The New Trend of Microdosing

work-drugs-0117-lede(GQ) Micro-dosing: The Drug Habit Your Boss Is Gonna Love

What started as a body-tinkering, mind-hacking, supplement-taking productivity craze in Silicon Valley is now spreading to more respectable workplaces, maybe even to your office, where the guy down the hall might already be popping a new breed of brain-boosting pills or micro-dosing LSD—all in the name of self-improvement. Can you afford not to keep up?

Maybe the weirdest thing about dropping acid at work, as I did one day just after breakfast, is the faith required.

The small brown vial came to me via a chain of custody that shall not be discussed and with the assurance that the clear liquid therein was, according to some guy who told the guy who gave it to me, a precise dilution of LSD. If the stories I’d heard were true, taking a tiny bit of it, a micro-dose, had the potential to make my workday more productive than ever. At least that’s the pitch as delivered from a growing horde now using acid to boost creativity and cognitive function. I squeezed the dropper gently, putting a clear drop into a mug of water on my desk, and drank it all in a single gulp. Then I began to worry that I was about to trip balls.

The idea that illicit drugs may enhance my output at work is but one of the many tricks, counter-intuitive therapies, dietary modifications, and behavioral tweaks that have lately been seized upon by self-styled biohackers, human tinkerers eager to sharpen focus and attention, boost productivity, and improve wellness and longevity.

These young, overwhelmingly male technologists are dabbling in, say, holotropic breathing or cryotherapy; they try fasting for days at a time; and increasingly they pop supplements that target brain chemistry—so-called nootropics, a category that includes everything from the off-label use of prescription drugs like the biohacker favorite modafinil to pills they make themselves by stuffing powdered bulk chemicals bought from Chinese websites into capsule cartridges. At the heart of it all, biohacking is being driven by one of Silicon Valley’s prevailing sentiments: that anything can be optimized to run better, so why should the human body be any different?

How exactly LSD fits into such a regimen for self-betterment was a topic of great curiosity one night not long ago in a San Francisco loft. George Burke, one of the Bay Area’s most fervent biohackers, had convened a presentation on the topic, entitled “Performance Psychedelics.” Up onstage, the legendary psychedelic psychologist Dr. James Fadiman told the crowded room that the key to unleashing the benefits of the drug was all in the dosage. The doctor explained that taking a smaller amount than usual—something on the order of one-tenth of a typical “party dose”—would stimulate the mind in all kinds of positive ways.

Just how or why is yet unknown. Fadiman admitted that the research is scant. But his own informal study, relying on volunteers dabbling with LSD and other hallucinogens like psilocybin, shows that users feel less anxious, more at ease in social situations, more creative, and less prone to severe migraines. Such usage—which Fadiman recommends only once every three days—also seems to help reduce cravings for things like cigarettes and Adderall, the ADHD pill commonly abused by people hoping to work harder and longer.

Burke, the guy who organized the talk, told me that micro-dosing had made his thinking clearer, allowing him to make “better connections between his thoughts and words.” The difference was manifest in the way he wrote. With a micro-dose of LSD, he felt abnormally productive, quick, and clever in e-mails.

“There’s something going on here that doesn’t fit medical models,” Molly Maloof, a Bay Area physician who joined Fadiman onstage, told the crowd. “Our best guess is that it creates hyper-metabolism in the cerebral cortex,” as well as more “information flow” throughout the brain. “In other words,” Fadiman added, “we don’t have the faintest idea.” Everyone laughed.

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