We're entering a new age of psychedelic testing.
To most people, LSD is a dangerous, psychedelic drug; they want nothing to do with it. But a few people, including a growing Silicon Valley voice, says that it sharpens their thinking and stimulates creativity -- but there's a catch. You don't just take the drug, you microdose it.
Microdosing LSD (or magic mushrooms or other hallucinogenic drugs) is the practice of administering doses so low that they don't have any major effects on the whole body, but they still have an important localized effect. Proponents of this method say that it has many of the drug's benefits without any downsides, while scientists... don't really say anything, because the technique hasn't really been studied.
Microdosing has taken much of California's tech world by storm but it's still illegal, so we don't really know how many people are doing it, and we don't really know what its effects really are. Researchers at Imperial College London want to change that.
Starting September 3rd, they will launch the first research project to study microdosing, and it's a rather unusual study at that.
Because it would be prohibitively expensive to carry out a regular trial with illegal drugs (not to mention it would be nigh-impossible to get approval for it), Balázs Szigeti, the study leader, devised a "self-blind" setup -- inviting people who already microdose to either take a microdose capsule or an identical dummy capsule instead. Without knowing which is which, they will then play cognitive games and complete questionnaires and tests.
“The people who microdose right now are not an average random set of people from the street,” he said. “They are very likely to have used psychedelics before and have preconceptions about them.
“You are doing something novel and exciting and that you believe in – and you know you are doing it. It is absolutely no surprise that you are getting a positive effect.”
David Erritzoe, who is working on the study with Szigeti, admitted that it is “in all ways an unusual project” and that the number of participants is quite small. However, he says that the self-blinding approach is feasible, and if it's successful, could raise more interest and plant a seed for further studies.
“They could do it and they found it fun and stimulating,” he said. Those taking part could break the blind themselves if they so wanted but, he said, “hopefully they will be on board and try to get it right by following the manual.” He and Szigeti say that if results are interesting, more conventional trials should be carried out.
While it's still a tedious process, the world is slowly opening up towards studying psychedelics -- they certainly have some potential and it's an avenue worth investigating.