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Neurons to Nirvana (2013)

A stylish, in depth look at the renaissance in psychedelic drug research in light of current scientific, medical and cultural knowledge.


Oliver Hockenhull


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Credited cast:
William S. Burroughs ... (archive footage)
Wade Davis
Rick Doblin Rick Doblin
Lesley Ewen ... (voice)
Julie Holland Julie Holland
Aldous Huxley ... (archive footage)
Gabor Maté Gabor Maté ... (as Gabor Mate)
Dennis J. McKenna Dennis J. McKenna ... (voice)
Ralph Metzner Ralph Metzner ... (voice)
Jeremy Narby Jeremy Narby ... (voice)


A stylish, in depth look at the renaissance in psychedelic drug research in light of current scientific, medical and cultural knowledge. The film explores these socially taboo substances as adjuncts to psychotherapy, as crucial but neglected medicines, and as technologies of consciousness. From Neurons to Nirvana: The Great Medicines features interviews with some of the world's foremost researchers, writers, and pioneers in the growing field of psychedelic psychotherapy. These radical healers and dissenters are using everything from ancient concoctions to newly created designer molecules to the once demonized psychedelic drugs of the 1960s. They argue convincingly for the legal right to incorporate these substances into therapeutic practice. Written by Anonymous

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Alternate Versions

The longer version is titled "FROM NEURONS TO NIRVANA: THE GREAT MEDICINES", 108 minutes and was released to the public December, 2014. See more »

User Reviews

A subjective view misleadingly presented as unbiased
4 June 2016 | by R-ClercxSee all my reviews

I write this review from the viewpoint as a qualified social worker who has both academic knowledge but also practical work experience dealing with drug addiction. Besides I also experimented personally with psychoactive substances.

The positive part of this documentary is that it shows clear and factual arguments governmental rules on which substances are legal or illegal are NOT based on which substances are more or less harmful to the individual or society. Alcohol and tobacco are without any doubt harmful, yet they are freely available for a simple reason: in the short term they provide high tax revenue for the government (which is offset by the negative cost in the long term: health issues long cancer, liver disease and so on).

The negative part of this documentary is that it is clearly biased toward legalizing some or more psycho-active substances, based on the fact that some may actually have positive effects in a therapeutic setting (for instance psilocybine which is found in magical mushrooms shows a short term serotonin boost, which is what most anti-depressants aim for).

The problem is however, most people in this documentary are academics, so they've spend a lot of time on research and indeed would probably use these substances in a responsible manner. To expand their consciousness, as a tool for creativity, for therapeutic use.

However, most of these academics probably only know the problem with the use of psycho-active substances (mdma, psilocybine, LSD, THC ... ) from a paper point of view, not from having personal experience in dealing with drug addicts like I have.

Making some of these substances more available to the general public in a non therapeutic setting, for recreational use without supervision, would lead to another wave of wasted teenagers who think it's okay to use these substances because they are free to buy and use. Yes, they might have benefits, but not if they are used purely to escape reality. The documentary also fails to point out clearly that although some psycho-active substances are not addictive in a way the body the craves for it, but they can be psychologically very addictive. Someone who would for instance trip on magical mushrooms for several days a week will loose touch with reality.

Amsterdam and Holland have long been very liberal strongholds for tolerating marijuana, magical mushrooms, head shops and so on... but recently more and more restrictions came into place (not because the pharmaceutical industry wanted to make more profit so they wanted to ban coffee shops) BUT because of the increasing amount of accidents cause by the use of psycho active substances.

Finally there is another argument that is nearly not touched in this documentary: most trippers believe because something comes from nature it's less harmful than chemicals. The problem however is, when one eats for instance raw magical mushrooms the dosage of the active substance can vary widely depending on the species, time of harvest, and so on. Even marijuana which is sold in most coffee shops in Holland has NOTHING to do with wild marijuana. Weed sold for profit on the black market is bread to increase THC (otherwise a smoker might find he's not getting 'high' enough).

Although this documentary is surely interesting to watch and I do very much appreciate the comments of Gabor, please be aware it is surely NOT unbiased. Although it states it does not want to advocate the use of psycho-active substances in the end this is what it achieves. For a rebellious teenager watching this it might seam as if government is lying and they were right along to smoke another joint.

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English | Slovak | Czech

Release Date:

1 November 2013 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

From Neurons to Nirvana: The Great Medicines See more »

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Production Co:

Mangusta Productions See more »
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