Psychedelic Valley: Studying the Elusive Microdosing Trend
Psychedelics have made headlines over the past few years due to the microdosing trend that has swept through environments like Silicon Valley, and most recently due to studies in Europe seeking to discover if small doses of psychedelic drugs like LSD really do provide the focus, creativity, and productivity that micro-users claim they do. Microdosing with psychedelics is when users take approximately 1/10 of the typical recreational dose - so not enough to trip, but enough to open the mind up to forming new connections and enhancing creativity.
Silicon Valley is no stranger to the use of psychedelic drugs, as innovative thinkers including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were known to take LSD, and modern-day entrepreneurs are continuing the tradition - albeit at smaller dosages, perhaps - as they seek to see problems in a new light and disrupt business models and industries.
A recent study in the Netherlands tested a group of participants by measuring certain cognitive skills such creativity (divergent thinking and convergent thinking) and fluid intelligence (reasoning and problem-solving) both before and after taking a microdose of psychedelic mushrooms. The results did yield slightly higher scores on creativity; however, the study was not set up in a way to account for the placebo effect - users thinking a pill had an effect, when in fact it was just a mental reaction or emotional stimulus to the experiment.
A new study in London just kicked off last week, led by the Beckley Foundation and Imperial College London, comprised of volunteers who already microdose with psychedelic drugs. The study is 'self-blinding' (meaning that users will not know on a given day whether the pill they take is psychedelic or placebo), and also self-reporting (meaning that rather than taking place in a lab, the study will take place at home for participants). Participants will complete a series of online questionnaires and cognitive games, designed to examine their psychological well-being and cognitive function.
Like most research regarding microdosing, the study will only yield anecdotal results rather than empirical data. Several medical institutions have been able to capture brain activity while users are ‘tripping’ on a recreational doses of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, but these techniques have not yet been carried over to microdosing - especially since possession and use of the drugs are illegal, and many habitual microdosers prefer to remain anonymous. Psilocybin research is breaking ground though as scientists explore its use to treat anxiety, PTSD, and other mental conditions so maybe this form of biohacking isn’t actually too far off.
Top image by the Beckley Foundation.