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learn | 01.08.2020

Silicon Valley Tech Workers Are Microdosing LSD At Work To Dramatically Boost Productivity

Workers at Silicon Valley start-ups are using LSD to gain “superhuman” creativity. Would the original psychonauts approve of their intentions?

Microdosing has been on everyone’s tongues for years. People are taking “subperceptual” doses of LSD or psilocybin mushrooms to achieve personal betterment, with proponents claiming everything from an increased sense of daily bliss to heightened productivity in the workplace.
San Francisco’s tech hub has picked up on the practice, with an increasing number of startup workers practicing a regimen of dosing every few days, so as not to experience diminishing psychoactive returns.  Rolling Stone describes the average experimenter as someone seeking an alternative to Adderall, an “Ubersmart twentysomething” curious to see whether microdosing will help him or her work through technical problems and become more innovative.

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Photo by Alex Dodd

Microdosing is a solution for many sleep-deprived tech workers in highly-competitive workplace cultures. Some workers describe seemingly super-human cognitive strengths allowing them to explore new lines of thinking and solve problems more creatively. Microdosing is taking enough to heighten perception, but not enough to get trippy.
Paulo Torres, a 32-year-old artist/producer for Five Towers in Los Angeles, believes it’s hard to see the original psychonauts endorsing the practice for such ends. It’s nearly reminiscent of the days when overworked, nonunionized factory workers would grab a cocaine-infused bottle of Coca-Cola at the refreshment cart to get through long labor shifts. People in the tech industry are already working at least 60 hours a week. It’s not just the overachievers; at some companies, it is simply the standard for employment.

Torres explained to me that he’s been micro-dosing with psilocybin for the five years since he had an existential crisis. “I reached a point in my life where I began questioning my purpose, what the world was, and why I was here. I felt lost”. Then he discovered Timothy Leary, and that’s when he started microdosing. Unable to find mushrooms in LA, Torres decided to teach himself how to grow his own. He ended up with some different varieties, made the mushrooms into capsules and journaled what happened when he took different doses. His process included meditation and eventually transformed him into something of a medicine man, and can now “administer the right dose for the type of experience a person wants to have.”

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Psychologist and LSD proponent Timothy Leary standing next to a mandala in 1966. By contemplation of mandalas, Leary said he was able to reach a higher level of consciousness. (Photo by Bettmann / Contributor/ Getty Images)

Torres says that microdosing makes his thoughts move more freely. “Anywhere that my awareness, thoughts, or senses went became an immersive experience. In modern society, we develop a numbness to our surroundings. We are of the world, and the world is not naturally like this: billboards, TV, big cities, etc. Many people never get outside of their conditioned minds; microdosing helped me find my true power. I create the experience I want to have in this life, and that is both healthy and exciting,” says Torres.

Torres believes using hallucinogens and psychedelics for egotistical ends can result in personal consequences. His philosophy resembles Leary and Ram Dass’ Harvard experiments with LSD and their ensuing writings, which don’t encourage using LSD to increase productivity for productivity’s sake but rather for dealing with what holds us back from realizing our full potential.

Perhaps we should not be questioning the validity of micro-dosing, but rather the intentions of those who try it.

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