by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:
Whenever an irrational and inhumane law remains on the books far longer than any thinking person would consider appropriate, there’s usually one reason behind it: money.
Unsurprisingly, the continued federal prohibition on marijuana and its absurd classification as a Schedule 1 drug is no exception. Thankfully, a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs shows us exactly why pharmaceutical companies are one of the leading voices against medical marijuana. It has nothing to do with healthcare and everything to do with corporate greed.
– From last month’s article: The Real Reason Pharma Companies Hate Medical Marijuana (It Works)
This isn’t my typical kind of article. Normally, I’d include something like this in my links post, but as I continued reading this piece it became apparent this is one of the most fascinating things I’ve read all year.
What follows are excepts from the Wired article, Would You Take LSD to Give You a Boost at Work? WIRED Takes a Trip Inside the World of Microdosing. I strongly suggest reading the entire thing.
It’s 7am on a sunny Friday in a shared house in the sleepy San Francisco neighbourhood of Richmond. Flatmates buzz in and out of the kitchen as Lily (not her real name), a publicist for several startups, sits down with cup of tea and a credit-card-sized bag of dried magic mushrooms.
The 28-year-old breaks up the caps and stems and places them into a herb grinder. She then scoops the pulverised mixture into empty gel pill capsules, weighing each one on a tiny scale. Once finished, she pops one of the capsules into her mouth and washes its down with PG Tips. She’s now ready to start her working day.
“It helps me think more creatively and stay focused,” she says. “I manage my stress with ease and am able to keep my perspective healthy in a way that I was unable to before.”
Lily is one of many young professionals in San Francisco and beyond experimenting with “microdosing”: taking small quantities of psychedelic drugs – typically LSD or psilocybin mushrooms – every few days in the hope of improving their performance at work. In small amounts, say, a tenth of a full dose, users don’t experience a consciousness-altering “trip”, but instead report improvements in concentration and problem solving, as well as a reduction in anxiety.
Proponents WIRED has spoken to – including software engineers, biologists and mathematicians – say that it induces a “flow state”, aids lateral thinking and encourages more empathetic interpersonal relations.
Albert Hoffman, who synthesised lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD’s full title) in 1938, and who took what is considered the first intentional LSD trip in 1943, microdosed throughout the last couple of his decades of his life (he died in 2008). The father of psychedelics, who lived to be 102, found consuming LSD in small amounts clarified his thinking, according to Dr James Fadiman, a long-time friend.
A Reddit forum dedicated to the practice has grown its subscriber base from 1,600 at the start of 2015 to almost 7,500 in mid-June 2016. Google search volumes for the term “microdosing” have grown at a similar rate. Although WIRED found no completed clinical studies looking specifically at microdoses, Fadiman has been carrying out his own research by collecting anecdotal reports from volunteers who self-administer the drugs.
Fadiman offers guidance to participants on how often to dose and, in return, asks them to keep a journal of observations. He started collecting these reports in 2010, following the advice of friend Albert Hoffman, who described microdosing as the most under-researched area of psychedelics.
The high-pressure startup culture of the Bay Area leads many participants to view their bodies and brains as machines to be optimised using all of the tools available – meditation, yoga, Soylent, intermittent fasting, so-called “smart drugs” (including off-label ADHD and narcolepsy meds), microdosed psychedelics and legal nootropics.
The trend for using “smart drugs” can be traced back to schools, where Ritalin and Adderall prescriptions are rife, explains Anjan Chatterjee, a professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania. Children even at preschool age find themselves in competitive environments with dense schedules of study, tutoring, music lessons and sport.
Those who aren’t already prescribed ADHD medication can buy it with ease; a series of surveys suggest that around 20 per cent of US college students have abused prescription stimulants. It’s something Lily, who has been prescribed ADHD medication since she was six, can relate to. At university she would share her prescription with friends seeking help focusing on assignments – something that she continued when she entered the working world. “It’s what fuels not just the tech community but any millennial trying to work really hard and make it,” she says.
At the start of her career working in a tech startup, she found Adderall useful. “It helped me launch a company. We went from three cities to over 30 in six months. I felt like a rockstar but I was being an asshole,” she says. Lily started to research microdosing psychedelics after experiencing unpleasant side effects from the amphetamine-based drug. “My heart would be racing when I took it, and when I didn’t I’d experience withdrawal and feel really dumb – like my brain was slowing down.”
Even though magic mushrooms and LSD are illegal in many countries, Lily views them as safer than her legal meds. Not only are the doses small and infrequent, she has found no evidence that psychedelics are physically addictive. “I don’t think we’re going to find out that microdosing fucks up your liver,” she says.
Lily still takes her ADHD medication, but microdosing magic mushrooms has allowed her to substantially reduce her dose. “In a perfect world I don’t want to take Adderall at all,” she says. Lily’s case highlights how inconsistent policymaking around drugs can be. It’s fine for six-year-olds to be prescribed amphetamines, but it’s illegal for adults to turn on, tune in and drop out.
Well yeah, one of them makes drug companies a lot of money, and the other doesn’t.
“As a society, we’re medieval in how we classify substances,” says Woo. “Some compounds are prescription-only, some are readily available, and some are illegal. And the classification is pretty arbitrary if we really dig into their potency, addictive potential and harm risks to self and society.”
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