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The Psychedelic Renaissance: Psychedelics in Pop Culture

Publicity still from Have a Good Trip

Photo Source: Netflix via Hollywood Reporter

“Drug use in educational films has always been portrayed in a somewhat exaggerated and hysterical way: parents panicking, children having freak-outs, and people jumping out of windows.”

– Nick Offerman, Netflix’s Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics, 2020

Adults who grew up in the 80s and 90s are familiar with these visual byproducts of the “War on Drugs.” Campaigns like “Just say ‘No’” and “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” depicted drug use as described above, labeling those individuals as degenerates and criminals. As our culture has shifted to more open discussions about drugs and drug use, we have learned that all types of people use drugs.

Three of the last four US Presidents have taken illicit drugs (and far more than that if you check the stats). Entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have admitted to “tripping on acid.” Nobel Prize winning scientists Kary Mullis and Richard Feynman both used LSD. Mullis invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique that is used in COVID-19 diagnosis today (among other things) and attributes his legacy to the use of LSD.

“What if I had not taken LSD ever; would I have still invented PCR? I don’t know. I doubt it. I seriously doubt it.”

— Kary Mullis

Conversations about psychedelic drug use are no longer happening in the shadows but on national TV, in best-selling books, and on the big screen. Even in the PG-13 (now Disney owned) film, X-Men Days of Future Past (2014) there is a scene where a character is told that he’s on acid to justify his momentary confusion.

More than ever before, it is common to see depictions or discussions of psychedelic drug use in popular culture. We’ve pulled together some of the most recent representations and explorations of psychedelic drug use in various mediums. For psychedelic advocates, like us, the more popular culture can help to defuse the myths surrounding psychedelics the closer we move to greater societal acceptance of these drugs and their therapeutic benefits.


How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan (2019) – NY Times Bestselling author Michael Pollan provides a historical, personal, and scientific analysis of the use of psychedelics to treat mental illness as well as to help healthy individuals cope with everyday life.

Cover of How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Podcasts and television shows


Ted Talks


Ars Technica
The Independent
Medium: Were LSD and Marijuana the Secret to Steve Jobs’ Billions?
Medium: Famous People Who Have Used Psychedelics
The Fix
The Reality of Truth
Medium: Are Psychedelics the Fastest Way to Higher Consciousness?