The trend of microdosing is all the rage in Silicon Valley, but should one expect real improvement in getting work done just by taking a little bit of LSD in the morning? Here’s what we know.
Consider the problem that microdosing can solve. A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance shows that taking a little 3 microgram dose of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in the morning will improve cognitive performance, but only in certain users. The study’s lead author, Mary A. Cambridge, PhD, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh in the United States, said that the most likely reason is that different people handle the challenge differently.
“There are differences in how the brain responds to LSD,” said Cambridge, who was not involved in the research. “What seems to matter is the dose. In a previous study, some people who were given the same dose had big improvements in cognitive performance after a few days of experience. Others who took the same dose never became superior. Having a lot of experience does not make you one of the elite.
“The bottom line is that what matters about microdosing is what you can do as a result of your experience. And for most people, we don’t know how long it takes them to achieve high performance. But it’s not the time, it’s the dose and the experience. Each person builds on the experience by what they gain.
“What’s important is what you can do, not when you can do it. What people are doing with microdosing is learning what to do, how to do it, and then they use the information they’ve learned to improve their performance and their life.”
One of the most obvious differences that the LSD study points out is why some people respond to LSD and others don’t, which means that it may be that some people are the instant superheroes and others are not. That story is not uncommon among other drugs like alcohol or prescription medications.
The solution that Cambridge finds is that just because a person does well with a microdose dose of a drug, that doesn’t mean that similar improvement can’t happen with a placebo in the same person.
“The real point of the research is that microdosing has improved cognitive performance experienced only by those users who have access to a special kind of microdose. In other words, microdosing is more like a proctored exam than the benefits that you can get from triamcinolone or cocaine which are not based on users’ personal experiences.”
Microdosing with LSD is found to help some users improve their cognitive performance functions after about 4 days. So, the promise that has been made is that we are taking LSD and as a result we’ll improve our performance.
When asked about the pitfalls of microdosing, Cambridge said the real point of the study is that the task of microdosing could provide recurring evidence about whether further improved performance results.
Cambridge expressed that this research is “of concern” because the study provides “contradictory information about the effects of microdosing that cannot be explained by personal or anecdotal experience. We do not know if this is a different kind of ideal dose or if it is a false positive.”
Nonetheless, despite the research, the biggest advantage that Cambridge sees is that if you’re microdosing and you slip into a state where you may not be able to do the task, the next time (or even the other times) that you take the dose, you may find that you can, in fact, do the task.
“Whether it’s a slight improvement or not, the psychological benefit of microdosing is a real one.”