Written by Ignatius Harling
I was recently asked by a friend – a respectable fellow and, interestingly, a former Evangelical Christian – for my views on the phenomenon of microdosing. Flattered as I was to be asked about such a thing (I used to consider myself something of a psychic explorer in my younger days) I was nevertheless intrigued. Why would anyone go to the trouble of taking small doses – anything from one quarter to one tenth of a "full" dose – of Psilocybin (magic mushrooms), LSD or any other psychoactive drug? Where would they obtain it and what would it do to them?
Information on microdosing is, as can be expected, sketchy. Whilst microdosers are happy to describe measuring and chopping up their psychedelics, they are a bit more guarded about their sources. LSD, Psilocybin, Cannabis and MDMA are all controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act in the UK and under similar legislation across most of Europe and the US. And whilst research into the therapeutic use of hallucinogens has continued sporadically, such legislation has discouraged this.
However, microdosing seems to be catching on in Silicon Valley and other well-heeled, Hi-tech industries. The rationale for microdosing is to do with experiencing the benefits of psychoactive substances without the risk of a 'bad trip' or other ill effects. Many people of my generation will remember stories about the brown acid at Woodstock in 1969. It was rumoured that strychnine had been used in the lab process. Many users became ill and warnings were issued from the stage. No, I wasn't there either!
In popular culture, the bad trip has been mythologised. Syd Barret, Pink Floyd's original brilliant, wayward and mercurial guitarist – the subject of Wish You Were Here – burned himself out at the end of the 60's. Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac's bluesy, husky voiced singer, guitarist and writer of Black Magic Woman was featured, disheveled and long fingernailed, in Richmond High Street, in the Daily Mirror in the early '80's: another "acid casualty". And of course there was Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze; (We all knew what that was about), and what happened to Jimi, though that's another story.
So what are the microdosers looking for? Many believe that psychedelics enhance the ability to “think outside the box”, enhancing creativity. The psychedelic experience is thought to be one of egolessness, a dissolving of boundaries between “self" and "other” – a realisation of the “interconnectedness of all things”. LSD in particular acted as a major stimulus to popular culture in the 1960's, especially in the US and Europe. Its impact was immense, influencing music, art, literature and graphic design whilst also fueling protest movements in the US and Europe.
But the new generation of microdosers are not wanting to “Tune In, Turn On and Drop Out”. They believe instead that microdosing may give them an edge in an intensely competitive industry. And many of them may be looking back to the heady garage industry days of Apple, Microsoft and other former hip – and to some extent, hippy - pioneers of the new age.
Whatever the reasons, the final word goes to the late Steve Jobs who, speaking on taking LSD, described it as 'One of the two or three most important things I have done in my life'.
If you would like to read more about the effects of narcotics and their role in society, check out: