories. He discusses the concept of psychedelics as "mind-manifesting" substances that can bring things to the surface, both in terms of emotions and thoughts. Doblin emphasizes that psychedelics reveal rather than conjure up something new and explores the idea of ego dissolution and its role in accessing deeper layers of consciousness. He also talks about the distinctions between various psychedelics, such as their origin (natural vs. lab-made), effects on ego dissolution, duration, and cultural context. Ultimately, Doblin envisions the future of psychedelics as a tool for personalized therapy and the potential for engineering new psychedelics to explore uncharted territories of the mind.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the broad interpretation of psychedelics according to Rick Doblin?

Rick Doblin sees psychedelics as substances that bring things to the surface, including dreams, emotions, and thoughts. He argues that the term "psychedelic" should be understood broadly beyond just chemical substances.

Q: What are the two general categories of psychedelics according to Doblin?

The two general categories of psychedelics are the "classic psychedelics" and substances like MDMA. The classic psychedelics, such as LSD and psilocybin, dissolve the ego and can lead to unitive states. MDMA, although not a classic psychedelic, can cause ego dissolution and bring material to the surface.

Q: How does ego dissolution fit into the concept of bringing things to the surface?

Ego dissolution, a key aspect of classic psychedelics, allows individuals to access deeper layers of consciousness and brings forth things that were previously suppressed or difficult to confront. It reveals the connections between various aspects of our consciousness and helps us explore our true selves.

Q: What distinctions are made between different psychedelics?

Doblin highlights various distinctions among psychedelics, including their origin (natural vs. lab-made), effects on ego dissolution, duration of the experience, cultural context, and current scientific research. Different psychedelics have unique characteristics and are being studied for their therapeutic potential in different areas.

Q: Is there a possibility of engineering new psychedelics, and what could this unlock?

Doblin suggests that there is a potential for engineering new psychedelics to explore uncharted territories of the mind. By fine-tuning the chemical composition of these substances, it may be possible to create personalized therapy options and discover new perspectives on consciousness, intelligence, and life itself. The engineering of new psychedelics could enhance mental exploration beyond what is currently possible.

Q: How do different psychedelics impact the brain and consciousness?

Psychedelics impact the brain by interacting with neurotransmitters and energy patterns. Classic psychedelics weaken the default mode network, which filters and processes information in a way that focuses on core needs and ignores other stimuli. This leads to a flood of new information and creative thinking. MDMA, on the other hand, reduces fear processing in the amygdala and increases connectivity between the amygdala and the hippocampus, facilitating the processing of traumatic memories.

Q: Could psychedelics be used to access or alter memories?

While the potential of accessing and altering memories through psychedelics is not fully understood, there is ongoing research into this area. Studies have shown that traumatic memories can be influenced by epigenetic markers, and the use of psychedelics, such as MDMA, in therapy may lead to changes in these markers. Future developments may allow for the targeting and processing of specific memories, aiding in the treatment of PTSD and trauma.

Q: Is there a role of culture in shaping psychedelic experiences?

Doblin suggests that culture plays a significant role in shaping psychedelic experiences. Cultural stories, beliefs, and preconceptions can prime individuals for specific experiences. For example, visions of "machine elves" or other entities during psychedelic experiences can be influenced by cultural narratives. However, personal context and individual experiences also play a role in shaping the psychedelic journey.

Q: Can psychedelics facilitate the exploration of collective unconscious and shared memories?

Doblin discusses the concept of the collective unconscious, which suggests that all past human experiences are still accessible at a deeper level. Psychedelics may provide a means to delve into this collective unconscious and access information beyond an individual's own temporal existence. These experiences may be related to emotional resonances between one's current life and past experiences shared among humans.

Q: How does the context of safety and vulnerability impact psychedelic experiences?

The context of safety and vulnerability is crucial in psychedelic experiences. Feeling safe allows individuals to fully open up and explore their consciousness. Lack of safety can hinder this process. Contextual factors such as cultural conditioning, gender, and personal trauma can influence an individual's sense of safety and vulnerability during psychedelic experiences.

Q: Can psychedelics create a sense of connection to something bigger than oneself?

Psychedelics, by dissolving the ego's sense of self and opening individuals up to deeper layers of consciousness, can create a sense of connection to something larger. This challenging of the ego-centric perspective allows individuals to experience a greater connection to humanity, nature, and the universe as a whole. Psychedelics can help individuals transcend their individuality and tap into the broader context of existence.


Psychedelics have the potential to bring deeper layers of consciousness to the surface, dissolve the ego, and open individuals up to new perspectives. They reveal rather than conjure up something new, providing a glimpse into the collective unconscious and shared human experiences. Different psychedelics have distinct characteristics and effects, with ongoing scientific research aiming to uncover their therapeutic potential. The future of psychedelics may involve personalized therapy, engineering new substances, and exploring uncharted territories of the mind. However, the context of safety and vulnerability, along with cultural conditioning, greatly influences the psychedelic experience. Ultimately, psychedelics challenge our ego-centric perspectives and can foster a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves.

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