Psychedelic Outlaws

The Movement Revolutionizing Modern Medicine


By Joanna Kempner, PhD

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$39.00 CAD

How a group of regular citizens debilitated by excruciating pain developed their own medicine from home-grown psilocybin mushroomsproducing near-clinical grade protocols, and their fight for recognition in a broken medical system

oanna Kempner is the premier expert on the social impact of headache diseases. In Psychedelic Outlaws, she follows a group of people called “Clusterbusters,” a community bound by their experience with cluster headache—a neurological disease so excruciating, its pain is often likened to being shot in the head, repeatedly, multiple times per day. Obtaining a diagnosis can take years and treatments often leave patients worse off than they were before. There's a grim reality behind the disease's nickname, suicide headache.

Kempner’s narrative traces this patient movement to its origins to the extraordinary experiments conducted by a man named “Flash” in Aberdeen, Scotland, and then follows it forward, as the idea of using psychedelics for pain begins to gather in the early days of the internet, and then eventually became a full-fledged effort to bring this knowledge to universities. Their story looks at the politics of pain, why some drugs make it to market when others don’t, and our culture’s complicated history with psychedelics.

Michael Pollan’s bestseller How to Change Your Mind introduced the new science of psychedelic medicine for mental health and addiction to mainstream readers. This book follows a group of patients—most of whom don’t have any medical training—who rely on “magic mushrooms” as a last resort to treat severe pain. It explores not only the fascinating history and exploding popularity of mushroom science, but also proves that the United States has set up a regulatory and legal system so repressive that our most innovative therapies for pain and medicine are being developed underground by sick people forced to break the law just to find relief, and how, in turn, corporate America, and sometimes devious academics, stand to profit from their work and self-advocacy.


On Sale
Jun 4, 2024
Page Count
320 pages
Hachette Books

Joanna Kempner, PhD

About the Author

Dr. Joanna Kempner, Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers, writes, researches, and teaches at the intersections of science, medicine, and inequality. Kempner is internationally known for her research on overlooked problems in health and illness, giving voice to those without power and challenging how medicine talks about, understands, and makes policies for those it serves. As the premier expert on the social impact of headache diseases, she is a sought-after speaker and is often featured in policy debates and media discussions about pain. Her research has been extensively covered by major national media outlets, such as NPR¸ the Washington Post, Associated Press, Science, the Guardian, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was featured alongside Joan Didion and Siri Hustvedt in the award-winning 2017 documentary Out of My Head.

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