Hamilton Morris and Dr. Mark Plotkin — Exploring the History of Psychoactive Substances, Synthetic vs. Natural Options, Microdosing, 5-MeO-DMT, The “Drunken Monkey” Hypothesis, Timothy Leary’s Legacy, and More (#605)

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“Almost everything that we call a poison, under some circumstances—at least conceivably—could have a therapeutic effect.”

— Hamilton Morris

Welcome to The Tim Ferriss Show, where it is usually my job to deconstruct world-class performers, to tease out their routines, habits, et cetera that you can apply to your own life. 

This time around, we have a very special edition featuring two of your favorite guests: Dr. Mark Plotkin and Hamilton Morris

Mark takes over my duties as host and interviews Hamilton for an episode of the Plants of the Gods podcast. You, my dear listeners, are hearing the audio before anyone else, so this is a Tim Ferriss Show exclusive. I’ve previously featured some of my favorite episodes from that show at tim.blog/plantsofthegods. These episodes cover a lot of fascinating ground.

Who is Mark? Mark (@DocMarkPlotkin) is an ethnobotanist who serves as president of the Amazon Conservation Team, which has partnered with ~80 tribes to map and improve management and protection of ~100 million acres of ancestral rainforests. He is best known to the general public as the author of the book Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice, one of the most popular books ever written about the rainforest. His most recent book is The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know. You can find my interview with Mark at tim.blog/markplotkin

And the guest today is Hamilton Morris. Hamilton (@HamiltonMorris) is a chemist, filmmaker, and science journalist. A graduate of The New School, he conducts chemistry research at Saint Joseph’s University. Hamilton is the writer and director of the documentary series Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, in which he explores the chemistry and traditions surrounding psychoactive drugs. You can find my most recent interview with him at tim.blog/hamilton.  

This is a tightly packed 60-minute interview. Mark and Hamilton cover the history of different psychoactive substances; Timothy Leary’s legacy; the “drunken monkey” hypothesis; conservation; microdosing; the differences between 5-MeO-DMT and DMT; a disease that afflicts people who smoke enormous quantities of cannabis, causing them to vomit continuously and only find relief from their nausea by taking a hot shower (yes, really); the impact of the placebo effect; a synthetic vs. a natural product; the role of ritual; and much, much more. 

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform.

Brought to you by Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement and 5-Bullet Friday, my very own email newsletter. More on both below.

The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#605: Hamilton Morris and Dr. Mark Plotkin — Exploring the History of Psychoactive Substances, Synthetic vs. Natural Options, Microdosing, 5-MeO-DMT, The “Drunken Monkey” Hypothesis, Timothy Leary’s Legacy, and More

This episode is brought to you by AG1! I get asked all the time, “If you could use only one supplement, what would it be?” My answer is usually AG1, my all-in-one nutritional insurance. I recommended it in The 4-Hour Body in 2010 and did not get paid to do so. I do my best with nutrient-dense meals, of course, but AG1 further covers my bases with vitamins, minerals, and whole-food-sourced micronutrients that support gut health and the immune system. 

Right now, you’ll get a 1-year supply of Vitamin D free with your first subscription purchase—a vital nutrient for a strong immune system and strong bones. Visit DrinkAG1.com/Tim to claim this special offer today and receive your 1-year supply of Vitamin D (and 5 free AG1 travel packs) with your first subscription purchase! That’s up to a one-year supply of Vitamin D as added value when you try their delicious and comprehensive daily, foundational nutrition supplement that supports whole-body health.

This episode is brought to you by 5-Bullet Friday, my very own email newsletter that every Friday features five bullet points highlighting cool things I’ve found that week, including apps, books, documentaries, gadgets, albums, articles, TV shows, new hacks or tricks, and—of course—all sorts of weird stuff I’ve dug up from around the world.

It’s free, it’s always going to be free, and you can subscribe now at tim.blog/friday.

Do you want to hear the last time Hamilton Morris was on the show? Listen here to our conversation, in which we discussed Alexander Shulgin’s alchemy, keeping the psychedelic renaissance honest, concerns about accelerated research of psychedelics in the for-profit sector, conscientious chemistry, sustainable alternatives to popularly used compounds, fly-by-night rent-a-shamans, and much more.

#511: Hamilton Morris on Iboga, 5-MeO-DMT, the Power of Ritual, New Frontiers in Psychedelics, Excellent Problems to Solve, and More

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.



  • Connect with Hamilton Morris:

Patreon | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

  • Connect with Mark Plotkin:

Website | Plants of the Gods Podcast | Amazon Conservation Team | Twitter | Facebook


  • [06:22] The Sonoran desert toad’s celebrity star is rising
  • [08:18] The role of the chemist in preserving plants, animals, and fungi from which compounds are traditionally derived
  • [11:18] Who is Howard Lotsof?
  • [14:02] Microdosing
  • [16:39] Ken Nelson and the celebrated Bufo Alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert pamphlet
  • [20:11] God molecule vs. just plain old DMT
  • [22:25] There are potential downsides to these compounds (even cannabis)
  • [27:58] Undiscovered compounds
  • [30:15] Lessons learned and questions pondered from Alexander Shulgin’s thumb surgery
  • [34:05] Synthetic vs. natural
  • [37:21] The role of ritual
  • [39:49] Combining traditions
  • [42:27] Mark’s account of Huautla in the early 2000s.
  • [42:58] Downsides of psychedelic tourism
  • [47:46] Effectiveness of fungi vs. frogs
  • [49:52] Where do we go in search of new substances?
  • [53:11] How far back do shamanic traditions go?
  • [54:40] Poisons as medicines and vice versa
  • [56:34] Salvia, and stoned vs. drunk apes
  • [1:04:20] Nicolas Langlitz and the primatology of primatologists
  • [1:06:03] Timothy Leary’s legacy


“I think there’s something to be said for maybe just not being stoned all the time. And I say this as somebody that likes cannabis, personally.”
— Hamilton Morris

“I love frogs and they are amazing chemists.”
— Hamilton Morris

“There is no provision for the use of medicines by healthy people.”
— Hamilton Morris

“It wasn’t . . . until Dennis McKenna adapted laboratory techniques for the cultivation of psilocybin-containing mushrooms and published it in an underground, non-scientific guide intended for lay readers that not only did people recognize that these things grew naturally in the United States, but that they could cultivate them themselves.”
— Hamilton Morris

“Almost everything that we call a poison, under some circumstances — at least conceivably — could have a therapeutic effect.”
— Hamilton Morris

“I think that the history of psychedelics had been profoundly elitist and Timothy Leary was somebody who wanted to break with that tradition of elitism.”
— Hamilton Morris


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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2 Replies to “Hamilton Morris and Dr. Mark Plotkin — Exploring the History of Psychoactive Substances, Synthetic vs. Natural Options, Microdosing, 5-MeO-DMT, The “Drunken Monkey” Hypothesis, Timothy Leary’s Legacy, and More (#605)”

  1. Tim, I hope you have heart of the great work VETS Inc (vetsolutions.org) is doing in the psychodelic space. I believe more is achieved together.

  2. Hi Tim – I’d like to bring the topic of Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) to your attention. It is a disorder characterised by long-lasting and distressing changes in visual processing after the consumption of psychedelics, and is speculated to affect as many as 1 in 25 lifetime users (Baggott et al [2011], as cited in DSM-5 [2013]).

    I work for a nonprofit called the Perception Restoration Foundation (PRF) that is raising awareness and funds for studies into the condition and promoting harm reduction: https://perception.foundation/

    We are also working on a documentary: [Moderator: YouTube link to “HPPD: Stuck In A Distorted World (Documentary Trailer)” removed per YouTube embed policy.]