If you’re angling for a raise and also enjoyed either version of Limitless, this tiny pill we got off the internet is for you. And if you’re open to the idea of biohacking — unleashing the realultimatepower.net hiding inside you — then you may want to pull up Google and start researching nootropics, wake-promoting drugs such as modafinil, and, now, LSD.
Should you really be trying to do LSD at work? Recently, Josh Dean over at GQ dove into this topic — yes, by doing a “micro-dose” of LSD right there at his desk — and found some fascinating results. On one hand, it’s probably not a good idea to do drugs at work (unless you’ve discussed it with your manager beforehand and brought enough to share with the office), on the other — drugs and supplements meant to boost your brain power are becoming a bigger business than ever before.
As Dean points out, bi0-hacking didn’t start in a research laboratory. It started at companies where employees were pushed to work hard, work fast, and produce results. And while you can probably do all of that just by sleeping eight hours a night and eating a balanced diet, some people feel like they need to bring something more to the mix. Since there’s only so much that ginseng and gingko biloba a person can do, we’ve seen a rise of buttered up coffee and pills that will keep you awake for days on end.
These young, overwhelmingly male technologists are dabbling in, say, holotropic breathing or cryotherapy; they try fasting for days at a time; and increasingly they pop supplements that target brain chemistry—so-called nootropics, a category that includes everything from the off-label use of prescription drugs like the biohacker favorite modafinil to pills they make themselves by stuffing powdered bulk chemicals bought from Chinese websites into capsule cartridges. At the heart of it all, biohacking is being driven by one of Silicon Valley’s prevailing sentiments: that anything can be optimized to run better, so why should the human body be any different?
As an aside, I tried Modafinil after we first covered it on this website; first from an online pharmacy (because the pills without insurance cost around $400-600 at your local Walgreens), and then as a prescription from my psychiatrist, who warned me that it might throw off my sleep cycle and give me heart palpitations.
“I didn’t like it,” she told me. “It made me feel like I’d just drank too much coffee.”
That’s the same feeling it gave me. And after trying it for several weeks (and then needing to take a Xanax to stave off the oft-ensuing panic attacks), I gave it up. It simply wasn’t worth the hype. But that hype, even without a great deal of research to back it up, is undeniable. Even when it comes to moving from stimulants and stacking supplements — an entrepreneur told Dean that he takes “60 supplements a day” but only tells reports it’s 30 so they don’t think he’s “nuts” — to psychedelic drugs.
Here’s how Dean describes his experience of learning about using LSD as a productivity hack:
Up onstage, the legendary psychedelic psychologist Dr. James Fadiman told the crowded room that the key to unleashing the benefits of the drug was all in the dosage. The doctor explained that taking a smaller amount than usual—something on the order of one-tenth of a typical “party dose”—would stimulate the mind in all kinds of positive ways.
Just how or why is yet unknown. Fadiman admitted that the research is scant. But his own informal study, relying on volunteers dabbling with LSD and other hallucinogens like psilocybin, shows that users feel less anxious, more at ease in social situations, more creative, and less prone to severe migraines. Such usage—which Fadiman recommends only once every three days—also seems to help reduce cravings for things like cigarettes and Adderall, the ADHD pill commonly abused by people hoping to work harder and longer.
Recommend that all you like, but you know the same people who decided that it would be a good idea to drop acid at work to up their productivity will also think “hey, if it works once every three days, imagine how much more I’d get done if I did it every day? What if I was doing double the dose?”
And, in fact, that has happened. Unhappy with not feeling any effects immediately, some people took the Maureen Dowd approach to doing drugs, taking more and more LSD until they weren’t able to work or falling into a pit of existential angst when they realized the product they were working on was “sh*t.”
That kind of personal realization is important, but when it comes at the expense of your job — which you were taking the drugs to get better at in the first place — then you’ve got to stop and think about whether all this bio-hacking is really even worth it. At what point does it cross over from “getting the most out of your brain” to a self-destructive obsession? And at what point do we stop letting work culture off the hook for forcing us to stay at the office longer than is healthy and start disconnecting to recharge instead of looking to drugs to make our days more bearable?
Turns out, we should start thinking about that soon. Because just like my misadventures with modafinil, Dean’s attempts to turn into a writing god by taking drops of LSD didn’t do much for his prose or productivity. In fact, while he’s considering getting more LSD in the future (best of luck! don’t operate heavy machinery!) he points out that when you’re trying to improve something such as cognition, there aren’t any easy scales to measure yourself against. And so you’re always left wondering whether the drugs are working or whether you’ve been hit by the placebo effect. Hey, that could be worthwhile it in itself! For the rest of us, it might be better to stick to boring old coffee.