|By Amanda Fortini
Suddenly it seems that everyone, from software engineers to "power women," is dabbing in LSD. Not in large, consciousness-altering amounts but rather in infinitesimal "microdoses" said to have an array of desirable effects: balancing moods, increasing focus, enhancing creativity and problem-solving abilities, even heightening empathy. After reading the breezy, well-researched new book "A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage and My Life" (Knopf), by Ayelet Waldman -- best-selling author, former public defender, mother of four, wife of novelist Michael Chabon -- I knew the practice had officially entered the mainstream. Then, at a party in Montana, not far from where I live, I ran into a clothing designer I know from the Bay Area. When I mentioned the book to her, she smiled: "I take a pinch of magic mushrooms every morning!"
"People report that it's like Adderall but with none of the bad effects," says James Fadiman, the Menlo Park, California, psychologist who popularized the term "microdose" with his 2011 underground book, "The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide." In fact, true believers make it sound like it's Adderall, Prozac, a venti Starbucks coffee, and a week-long meditation retreat combined into a single ingestible substance. A microdose is roughly a tenth of a normal dose: typically 10 micrograms of LSD, or .2 to .5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms. The effects of this amount are "subperceptual," according to Fadiman. In other words, no psychedelic fireworks. "The rocks don't glisten, not even a little," he says. Instead, the LSD, which works on the brain's serotonin receptors in ways that are not entirely understood (to "rearrange neural furniture," according to a "Psychedelic Explorer's Guide" case study) functions more like an antidepressant or a cognitive-enhancing drug.
Fadiman, who has been researching psychedelics since the 1960s and appears in Waldman's book, as he does in nearly all the microdosing literature, has created a protocol that consists of one day on, two days off -- or, a tiny dose every fourth day. (The second day, the effects carry over, and the third provides a baseline of normal functioning.) He suggests that self-study subjects keep "journal entries on [their] experience" and email him and his researchers the results. "In your report, we are asking you to expand our horizons, question our assumptions, and help us discover new facets of these fascinating and often misunderstood substances." Fadiman gets close to 75 inquiries a month and has received more than 200 self-reports.
Microdosing has not yet been extensively studied. (After a decades-long hiatus, psychedelic studies have been conducted at John Hopkins University, NYU, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and Imperial College in London, but these examined effects of full doses). Still, the anecdotal evidence persuaded me to try it. I've tried numerous methods to outsmart my melancholy, perfectionism, and chronic disorganization, from fasting to supplements to nootropics, and I regularly consume obscene amounts of caffeine to boost energy. What's one more substance? Plus, Fadiman tells me, Albert Hoffman, the discoverer of LSD, microdosed in the final decades of his life -- and he lived to be 102.
I read online that it's quite easy to buy LSD form the dark web, but the mere thought of bitcoin feels daunting, so I ask a painter friend if he knows where to get some. He does. I dilute a tab in water by following instructions I find online. I don't feel much, but I do get my work done without fighting the usual undertow. It's a relief. A microvictory.