Scientists swear to find out.
The practice known as ‘Microdosing’ involves self-medicating minute quantities of hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or mescaline (found in the Peyote cactus) every few days. Microdosing is different from high drug abuse as it involves ingesting small amounts (10 micrograms) of LSD or magic mushrooms (0.2-0.5 grams).
Those experimenting with this new health trend swear that the practice helps them perform better, boosts creativity, heightens focus by dramatically altering mood and perception.
The practice has emerged among growing numbers of Silicon Valley techies, engineers, writers, programmers and professionals. Even technology stars like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates admit to have experimented with LSD. The users share their stories of microdosing stating enhanced overall well-being, reduced stress, lower anxiety, improves sleep and even treats symptoms of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.
People claim microdosing leads to healthier habits and does not make them too high to cause hallucinations.
Scientists are not exactly sure how LSD works. It is however assumed that it acts by mimicking the effects of the brain chemical serotonin, which controls mood. During a psychedelic trip LSD activates ‘5-HT2A receptorsin’ the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. This is followed by increase in glutamate which enables transmission of these signals from brain to the nerve cells. The action of both glutamate and serotonin explains the phenomenon such as enhanced skills and improved learning at workplace, the natural consequences of microdosing.
But what does LSD do to you exactly?
In 2016, researchers from Imperial College London were the first to use brain scanning techniques to visualize how LSD alters the way the brain works. One key finding was that LSD had a disorganizing influence on cortical activity, which permitted the brain to operate in a freer, less constrained manner than usual. The results suggested that psychedelics increase communication between parts of the brain that are less likely to communicate with one another, and decrease communication between areas that frequently do. This likely underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during a LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call “ego-dissolution”, in which the normal sense of self is broken down. People instead often report a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world.
While many medical experts argue that this comes with its own set of side-effects in the form of anxiety, nervousness, feelings of being burned out, flashbacks and sometimes even depression. Since all the drugs used are illegal. Taking LSD, even a tiny micro-dose of it, is still against the law, and potentially dangerous. Consequently until now much research has not been done on the subject. However the rapid prevalence of this drug habit and its appealing antidepressant or anti-anxiety effects has prompted the need of a sober and careful look at these wonder drugs.
LSD might improve performance in certain areas
In the first of its kind study conducted, by scientists in the Netherlands, published in STAT found that ‘psilocybin microdoses have no noticeable effect on the problem-solving, rational-thinking, and abstract-reasoning ability called fluid intelligence. But they do seem to improve two forms of thinking that underlie creativity-convergent and divergent thinking.’
To understand the minimum LSD dosage required to trigger cognitive flexibility. Leiden’s Luisa Prochazkova carried out the study further with 38 volunteers. The volunteers were made to take three ‘psychological’ and ‘progressive matrices’ test before and after microdosing with 0.33g magic mushroom. Well, the volunteers did show significant improvement. They could think about more out-of-box techniques to solve the test problems given to them. The users claimed to have a calmed ‘mind-wandering’ which helped in improving their focus, efficiency and creativity. Since no other placebo (or drug) study was conducted in the parallel, it will not be completely fair to say that it was the psilocybin drug or the preconceived notion of their effect helped the volunteers to perform better.
The story doesn’t end here
A deeper study of long-term effect of LSD to understand its complete effects on human body are obviously necessary. As for now the strict legal restriction on research of LSD drugs have been relaxed. Though any kind of LSD drug consumption in any form without medical guidance and supervision is still completely banned.