What if there was a psychoactive drug you could take during the workweek to boost your productivity? In low doses, it would help you focus, make you friendlier, and put a slight bounce in your step. The effects would be subtle, often imperceptible, but undeniable.
That drug’s name is caffeine and it is legal, cheap and—unless you eat spoonfuls of it in its purest form—safe.
But if you’ve read a slew of trend pieces starting with a Rolling Stone feature last November, you might think that some of your officemates are taking small doses of LSD for an added boost. They’re probably not.
“Microdosing,” as the practice is called, has been around since at least 2011 when Dr. James Fadiman published The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, in which he claimed that taking an extremely low dose of LSD—about 10 micrograms—every few days could aid in problem-solving without sending you on a full-on trip.
But ever since the brief Rolling Stone piece, almost every outlet has reported on rumors of its increasing frequency, especially in Silicon Valley workplace culture. Motherboard, Vox, NBC News, Time have all covered it. Forbes called it “the new job enhancer in Silicon Valley and beyond.” The Telegraph declared that “an increasing number” of Bay Area workers were trying it out.
But the trend, it turns out, has largely been media-driven. As of this writing, there have been dozens of articles on LSD microdosing. For comparison, Fadiman, the microdosing guru who was quoted in the original Rolling Stone feature and almost every subsequent article, told The Daily Beast that he’s received “probably 100” reports from people who microdose.
“Since there was this barrage of articles, it has become more popular,” he said. “I would say [it’s] probably enormously media-generated.”
Dr. Matthew Johnson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on drug addiction, has been skeptical of the breathless media coverage of LSD microdosing from the beginning. He told The Daily Beast that there is “no evidence that this is a big thing.”
“People are saying, ‘Oh gosh! This is the latest craze! Everyone in Silicon Valley is doing this!’ [But] there’s no data on that,” he said. “What we do know is that there are a bunch of articles being written about this. And I’m sure some people are trying it because of reading those articles.”
The November Rolling Stone article featured an interview with a single Bay Area professional who took LSD at work. It referred to him, without citation, as one of a “growing number of young professionals” who did so.
This week, San Francisco’s CBS affiliate KPIX 5 used the exact same phasing: “A growing number of Bay Area professionals,” they noted, are microdosing LSD. The station found their small handful of interview subjects at a commemorative event for the inventor of LSD—hardly a random sample of Bay Area professionals.
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