Does Microdosing LSD Really Improve Cognition?

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

In the past, I have discussed how the leading innovators in the nation are currently using the schedule one drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide to get ahead of the game and change the world. What I did not explore, though, is if LSD was actually assisting these Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Is the use of very small amounts of LSD just some sort of fad without a real effect? Are these entrepreneurs experiencing a placebo high that is doing nothing to actually boost their performance?

Can LSD really make you smarter?

To find out, we need to look at the bit of science we have on LSD. Of course, LSD is illegal in most places across the world, making scientific evidence on the drug very scarce. However, the little bit of science we do have, along with plenty of anecdotal evidence, is enough to show that there may be some fruit to pick from this psychedelic compound.

Reason TV profiled George Burke:


George claims that taking small amounts of LSD (between 10 and 15 micrograms) has assisted him in both business and climbing, but is he experiencing confirmation bias? Is his expectation of a certain enhancement from LSD triggering a boost in mental confidence, meaning that all the help he’s getting come from himself?

To answer this, we should look into the work of James Fadiman, who was mentioned in the video. Before LSD was banned in the United States, Fadiman was blessed with government sponsorship so that he could study it.

In 1966, Fadiman and his team conducted the psychedelic problem-solving experiment. 27 males in various fields were given either 50 micrograms of LSD or 200 milligrams of mescaline. They were all able to tackle professional problems they had been stuck on. Their enhanced functioning took many forms: low inhibition and anxiety, capacity to restructure problem in larger context, enhanced fluency and flexibility of ideation, heightened capacity for visual imagery and fantasy, increased ability to concentrate, heightened empathy with external processes and objects, heightened empathy with people, subconscious data more accessible, association of dissimilar ideas, heightened motivation to obtain closure, and visualizing the completed solution.

So the 1966 experiment shows that LSD can help, but it was still unsure how it could assist cognition. Further research has revealed that LSD activates the serotonin 2A receptor in the brain. This receptor has various functions, but the important one to us is the role it plays in higher cognitive and integrative functions.

LSD activates a receptor in the brain that boosts our cognition. The breakdown of the science shows that LSD activates proper receptors to prove the anecdotal evidence of George Burke and the experiences of those in Fadiman’s experiments. LSD makes us able to think better.

So why microdosing? Why not just shovel as much Lysergic Acid down our gullets as we can fit? There is a pretty clear reason: hallucinations. If you are working on an important project, the floating and warping geometric shapes will probably get in the way of your work.

Another study found that there is a positive correlation between the cognitive enhancements of LSD and blissfulness and depersonalization. If you begin to cognitively leave your body and get swamped in the euphoria, you can’t work. That is why these entrepreneurs are finding the sweet spot by microdosing. By taking only 10 to 15 mcg every few days (to avoid building a tolerance to the non-addictive substance) they can skirt by the hallucinations and engage in high cognition activity better than their sober peers.

The only real danger to microdosing LSD is the United States Federal Government. Drug policy is archaic and based off of Nixonian racism, yet contemporary politicians want to keep up their role as some sort of nanny to the population. But this is not a policy article, this is an article about cognitive enhancement.

And we have the verdict: LSD makes you smarter.

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