From peace-out to competitive advantage

Timothy Leary has to be turning in his grave, this is not what he meant at all. Regardless of how you interpret his turn on, tune in, drop out message, I think we can be pretty sure that he didn’t see LSD as being a competitive advantage.

Yet that’s where we are in Silicon Valley and elsewhere at the moment. The current trend is to use a microdose of a hallucinogenic with the aim of being the best you; you might be more focused, you might be better tempered, you might be able to deal with the office jerk better. A microdose is somewhere between 1/10th and 1/5th of a full dose. The aim is to get the positive effects of the drug without the mind-altering side effects of an LSD trip.

It comes with a health warning

Make no mistake: Hallucinogens are Schedule 1 controlled substance, there are penalties for possessing and selling and they are significant. There are no micro-penalties for a microdose either, you get the whole enchilada.

Now with that out of the way, you have been warned, we can move on to the discussion.

Lots of emotion but not enough science

In the ‘60s psychedelics gained a following as a mind expander. It was an odd time. The Second World War veterans were now in their 40s, their children in their 20s and younger and busy rejecting everything their parents stood for. The advent of the pill brought about a beginning of the fight for equality women continues to this day.

No wonder youth society welcomed anything that expanded consciousness and had the potential to make you a more empathetic (and especially) anti-war person. If Leary was to be believed that was his tune in part, a tuning into the zeitgeist rather than nihilism.

It was all lovely, hippy-trippy stuff until the bad trip came along and then it was not so groovy after all. In 1966 the UK banned LSD followed by the US in 1968. Its status is still one of having no medical benefit.

Microdosing sidesteps all of the bad trip issues. You simply don’t take enough to get into that situation. Some users have suggested that it has the benefits of Adderall (a drug for ADHD) but without the side effects.

But that is not the point. The aim of the microdosers is not to deal with depression or decrease anxiety. The goal is to increase creativity, focus and leadership.

The problem there is no science to back this up. The data is all anecdotal. A think-tank in the UK researches the efficacy of microdosing after the founder realized she played Go better than her opponent when she had taken a microdose and her opponent hadn’t. Even without being an expert in clinical trials we can see there are problems with the sample of two.

Scientists are quick to declare the current trend a fad, or at least having no basis in science. There is no answer as yet. This magical mystery tour is not over. Lucy is still in the sky.