#1615 – Hamilton Morris | Joe Rogan Experience

Key Takeaways

  • Overregulation, as we saw with the opioid crisis, doesn’t help anyone – if we’re not careful the pendulum swings are more damaging than the actual problem
  • The reality is that dependence on any substance is not good because you aren’t adequately addressing the root of the problem (e.g., why can’t you sleep? how can you better manage stress?)
  • Unregulated markets where drugs are illegal will inevitably lead to a thriving black market run by criminals – that’s usually more harmful than legalization
  • A new pharmaceutical interest in substances will improve the funding environment and motivate the public to be more open-minded to the idea
  • Paradox of government interference: despite the death and destruction associated with alcohol and cigarette use, society largely accepts them because the government says they’re ok
  • Opioids are a derivative of morphine – it should have never been surprising that they’re addictive substances
  • There’s a complex social aspect of drugs and drug use that can’t be ignored, from their use to discriminate (i.e., crack versus cocaine) to police approach to crimes and criminals
  • We can’t ignore the role of advertising in the pharmaceutical industry – the United States and New Zealand are the only countries that allow pharmaceutical drugs to be advertised on television
  • The illegalization of drugs has a corrupting influence on cops and society: we’re trained to associate drugs with “bad” and non-drugs with “good”


Hamilton Morris (@HamiltonMorris) is a journalist, documentary producer, chemist, and creator of TV show Hamilton’s Phamacopeia.

In this episode of The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe Rogan and Hamilton Morris take a deep dive into psychoactive drugs, present case studies on the complexity of drugs, and examine the social aspects of substance use in general.

Host: Joe Rogan (@joerogan)

COVID-19 And The Politization Of Medicine

  • The pace of medicine isn’t suited for a pandemic climate
  • The FDA regulations generally prevent speediness in approvals  
  • You need years of work to truly understand the full scope of how pharmaceuticals work
  • The pandemic became so politicized, physicians would ask patients their political views before suggesting medication because of anti-Trump sentiment and anything he promoted

Evolution Of Psychedelic Research

  • Wide belief that government combined with lack of public interest and enthusiasm previously shut down psychedelic research efforts
  • Monase: a formerly approved (1960s) anti-depressant drug in the U.S. that is an MDMA compound called alpha-ethyltryptamine – now discontinued
  • Unregulated markets where drugs are illegal creates a black market with drugs run by criminals – we saw it with alcohol, cannabis, and now psychedelics
  • New pharmaceutical interest in substances will improve the funding environment and motivate the public to be more open-minded to the idea
  • Now, psychedelic induced neurogenesis (process by which neurons are produced) is a hot research topic
  • Neurogenesis inducing psychedelic derivatives (not actual psychedelics) are being studied which may be advantageous because there will be no hallucinogenic effects like with psychedelics
  • Studies are exploring whether psilocybin promotes growth of neurons in people with brain damage
  • Dose is important in psychedelics but we still haven’t found the sweet spot to generalize

Acceptance Of Alcohol Versus Drugs

  • In the days of prohibition you could get a physician prescription for alcohol use
  • Now we’re accustomed to alcohol use – we’re ok with people getting drunk when they want
  • Alcohol is regulated by the government so it’s accepted by society – we’re starting to see a similar trend with marijuana
  • Paradox of government interference: when we’re caught in a hysteria (like the opioid crisis) we overregulate but we’re still ok with things like cigarettes which kills about 500,000 Americans per year
  • Dr. Carl Hart: a neuroscientist and professor at Columbia University who openly discusses his regular use of micro doses of heroin
  • Related book about drug stigma: High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Of Self-Discovery That Challenged Everything You Know About Drugs And Society by Dr. Carl Hart

Opioid Addiction Shouldn’t Have Been Surprising

  • Opioids are a pharmacological class with diverse uses and potential
  • Opioids are a derivative of morphine – we should never have been surprised they’re addictive
  • We have known for at least hundreds of years that opioids are addictive – the first documented case of opioid addiction was documented in 1914
  • People generally take minimal responsibility for what they put in their body and depend on physicians to assume what’s right
  • A patient has a role in the addiction but a physician should also see signs and intervene
  • There should be shared responsibility across the patient, physician, and pharmaceutical company

The Role Of Advertising

  • We’re all subject to the effects of advertising and have to protect ourselves to some degree
  • There will always be people trying to sell you something bad – responsibility falls on us to discern
  • Society chastised cigarette users but now we have electronic cigarettes which are more acceptable – partly because of marketing
  • Regulated vaping is possibly safer
  • United States and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow pharmaceutical drugs to be advertised on television
  • If we’re not careful, the pendulum swings to extremes – opioids are vilified but there is a legitimate section of people who need it and are not abusing it

Charles Innis Case Study, 1971

  • Charles Innis was admitted to a local hospital in Baltimore after using too much Phencyclidine(PCP), a hallucinogen
  • Innis was inadequately treated for PCP use, released from the hospital – and later gouged out his own eyes after still being under the influence of PCP
  • Innis reached out to Hamilton Morris about 10-15 years ago and told him his version of the story
  • As relayed to Morris, Innis’ story is really one of police brutality and low level drug dealing
  • Innis previously won a case against the Baltimore Police Department who were pissed and embarrassed by what happened
  • The Baltimore PD worked with another dealer to essentially trap Innis: they offered him a new psychedelic drug to try and gave it to him free of charge
  • Innis takes the drug and puts it on a shelf at home, never touching it
  • The police come to raid Innis’ apartment and he knows he’s being set up – so he eats all of the new psychedelic (which turns out to be PCP)
  • The police lock him up and don’t treat the PCP use at all – his story isn’t one about the dangers of PCP, was really a scapegoat for police brutality and low-level crime

Social Aspect & Illegalization Of Drugs

  • The illegalization of drugs has a corrupting influence on cops
  • With legalization, we have cops that plant drugs to justify arrest
  • If drugs are illegal, there’s no way you can remain non-biased when you come across them because we’re conditioned to think a certain way
  • Drugs break down the idea of good people and bad people – there’s just drug users (“bad”) and non-drug users (“good”)
  • The reality is people are born into environments with a slim chance to get out of where they started without resources
  • We need to put more resources into preventing crime and generational cycles in impoverished, low-income communities
  • We have laws explicitly designed to oppress people – crack versus cocaine sentencing is a key example of how we use drugs to oppress


  • The mechanism of ketamine is not fully known
  • Ketamine is a derivative of PCP but with different effects on the body
  • Ketamine has a shorter duration
  • Ketamine also has sedative effect – especially at high doses where you basically won’t move
  • At high doses of ketamine: you enter a lucid dream state of consciousness that’s otherwise inaccessible

Benzodiazepine & Jordan Peterson Story

  • Controversial clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson spent eight days in a medically induced coma to overcome physical dependency on benzodiazepine drug
  • Jordan Peterson’s story is complicated, in part because he went from a regular person to controversial, semi-famous figure in a short amount of time
  • Jordan Peterson started using benzodiazepines to help him sleep at night
  • Benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Ativan, Xanax) are commonly prescribed for anxiety or as sleep aids
  • As often happens with drugs – you are not treating the underlying causes of what led you to need the drug in the first place, you’re adding a new complexity
  • Jordan Peterson tried to stop using the benzodiazepine but became dependent and required medical treatment
  • Notable that Peterson was also taking Xenon gas, which produces euphoric anesthetic effect when inhaled
  • If we don’t know how to relax or unwind, we are prone to not developing coping strategies and may become susceptible to substance dependence for things like anxiety and sleep
  • It’s important to put in the psychological work to manage stress and sleep – even if you are taking benzodiazepines
  • The reality of substance use: being dependent on anything is bad

Miscellaneous Information

  • Sci-hub – website with completely free access to research articles, even if paywalled through journal
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