Micro-dosing: the controversial new performance enhancer?

Micro-dosing: the controversial new performance enhancer?

When one thinks of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and magic mushrooms, words like “out-of-body experience” and “hallucination” come to mind. Nowadays, however, these psychedelic drugs aren’t used only by those looking for a “trip”, but by young professionals wanting to perform better at their work. ANLERIE DE WET investigates

Magic mushrooms and LSD are hallucinogenic drugs that alter perceptions and the senses. Over the last five years, people have used these drugs in micro doses to avoid seeing sounds and hearing colours (an effect normally associated with these drugs) and, ultimately, expand their minds to think more clearly and become more productive.

Psychologist James Fadiman published his book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys in May, 2011. This guide suggests that if LSD and magic mushrooms are used in micro doses (one tenth of a normal dose on day one, followed by four days with no dosing) then creativity and problem solving could come to the fore without the effects of a “high”.

Since the publication of Fadiman’s book, the practice of micro-dosing has become more and more popular with many business people in Silicon Valley – the southern part of San Francisco, California in the United States (US) – starting to do it continually.

Micro-dosing of LSD and magic mushrooms is gaining prominence as a creativity and problem-solving booster.Fadiman studied the work of Albert Hofmann, a Swiss scientist who amalgamated LSD in 1938 and the active agents in magic mushrooms (psilocybin and psilocin). Hofmann was considered to have taken the first intentional LSD trip in 1943, but he took micro doses of the drug for most of his life until he died in 2008 at the age of 102.

In 2007, he shared first place, with Tim Berners-Lee, in a list of the 100 greatest living geniuses, published by The Telegraph newspaper. In his work, Hofmann said that taking micro doses of LSD helped him to think more clearly and live more healthily.

However, the evidence of this is still purely anecdotal. Very few researchers can overcome the legal constraints to study illegal drugs – making the effects of taking micro doses vastly underexplored.

Many surveys have, however, been conducted on the matter. A forum on Reddit, devoted to the practice of micro-dosing of these drugs, grew its subscriber base from 1 600 at the start of 2015, to
7 500 in June 2016. Most of the people on the forum are young business people, particularly those in their twenties.

These users have shared their experiences on the forum indicating that micro-dosing helped them get ahead in the workplace by providing increased energy levels and enhanced moods, which improved their productivity. Some users even said micro-dosing has made them less depressed. Of course there have also been incidents where the users got the dose wrong and had a very difficult day at the office.

Both LSD and magic mushrooms are illegal in most countries, including South Africa, although neither of them have been known to cause physical or psychological addiction. In fact, a study by the United Kingdom’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs rated these drugs as two of the three least damaging recreational drugs.

Micro-dosing of LSD and magic mushrooms is gaining prominence as a creativity and problem-solving booster.However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) the catch with both of these psychedelics is that, more often than not, users have to increase their doses to get the same effect from the drugs as before. This increased dose can result in magic mushroom users experiencing fear and exerting dangerous behaviour, whereas LSD users may experience “flashbacks” and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD).

Fadiman has been studying the effects of micro-dosing on users, with subjects keeping journals for him. With this research, several people have reported abnormal sweating on dose day, with some subjects reporting increased anxiety. However, the number of people reporting these is minimal compared to users who have experienced no side effects.

As the long-term effects of micro-dosing haven’t been studied as yet, it’s difficult to fully assess the effects of the practice. Live Science says that using LSD on a regular basis, even in smaller doses, may have “unintended and far-reaching side effects that are as of yet unknown”.

If studies on micro-dosing are given the green light, it may one day become an everyday substance in households to help with concentration. On the other hand, the studies may reveal side effects that could see the enthusiasm for the practice die down completely.

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