Silicon Valley Is On LSD, And The Government Is Holding Them Back

What is this drug trend hitting our society’s innovators?


By Mason Mohon | United States

That guy who made iPhones? Yeah, he was a good for nothing druggy who would go trip like a degenerate in the woods on psychedelic drugs with his friends.

That’s probably how you’re going to conceive of Steve Jobs when I tell you that he tripped on acid a lot in college. If that is your conception, though, your conceptions may very well be wrong, and you may have a prejudice against anything characterized by the word drug like the old south had a prejudice against those characterized by the word “negro.” Open up a little bit, and let your conceptions be shaken, because it may very well be the case that nearly every modern silicon valley innovation may be coming from the depths of drug-induced flows.

The Rolling Stone reported back in 2015 that lots of people in San Francisco are hacking the world by hacking themselves; they’re microdosing LSD, psilocybin, and other psychedelics. Microdosing is the practice of taking a very small amount of a psychoactive drug such to boost performance, decrease stress, and increase creativity. Typically, it will be about 10 micrograms of LSD or half a gram of psilocybin mushrooms.

The reports come from all over the world, but Fadiman says there’s a steady, consistent stream originating in the San Francisco area. The typical profile there is an “übersmart twentysomething” curious to see whether microdosing will help him or her work through technical problems and become more innovative. “It’s an extremely healthy alternative to Adderall,” says Fadiman, referring to a drug popular with programmers.

Ken, the fake name for the real 25-year-old Stanford graduate working a tech startup, is just one profile for this growing innovation trend. Wired profiled Lily (another fake name) who will take a small amount of magic mushroom with her morning tea. They had the following description of microdosing:

In small amounts, say, a tenth of a full dose, users don’t experience a consciousness-altering “trip”, but instead report improvements in concentration and problem solving, as well as a reduction in anxiety.

Ok, cool, so these young people are taking drugs, great, but these internet companies just have a few profiles – that doesn’t say anything about the broader topic of the effectiveness and safety of improving labor through the use of drugs.

Where’s The Science?

We cannot base any conclusions off of a few internet profiles. We need to stick to the well studied and credible scientific data to know whether or not what they are doing is a good idea. We should break down the data and look at the actual aspects of whether or not this is safe of effective.

Obviously, drugs are illegal. In the 70’s, then-President Nixon declared the war on drugs, causing various substances to be listed as schedule one. Today’s  most popular psychedelics are on that list. Because of this, it has been incredibly difficult to study the effects of microdosing, but it has been done.

Jim Fadiman is the world’s leading researcher on the effects of psychedelics on general productivity. Right now, he is working with hundreds of people who microdose every four days and keep a journal of the effects.

In keeping with the received wisdom, those taking LSD microdoses reported a remarkable increase in feelings of determination, alertness, and energy, as well as a strong decrease in feelings of depression. Interestingly, however, Fadiman noted that microdosing LSD didn’t seem to work out as well for those who entered the study on the basis of anxiety alone—microdosing LSD actually seemed to increase their anxiety. However, those participants who cited anxiety and depression, rather than just anxiety, noted an overall increase in their feelings of mental wellbeing.

Of course, we cannot rely solely on data entirely based on self-report research. Luckily, Fadiman has been at this for a while. All the way back in 1966, the government funded his psychedelic problem-solving experiment. People from various fields were brought in to take tests and work to solve a problem in their field, which could range from mathematics and architecture. The results are in, it would boost concentration, creativity, and limit anxiety.

The only real criticism it has received is that the mescaline (another psychedelic) used in the experiment was used in conjunction with methamphetamine. Regardless, the effects of LSD have remained undisputed.

You can read about Fadiman’s ‘66 experiment here and here.

Clearly, it produces the desired results. The programmers and artists aren’t stuck with a placebo productivity spurt, but at what cost. How safe is microdosing?

Our knowledge of the downsides of LSD as a whole is limited. What we do know is that those who have pre-existing mental ailments such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are at risk for HPPD, a disorder that can cause “flashbacks,” and a mixture of LSD with drugs like marijuana or alcohol can create what is known as a “bad trip.”

Adding even more mud to the murk is sites like Drug Free World, which I have personally termed “Source Free Information” because of the lack of any citations on the entire site. They publish sensational articles and scary videos, arguing that there are loads of adverse health effects. Doing this helps nobody, for it becomes harder to know what the facts really are.

The Government’s Role

The state has not been much help when it comes to finding out what is going on here. Before the seventies, LSD was being studied quite a bit, but once the war on drugs came along it has become incredibly difficult for scientists in the United States to research this.

There are two scenarios facing those that are microdosing today. The first is that what they are doing is dangerous and that the costs outweigh the benefits. The other, though, is that they are truly onto something and they have hacked life.

If it is true that these people are in danger and we do not know it, then the government is not helping one bit by keeping it illegal. As long as psychedelics are illegal, research into the harmful effects cannot be done, and the people using microdoses are at more risk day after day.

If, as a matter of fact, the San Franciscans are truly onto a real scientific breakthrough, the argument has set itself out as to why these substances should be legalized. A safe, productivity increasing drug has the penalty of the law behind it. If this is the case, there is no good reason as to why these substances should remain illegal.

Either way, the state needs to get out of the way. The way that we schedule drugs in the U.S. has caused LSD, marijuana, and heroin to all be listed as equally “evil,” which has lead to another, and maybe even worse, problem.

Societal Stigma

I would put down money that the person reading this article is a drug addict, because 54% of American adults drink coffee every single day, the active substance of which is caffeine. The jury is settled on this, caffeine is a drug.  It has withdrawal symptoms, a potential for overdose, and chemically alters your mind, resulting in the brain chemical that increases sleepiness to be held at bay.

Get off of your high horse that you are above the world of drug use. Nicotine, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and high fructose corn syrup all fit under the category of “drug.” What you are afraid of is illegal drugs, though, right?

If the line is “illegal,” you’ve got a bad line. The only real justification for that being a reason as to why drugs are bad is to avoid punishment from the government. What that means, though, is that you are not against the drugs themselves, you would rather just the consequences be avoided.

Not all schedule one drugs have the same issues, though, and that distinction should be made in one’s head. Heroin is much more dangerous than alcohol, which is much more dangerous than LSD. The government’s scheduling of drugs is the laziest and most useless way to feel the negativity of drugs in the real world.

The problem is people buy into this way. LSD, meth, and marijuana are now all the same in the mind of the average citizen. Tell someone you have used an illegal drug and their mind will immediately jump to the crackhouse junky who has six months if he is lucky. This is what I call the drug stigma; people have a preconceived negative notion about drugs (even though they themselves are probably an addict) so they don’t care to hear people out on their drug use, even to the slightest extent.

Some drugs are really bad. Those need to be treated and those people need care. There is a lot more going on in the mind of every addict than addiction to a specific chemical. It is wrong to treat a user of hard and dangerous opiates the way we do, and it sets up a dangerous way of looking at things to treat a psychedelic user the same way we treat an opiate user.

Steve Jobs should not be seen as a filthy degenerate because of his use of psychoactive substances, and you should not look at him that way. You should not look at any psychedelic user, whether they make “tripping” a habit or simply microdose that way. It is thoughtless, collectivizing, and ignorant.

And the government should get off their backs too.

Image from Vox.

  1. […] in silicon valley, where computer programers use the practice to improve creativity and focus.  71Republic recently reported on the […]


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