David: You mention Aldous Huxley’s book Doors of Perception in Molecules of Emotion. I’m curious–have you ever had a psychedelic experience, and if so how has it influenced your perspective on science and life?
Candace: I can say that I’ve had some unusual experiences. I basically missed the Sixties, and even the Seventies in terms of experimenting with drugs at the normal time, because I was a young mother, and I was always in a very responsible authority figure role from a very young age. But later on I experimented with marijuana and some of the psychedelics. I think the biggest influence was marijuana, which I didn’t even try until I was like 35 years old. I think that had an impact on me, because it erases boundaries, and gets you into interesting altered states. I’ve experimented with that, and less with some of the psychedelics. Has this influenced me? Sure. Spending time in an alternative reality, which is noncompetitive and loving, must have taken away my East Coast competitive nature. Of course now I am convinced that marijuana should be avoided since it wreaks havoc with one’s endocannabinoids.
David: What type of potential do you see for new types of psychoactive drugs in the future?
Candace: I’m never moving in that direction. In my book I talked about not using drugs with an almost puritanical insistence. This is at least where I am now–that we’re at our best when we have our natural drugs. It’s like our own natural chemicals, unadulterated, are just totally amazing. But this a great ideal. I mean, I’m a major user of supplements, vitamins and things like that.
David: I thought the primary point that you were making in your book was that using any type of psychoactive drug on a regular basis will cause the brain to compensate for the drug’s continued presence by reducing the number of receptors that bind to it.
Candace: Exactly. Anything you take changes your brain, because there’s a law that a natural system will always compensate when you perturb it. So in some very romantic idealized way I see our perfection is like, let it all hang out. Let it be what it is. But yet that’s an ideal. I smashed my arm playing on the ski slopes four weeks ago, and I’m now taking vicadin for my broken arm. I’m trying not to take it. But heck, it helped me, and it’s okay.
David: A few scientists that I’ve spoken with told me that they don’t think that the HIV virus is responsible for causing AIDS. What do you think about this idea?
Candace: I can be a lot more definitive on this than I can on some of the other questions you asked me. These people are nuts. The evidence is clear, and it’s the most elegant scientific story. There was a movement against HIV research, and the main champion was Peter Duesberg. There was some personal animosities against the power and the money that the early AIDS researchers got, and there’s a lot of political aspects to this. But beyond a shadow of a doubt–and I’m speaking as somebody who studies data in the lab–there is just no doubt about the fact that HIV is the cause of AIDS. There’s just so much elegant science behind it. Just let me site one little tidbit that tells you how clean the whole thing is. There’s two primary receptors that the AIDS virus uses to enter and infect cells. One of them, which I mentioned earlier, is called CCR-5. It turns out that a small percentage Caucasian Europeans don’t have that receptor. They have a genetic