Justin Zhu, head of the marketing platform Iterable, took a microdose of diethyllysergamide – a psychotropic drug better known as LSD – just before starting a business meeting. The substance allowed him, he said, to improve his concentration.
For the start-up, whose turnover amounts to more than 2 billion dollars, it is the consternation. Company co-founder Andrew Boni told employees Zhu was fired for violating company policies, values and employee handbook; he did not give further details on what led to his ouster. He also clarified that the deviant behavior of his collaborator had ” undermined the board’s confidence in Justin’s ability to lead the business going forward “. Boni therefore takes over the post of Managing Director.
LSD has been illegal in the United States since 1967; the Convention on psychotropic substances established by the UN in 1971 banned it from almost all countries. But it turns out that in recent years, taking microdoses of LSD or other psychedelic drugs, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, has become an increasingly common practice among entrepreneurs. Those who experiment with it claim that the drug can stimulate the brain and increase productivity or creativity.
“A more positive outlook on life”
LSD (from German lyserge saüre diäthylamid, or lysergic acid diethylamide in French) is a substance synthesized from a fungus, Claviceps purpurea, a parasite that affects rye. It is a powerful psychotropic agent, which causes hallucinations and extreme stimulation of the brain. It acts on neuronal connections and disrupts the regulation of several neurotransmitters.
As early as 2010, James Fadiman, a psychologist and longtime advocate for psychedelic drugs, began to promote the use of very small doses of psychedelic drugs like LSD for completely different effects. A microdose of 10 to 15 micrograms, or about a tenth of a standard dose, every three days, would make the most of the stimulant effect of the drug.
Thus, in recent years, in Silicon Valley, more and more workers regularly take very small doses of LSD, which they obtain on the black market. But the objective here is not to afford a psychedelic parenthesis far from reality, on the contrary. Increased concentration, better mood, more positive outlook on life, this is what they get from taking tiny amounts of this substance. ” I was focused, more creative, more joyful too. And more talkative. In the context of work, I often tend to be reserved. There, I no longer had the desire and the courage to share my opinions », Testified a regular consumer in a Canadian media in 2017.
Although it is classified as a narcotic and despite the risks it poses to health, LSD is currently the subject of several studies. Some researchers are particularly interested in its use as a treatment for certain mental pathologies, such as addiction or post-traumatic stress disorder. But the science behind the trend towards microdosing LSD to improve mood and performance is actually far from conclusive.
Effects that lack scientific evidence
Some studies have found that microdosing LSD can actually improve mood and sociability. Gabriella Gobbi, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, studied the effect of microdoses of LSD on mice. Her results suggested that they helped improve their mood. The researcher emphasizes, however, that the practice is not without risks for humans. ” Our research suggests that there is a therapeutic window in the action of LSD, but that it is very small. The difference between a good dose and a bad dose is very small – just a few micrograms. People at risk of developing mental illnesses, in particular, are at significant risk She warns.
Because if LSD does not cause any dependence, it can cause a depressive state in the hours following the intake, and cause psychosis, paranoia and especially flash back – visual hallucinations which may occur several months after taking.
Separately, in a 2019 study, doctors administered nearly 50 elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease low doses of LSD to see if it impacted their cognition or balance. They found that the treatment could be used to prevent or treat inflammation in the brain, thereby slowing neuronal deterioration. But a study published in March in the journal eLife, conducted on nearly 200 participants, found that low doses of psychedelics actually gave the same results (better mood, more energy and creativity) as a placebo, suggesting that the possible benefits could be just as psychosomatic. as pharmacological.
Likewise, an article published last year in Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience examined the different results obtained by the use of psychedelics as a treatment for dementia. While the authors claim that psilocybin (hallucinogenic mushrooms) and LSD may have a therapeutic role due to their potential to stimulate neurogenesis and reduce neuroinflammation, they also point out that ” Robust scientific studies on the cognitive effects of microdosing in humans have so far been limited to acute changes in very small studies in cognitively normal individuals “. In other words, the scientific data is lacking.
Psychedelics can have other uses as well. Last year, a team of Dutch researchers also found that microdoses of LSD could be used as an alternative to opioids like morphine. LSD could therefore have an interesting therapeutic effect, under certain conditions, under medical supervision and at certain doses. However, the illegal status of this hallucinogen slows down and limits scientific research. And while waiting for more data on the short and long term effects of microdosing, it is better to abstain. ” Resist the temptation to self-medicate with these powerful substances. The idea is to understand their mechanisms of action, in order to produce drugs that do not have the dangers of LSD and other drugs. », Gabriella Gobbi concludes.