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LSD 'microdosing' is trending in Silicon Valley (theconversation.com)
95 points by evo_9 on Feb 25, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 131 comments



I would strongly encourage anyone looking for new perceptions that aid in concentration and/or creativity to first really try, and properly try, and without giving up too soon, the art of meditation.

It's cheaper, safer, longer-lasting, and most certainly a higher-quality experience once properly learned.


"It's cheaper, safer, longer-lasting, and most certainly a higher-quality experience once properly learned."

A lot of people say this, but most of them have never tried psychedelics at all, much less had high-dose, strong trips. In those cases, I'm not sure they know what they're talking about.

There are others, like Ram Dass, who definitely have had strong trips, and many trips at that. They tend to have a much more nuanced view of the value of psychedelics. Instead of merely saying "meditation is better", they can actually have a meaningful conversation on the relative value of the two approaches.

To anyone interested in another side of the subject, I recommend The Paisley Gate by Erik Davis.[1] In this and other talks, Davis explores the historical role of psychedelics in bringing many practitioners to Eastern religions and meditation, and their continuing role in enhancing the practice.

[1] - https://techgnosis.com/tantra-of-psychedelics/


> "A lot of people say this, but most of them have never tried psychedelics at all, much less had high-dose, strong trips. In those cases, I'm not sure they know what they're talking about."

What you say is true, but meditation comes with two major benefits over recreational drugs of any type: it's not illegal, and you (the meditator) have control over the quality.

It's a good place to start; you can easily try something different if it doesn't work, with no regrets.


There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Yes, meditation is legal, and yes there is some control over the meditation experience (though how much control varies from person to person.. some people do seem to have negative experiences and have meditation bring up material they are not ready to deal with, especially without a guide).

On the other hand, most people agree that to get serious results from meditation you have to put in a lot of effort and practice it for a relatively long time. For many people that amount of effort and dedication is unrealistic, especially if all they have to go on to believe that it will eventually pay off is somebody else's word.

Psychedelics, on the other hand, provide virtually instant results. They are also relatively easily available to anyone, requiring almost no effort and no dedication to a long-term regimen of practice. There's no free lunch, however, and so psychedelics do come with their own risks -- risks that can be mitigated to a great extent by thorough preparation, having an experienced sitter, having the proper mind set, etc. But the risks can not be eliminated altogether.

Further, while a psychedelic experience can be profound, it is usually short-lived unless the insights gained during the experience are integrated constructively and put in to practice somehow in one's life -- something most people are not trained to do or even realizing they could/should be doing. A long term meditative practice, on the other hand, will almost by definition have long-term effects.

Another potential benefit of psychedelics is that the access they provide to non-ordinary states of consciousness and mystical experience, and the very real questions they pose about the nature of reality could ignite in the prepared mind a need to seek and perhaps to be open to trying things like meditation. They could also give a glimpse of what could finally be attained through long, hard practice, and some even continue to use psychedelics to enhance their meditative or spiritual practices.

I know in my own case, my experience with psychedelics ignited a life-long, deep interest in philosophy, religion, meditation, other means of attaining altered states of consciousness, and in what lies beyond the appearance of reality. Would I have gotten interested in those things otherwise? Possibly, but I doubt they would have been as important to me had I not had the glimpses of other worlds and other possibilities that psychedelics provided. I know I am far from the only on in feeling this way. I've heard many others credit their psychedelic experiences in similar ways.

From meditation I've learned to deal better with stress, to relax more, and not to get caught up so much in my emotions. Those are great skills to have, but not even remotely close to a psychedelic experience. Some long-time practitioners have reported "enlightenment" or "kensho" experiences with meditation, but there's no guarantee you'll ever have one, and not likely that it'll happen without a ton of practice (some say many lifetime's worth). Even then, those types of experiences in meditation are considered merely another step on the path, a very, very long path.

All in all, this is a complicated subject, without clear cut answers regarding which approach is "better".


At that, between LSD and meditation, I've had much stronger and longer lasting effects from LSD.

While I strongly recommend meditation for absolutely everyone, and would not make such an unconditional statement for LSD, but it is an absolute mistake to disregard how powerful of a positive force LSD can be in a person's life.


Regardless of the merits of meditation, this post is a textbook case of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. Didn't help? Well, then you didn't _really_ try. Not for you? You didn't properly try. Had better effects from something else? You gave up too soon. Anything with this much up-front effort to derail falsifiability merits skepticism.


Sorry you're so skeptical, but a lot of people dismiss meditation after a superficial experiment, without any real understanding of what it its.


I cannot agree with this enough. I have a very very very rigid morning routine that includes deep breathing and internal listening. I started doing this when DigitalOcean began to scale and my Dr. prescribed Fluoxetine, I learned about meditation for concentration and creativity. Not only was I able to manage my stress better and curb my adderall usage, but I also became more focused and sharper.

Edit: I've tried all the psychedelics ad nauseum, fun but not for me when it comes to working. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Can you suggest where one can start learning "how" to meditate?


I think everyone's practice is a little different, and I highly recommend finding people IRL who meditate and ask them about their practice. I sorta have my own thing that I've made up in my routine. Happy to expand on it but not sure HN is the right place. Foundational books that got me going in order of importance for me:

15 Laws of Growth: https://www.amazon.com/15-Invaluable-Laws-Growth-Potential-e...

The Bhagavad Gita: https://www.amazon.com/Bhagavad-Easwarans-Classics-Indian-Sp...

The Four Agreements: https://www.amazon.com/Four-Agreements-Practical-Personal-Fr...

(Note: grew up Christan in rural Scotland now agnostic chilling in Manhattan, so no religious slants)


> not sure HN is the right place

I see meditation coming up so frequently in discussions here, I wish some high karma person would post a "Ask HN: What's your personal meditation routine/journey, and what has it done for you?"


There are also meditation classes given all over the place. Try a web search for "meditation" and your geographical location, and you're bound to find something. You can also look at physical bulletin boards in libraries and coffee shops. Those often have fliers for some meditation centers or courses. You can also look for meditation-related meetups on meetup.com or on craigslist. Finally, you can try asking around at your local religious establishment. Though it's mostly associated in popular consciousness to the Eastern religions, meditation has played important roles in all the major religions.

One thing to keep in mind is that there are lots and lots of different approaches to meditation. An approach that has been mostly de-religionized called "mindfulness meditation" has been very popular in the West in recent years, but there are many, many other methods too. Unfortunately, I know of no one comprehensive guide to all the different types. The information tends to be scattered all over the place.


Your local library, or nearest equivalent is a good place to start. Read some books on the subject. Meditation is one of those things that you can get to from a lot of different, equally valid directions. Just be careful that you're getting into meditation for its own sake, and not something culty/religious.


You still get the benefits if you are religious and approaching it from that angle, though!


Yes, definitely, I realize that I what I said could be misconstrued. I meant, more or less, that you can run into some pretty shady/silly practices out there attached to meditation. Most religions do have a tradition of meditation, whether or not their adherents are aware of it.


I liked _Mindfulness in Plain English_: http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/mindfulness_in_plain_eng...


It took me years... years... but the result of meditation (and some CBT in there to guide the process) is that I went from daily, crippling anxiety to virtually none at all now. It was harder than taking a pill at first, but I see where the people who went down the benzodiazepine road are today, and for me at least, I know I made the right choice.


To those who've heard of CBT but don't appreciate "what it is", I found this 30 minute video very informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEsYiCDoJks


Chiming in to fully support - the benefits are clear and until you have actively put the time into learning and practicing it will be hard to recognize them.

I recommend beginning with some Guided meditations (just search until you find some you like) no more than 10 minutes to start. Once you feel you have familiarized yourself with techniques continue without the guide. 20 minutes a day - I personally do it in the AM after a run - is all it takes. Better concentration, focus, helped me personally "slow down" my impulsive reactions, better relationship with my business partner (more patience), and a better sense of self.

The list really does go on and yours will be unique to you. Try it!


I'll second that. There is nothing that will change your life more than developing a daily meditation practice.

My mindfulness practice helps me to achieve direct insights in software engineering, though that's not the reason I do it. I do it for the insights into my own psyche, and for my mental health. It just happens to be the case that quieting the chatter in you mind will help you step out unproductive thought patterns in engineering more quickly.


Does meditation quiet the mental chatter only while meditating, or do you find it has a calming effect in general throughout the day? (Did you perhaps alter other aspects of your life as well to contribute to that, such as reducing exposure to the news? Something else I am considering.)


I would say it has a calming effect throughout the day, because when you sit you practice the mental activity of bringing your attention to the present moment. It's like building a muscle; when the muscle is stronger you can use it throughout the day. At first it's very hard to control your attention, but with practice you get better at it, and will start to notice your mind going off into repetitive thought patterns sooner.


The above has been my experience also. It's sorta like I discovered how to interface with my mind? I can kinda be like... yo, what do you think about this? listen for a bit to what is "said" and then move on.


What would you recommend, how could one start meditating? Is there a practice, or book or something you would specifically recommend? And what time interval would be not "too soon" in your opinion?


I am a huge supporter of Headspace (the app), and 4 other people in my life stuck with it after passing through many other options.

Headspace offers a broad library of targeted programs, and I can pick a topic that causes the most friction right now - be it anxiety, productivity, relationships, health, etc. Each program has a supporting structure and provides continuity for my daily practice. I feel like I'm taking new baby steps every day, and that sense of progress is motivating for me. I decide on my time commitment (for me it's 10 minutes), and just put in headphones and sit down. I have my phone and headphones nearly all the time, so I've done this on the train, in the park during lunch, on a side street bench, in a taxi, etc.

In the year I've been using it, I have never finished a 10-minute session without feeling significantly lighter and more composed when I got up. I still don't do it daily (humans, hey), but for me it was the only thing that stuck. Give it couple weeks.


I've done the first free 10 days and was surprised by the results from something so simple.


I've done a fair bit of reading for it, but I have to say the Calm app is the thing that really got me to stick with it. The presenter works for me (some people swear by other apps, I think it's going to be a matter of taste) and there's a bit of commitment there that guilted me into sticking with it. There's also a free 7 day trial so there's no cost to trying.


Not directly about mediation but helped me get into it: The Bhagavad Gita - (I grew up Christian in rural Scotland - no religious slant here)


For the a-type personalities that can't see themselves meditating, try the triple combination of a 20+ minute cardio workout while meditating, and additionally give up alcohol. The triplicate combo is amazing for your body and your mind in so many dimensions. I use guided visualization meditations, sorta like trippy radio drama, and the workouts virtually disappear. Plus, you start looking great, which is a nice bonus on top of feeling self actualized.


I wi second giving up alcohol. It's a CNS depressant whose effects last longer than most users realize. Is still have it every now and then but I notice a softer brain for at least 48 hours after.


LSD happens to be really really cheap! Like €4,- so microdosing is probably cheaper than smoking. They say it also lasts for many hours.

The rest of your points are still valid though :)


The trip from LSD lasts many hours. The peace of mind lasts for days. That calm can let a person relax when they elsewise would not be able to. The obvious analogy (though it isnt perfect) is that a vacation helps you even once you are back at work: even once the LSD has worn off the fresh memory of being at peace with yourself can help marvelously.


Or just go to bed at a reasonable hour.


The practice of meditation makes me curious. Isn't the active ingredient of it just to take a break from outside stimulation for a while rather than to go through all the requirements of formal meditation - like not allowing your mind to wander off?


This is a common misunderstanding about meditation. In reality, the requirements of formal meditation are exactly what makes it work. Just taking a break does not have the same effects at all.

It's really hard to explain why- it feels to me like it's a weird quirk of the mind at times, because of how it only works if you follow the steps precisely.

At times I feel like it's the focus that you constantly bring yourself back into that helps. At others, I think it's the recognition of all the thoughts that are swirling around your head. At others, I think it's the anti-anxiolytic effect of simply dropping your worries.

I don't understand it at all. But it works.


When I meditate, what my mind does or doesn’t do makes no difference. It really has nothing to do with me. I pay no attention to it. I basically sit as if I am dead, not responding to anything internal or external. If thoughts come, they come. If thoughts don’t come, they don’t come. Either way, I simply sit. It's oddly relaxing and energizing at the same time.


You're comparing apples to oranges though.


If that's so then I'd say apples (LSD) and oranges (meditation) are both fruits of inner discovery and empowerment.

Meditation is a much more sustainable, healthy solution, though


You really should try both though.


Ah yes... you see it anywhere that people are closely matched and seek perceived "edges". Athletes wear their copper bullshit, Valley types take stimulants and psychedelics. It's a symptom of people not understanding the nature of survivorship bias, hindsight fallacy in general, and an inability to delay gratification for a greater reward.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the drug, but there's something inherently wrong with the behavior around it, by people who are so desperate for edge. Down that road ultimately lies Lance Armstrong, and East German women with beards.


> East German women with beards.

FWIW Doping was common not only in the GDR at that time. USA and even Western Germany also did quite a lot of doping.

What was special in the GDR (As far as I know) that it was done without consent or even information to the athletes and it started quite early. Athletes were told to get vitamin injections and stuff like that.

This was a case of the system wanting to be the best in sports and sacrifing the health of it's people for it.

It's a complete different thing than to consuming drugs to be more effective or successful in the system.


You are claiming the majority of people's behaviors in finding "the edge" are driven by biased beliefs.

All behaviors are based on biased beliefs and not many of us are entirely cognizant of our true nature. Simultaneously, some realize we will never know all of our true nature while here in this reality because for something to know itself requires recursion and infinite memory space.

It is true that you are making conflicted statements, but I don't think your observations are that far off the mark. The conflict comes from the unknown variables and the use of biases to do discovery. In other words, it's a fair use of the dissonance present in all of us.

Also, I've heard that LSD, and psychedelics in general, are not addicting given they affect the consciousness process, not the body. If that's true, this would eliminate the women with beards problem.


The comparison of copper bracelets to LSD is pretty weak in that if you take LSD, something WILL HAPPEN


You can take a sugar pill and something will happen... we're talking about a microdose after all, not a full hit.


Go take a sugar pill and 50ug of LSD and tell me which one is a placebo.


Your last paragraph contradicts your first -- top athletes doping do get performance gains, while your first paragraph seems to indicate you don't think that small doses of LSD are effective (for the people taking them).

I get you might be against performance enhancing drugs wholesale, but there's nothing "inherently wrong" with taking a chemical to perform better. If anything, it should be a personal choice, like working longer hours or taking a higher risk job.


>There's nothing inherently wrong with the drug, but there's something inherently wrong with the behavior around it, by people who are so desperate for edge. Down that road ultimately lies Lance Armstrong, and East German women with beards.

In other words, if you're desperate for an edge and willing to spend money, compromise your health and integrity for it, then you'll eventually move on from expensive bullshit like copper bands, to blood doping (in the case of sports). Right now, with the state of the "art", you're mostly just hurting yourself, but I think it's reasonable to assume that given the money and interest, it will be determined which drugs/methods do yield actual results.

If the attitude remains the same, "Anything for an edge," then when that comes you're going to be screwed as a group.


It only compromises your integrity if you're claiming that you're not doing it -- in my experience, most people microdosing LSD don't brag about how they're not doping. Lance Armstrong, however....

I personally am on the fence about LSD microdosing (and relatedly, most nootropics). There's evidence on both sides and much of it likely comes down to personal psychology and physiology.

I think we are going to have to accept the future where unenhanced humans are (largely) obsolete at the top (say, 0.1% or 0.01%), though: if it's not drugs, then it'll be cybernetic implants.

I think we might actually agree at a deeper level, and disagree how to address it: you seem to be interested in regulating the actions of people to prevent a tragedy of the commons situation, while I think we need to change the fundamentally exploitative economic structure that's precipitating the tragedy; I think both of us are more concerned with the coercive aspect of the problem than that people are doping.

I don't want people to be desparate for an edge, but I also think people have a fundamental right to burn brighter for less time if they want to. But I don't like the ratcheting of that becoming necessary for survival any more than you do.


It definitely sounds like I want to regulate, but for all that I see these as problems, I see prohibition and the usual course of hamfisted regulation as even worse. I accept that people have varied natures and drives, and some will seek edges to the point of self-destruction. Of course, some few will find real edges and prosper too.

I would dream of the kind of solution you're talking about... changing the landscape, but it's hard to imagine that happening in a positive way anytime soon. You're right in your conclusion about the right of people to push themselves, even to destruction. Imagine if the Curies had been told to quit with the experimentation by modern Health and Safety?!

The problem is... Japan. Look at what it's like to work in Japan. They have all of these ideas about what you need to do to be working "110%" (roughly translated). You stay late, leave after the boss, drink like a fish, and a bunch of other things that largely do not improve life or productivity. If the search for an edge were not so tightly bound with how work cultures change, permanently, it would be less of a concern.

Still, the solution, whatever it may be, is not regulating essential freedoms.


I get why an athlete that uses drugs for an edge can be considered to be compromising their integrity. But how does that translate to micro dosing LSD while working? (regardless of it being effective or not).


Why is microdosing LSD compromising health? There is no evidence for that


I'm not sure there is or isn't evidence but if you study the brain I think you can come to some plausible conclusions that it does compromise health to some extent.


Conclusions? You mean 'ways'... the only way I know of - apart from individuals not prone to developing schizophrenia - is taking a lethal dose. The LD50 in humans has not been established but it might be similar to nicotine, around 10 mg/kg. While acid is cheap, it's a few hundreds times more then the typical dosage (40 micrograms). Albert Hoffmann writes in "LSD, my problem child":

"The LD50 for the mouse amounts to 50-60 mg/kg IV (that is 50 to 60 thousandths of a gram of LSD per kilogram of animal weight upon injection of an LSD solution in the veins). In the rat the LD50 drops to 16.5 mg/kg, and in rabbits to 0.3 mg/kg. One elephant given 0.297 g of LSD died after a few minutes. The weight of this animal was determined to be 5,000 kg, which corresponds to a lethal dose of 0.06 mg/kg (0.06 thousandths of a gram per kilogram of bodyweight). Most animals die from a lethal dose of LSD by respiratory arrest. The minute doses that cause death in animal experiments may give the impression that LSD is a very toxic substance. However, if one compares the lethal dose in animals with the effective dose in human beings, which is 0.0003-0.001 mg/kg (0.0003 to 0.001 thousandths of a gram per kilogram of bodyweight), this shows an extraordinarily low toxicity for LSD. Only a 300- to 600-fold overdose of LSD, compared to the lethal dose in rabbits, or fully a 50,000- to 100,000-fold overdose, in comparison to the toxicity in the mouse, would have fatal results in human beings. These comparisons of relative toxicity are, to be sure, only understandable as estimates of orders of magnitude, for the determination of the therapeutic index (that is, the ratio between the effective and the lethal dose), is only meaningful within a given species. Such a procedure is not possible in this case because the lethal dose of LSD for humans is not known."


I said compromise health to some extent, this could be even in small ways. I wasn't considering death as a "compromise to health".

Just take a look at any fundamental neuroscience/brain biology textbook. I would guess that most likely continued microdosing would lead to downregulation and added stress on the pre and post synaptic neurons. Does this mean death? Probably not. Does it have long term effects? I'm not sure, I haven't read the research literature.


Can you go into a little more detail? I have never heard anything like that.

While it is just anecdote, the first person to synthesize the drug (and use it, and later practiced microdosing), Albert Hofmann, died from heart attack at the ripe age of 102 with a healthy mind.


Sure. This is just a higher level overview of the brain, I'm sure there are experts who can dive deeper into this matter.

The brain is an extremely delicate organ, or atleast that's what I would consider it. It relies on maintaining balance and uses negative feedback. In an effort to regulate brain activity, your brain will do things like down-regulation as an effort to bring your high activity brain (while on lsd) to a more normal level. I haven't looked into exactly what happens with LSD besides that it acts on serotonergic pathways, but sustained high activity can also lead to cell death.


Asking questions of dissonance leads to more dissonance. :)


I would put that into the "Copper wristband" category. Meanwhile Modafinil...


Meanwhile Modafinil and other drugs made lives of thousands of people better allowing them to get back on track in life, fight depression, be able to focus and get a job etc.

Drugs are demonized in our culture but a lot of people can get a lot of benefits out of them, that includes steroids as well if you know what you are doing.

You don't make anyone any favors by spreading illegal drugs = health problems attitude.


I'm not advocating prohibition of any drugs. I can be against that, and still see the folly in desperate edge-seeking behavior.


Anyone here able to recommend a source of Modafinil that doesn't require a prescription?


You mentioned health which is a valid concern, but integrity? It depends on the context of course but saying this generally invokes naturalistic fallacy moralizing-- that anything not "natural" is wrong.


I just wanted to add nootropics to the conversation. They weren't mentioned in the article which is weird because it would fit as a legal substitute within the behavior. I don't know anything about it though.


compromise your health and integrity for it

Why is microdosing LSD compromising integrity?


I would say not at all, your health on the other hand, is very much an open question people are now endeavoring to answer with their own lives.


Thankfully an entire generation of users has helped answer the question of whether or not LSD is safe.


It's hard for me to imagine getting any meaningful programming work done on even a low dose of acid.

One look at my computer and I go "I sure waste a lot of my life on this thing. I'm going to go outside."


A microdose is not a low dose, it's a dose where you don't notice you are tripping but your perception and concentration is enhanced


I'm a SV entrepreneur who is pretty well-connected with the community here (only mentioning this for the sake of credibility).

Maybe it's because I missed Burning Man this year, but I haven't heard of anybody doing this outside of articles on garbage news outlets like TechCrunch that say people are.

Marijuana or Adderall, sure (Meadow and Eaze are doing well here); maybe even the /r/nootropics stack, but not hallucinogenic substances.

I know people who have experimented with shrooms, but they don't consider them a "drug of choice," let alone a productivity enhancer by any means. In fact, one of my acquaintances ended up going off the deep end when he started taking LSD. It was a really sad story.


Absolutely, taking LSD can end poorly. There is plenty of evidence for it. Some people view their experiences during a trip as more important than their daily lives, and down that way lives nothing good.

In fact, the morning after my first trip on LSD I thought "I should not do that more than, at absolute most, once a month." It did turn out to take me about a full month before I could take what I had experienced in stride, without any lasting delusion about the nature of the real world.

But I will tell you with certainty (while the article maybe over blown) there are many people, myself included, who work in SV and take great comfort in sub-threshold psychedelics. Without it, I worry too much and am a perfectionist to my detriment. With it, I can contribute without fear of judgment.


I'm pretty sure I'd just fall down a YouTube hole and never recover.


That's what psilocybin would do, maybe not lsd. Shrooms will send you to the woods though for sure


I'd probably take too much, turn inside out and get stuck to the ceiling.


I interpret this as Silicon valley losing its way. I'm not judging LSD use, but if you need it to get through the day then you need to find a different career. If you need your high paying, high stress job to afford your lifestyle, you need to find a more economically friendly environment.


Microdosing LSD is not about "getting through your day." If you were complaining about adderall addiction, maybe you'd have a point. Microdosing LSD is about changing the user's thought processes, making them more creative and more able to make and explore abstract connections.


I'm sure it varies quite a bit from person to person. LSD does have a mood enhancing element.


You may be right. But I see it from a different angle. I don't see this as using drugs to get through the day. I see it as trying to get something for nothing. It feels like a very Silicon Valley attitude to want to discover a free lunch; some sort of bonus optimization.

I would probably most expect this to come from Silicon Valley, Wall Street, professional sports, etc. Anywhere that fosters an attitude of seeking significant optimization or getting something for nothing.

Though this is all just personal perception. It's certainly filled with bias.


It's not trying to get "something for nothing", it's trying to tune your brain/body to the workload you actually perform by altering the way signals propagate.

Tuning low-level settings to optimize the stack for the workload expected is standard engineering practice. Heck, we even do it in hardware: deciding if we want higher single-thread performance or higher throughput for a given heat envelope.


It sounds you practice micro dosing? You speak nearly in a vernacular about it


If you see ten dollars on the ground, is there harm in picking it up?


Careful not to over-micro-dose, then it's just a really weird day at work. Heard from a friend.


Or a really fun day at work!


Possibly a really fun last day at work


Makes sense in theory and to be honest is intriguing.

Provided the quality and dosage was strictly controlled and adjusted to fit the user. Discipline also needed to avoid too much too often. Doesn't help that it's illegal.

You wouldn't want to be doing it to fix a "normal problem" that could be addressed by eating nutritious food and getting more sleep for example.

Psychedelics aren't suited to capitalist agendas either. The idea is to use psychedelics away from the office for perspective and focus shift. I suppose that's normal dosages though, and the idea here is micro-dosages which would be more like a good strong coffee but a clearer more mental buzz.

An extra hit above the micro-dose might make you shut down your PC and head to the park for the rest of the day. Risk.

Let's face it, we're not all building things that are making the world a better place. Psychedelics tend to expose anything trivial that's masquerading as important. Your ability to discriminate genuine from fake is sharper. At normal dosages at least, you feel attracted to these insights and will follow them out the door if that's where they lead.


gwern has a great write-up on this: https://www.gwern.net/LSD%20microdosing


Where he reports a null result. It's wasting your money, take a full dose or not at all.


It's a sample size of one, even a well designed test is basically meaningless. Plus, from my research on the subject, a full dose can have positive effects for months after the experience. Taking a full dose around a week before the experiment may have tainted the data.


It's a sample size of one, but considering the rigorous methodology used I think it counts for at least as much evidence as the anecdotes of people going "it totally boosts my creativity man" with no control group and subjective measurements of efficacy that are highly vulnerable to a placebo effect.


go big or go home!


I feel like I have the obligation to say that if you are a generally a happy person and good at what you do I highly doubt taking LSD in any dose is worth the risk of a bad trip. Not sure why HN has an affinity for LSD? It's pretty psychologically dangerous imho.


Bad trips have been the most valuable trips for me, the ones from which I've learned the most. Not to say that I'd seek them out deliberately or anything, but I think it's a mistake to view bad trips as necessarily worthless or necessarily harmful.

I see bad as confrontations with one's psyche, with one's subconscious, with things one has been denying or avoiding in ordinary life. To the extent you consciously face your demons on a bad trip and try to learn from it, they can be of great and profound value. For me it has been, as they say, like years of therapy compressed in to hours. Both the good and bad trips have also radically changed my understanding the world and the horizon of what I consider possible.

As much as I'd like to, I don't think I can in good conscience recommend that everyone take psychedelics, as everyone is different, everyone reacts differently, and people at different stages of their lives are ready or not ready for certain experiences. Especially at the higher doses, it could be a very profound, life-changing event -- for better or worse.

I would definitely treat it with the highest respect if one ever considers trying it. Those who decide to would be wise to prepare thoroughly, find out as much as they can, have an experienced sitter they trust, do it in a safe, supportive setting and with a healthy frame of mind where they have no other obligations at least for that day and the day after. Best of luck.


Not sure why HN has an affinity for LSD?

Please don't make generalizations about the entirety of HN. You're a member of the HN community as well: do you have an affinity for LSD? If you have some stats backing this up, I think a lot of people would find it interesting: at least I would.


I think it's clear that lcw was making an observation about the tone of HN comments on the topic. I found it to be a reasonable one that matches my perception.

Disputing his comment makes sense if you think he's wrong, but it seems unreasonable to require people to back up such commentary with "stats".


There's a tendency in discourse to make generalizations across large groups of people, which degrades our ability to see the nuance and diversity of opinion and perspective that clearly exists. This gets particularly pernicious when discussing contentious topics. Given the how damaging this can be (current political discourse in the US or here on HN is a good example), making such generalizations really needs to be justified.

In 'lcw's comment, the generalization doesn't add anything substantive to the comment. Indeed, one could read it as disparaging to the HN community because it's too naïve to understand the risks of LSD, rather than granting the members the benefit of the doubt that they're capable of making reasonable decisions. And that's ultimately the point: by making generalizations like this, it doesn't add anything substantive or constructive to the comment and ignores the wide range of opinions across the HN community.

Edit to add: As an aside, you mention that 'lcw's observation matches your perception. It's well known that our perceptions are often wrong, or at least skewed. That's why backing them up with data is important, to make sure our perceptions are consistent with reality.


Healthy discourse can include both qualitative and quantitative commentary. I think HN readers can generally differentiate between the two. We don't need comment police complaining that some qualitative comments are lacking statistical support.


Sure, there can be qualitative and quantitative commentary. I don't agree that generalizations of groups of people are worthwhile qualititive commentary. One final question: is 'lcw's initial comment improved by the inclusion of the statement regarding HN?


> is 'lcw's initial comment improved by the inclusion of the statement regarding HN?

Why does it matter? Is lcw's statement regarding HN improved by the initial statement?


> There's a tendency in discourse to make generalizations across large groups of people, which degrades our ability

> It's well known that our perceptions are often wrong

Is these not generalizations across large groups of people?


There's a tendency in discourse to make generalizations across large groups of people, which degrades our ability

Look at the discourse on HN, particularly on contentious topics, where people make general statements and then attack each other for apparently including unjustified assumptions in those general statements. Or look at the the polarization in the US where it's so often the case that it's "us" vs "them", bucketing people into two groups, without recognizing that there's significant overlap in values between them.

It's well known that our perceptions are often wrong

I would consider cognitive bias to be a pretty well-accepted idea. One of the strengths of the scientific method is that it provides a way to attempt to remove cognitive bias from observation. Do you disagree?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_bias

I didn't think my initial comment was going to result in this contentious thread. I'll leave it at that.


> and then attack each other for apparently including unjustified assumptions in those general statements

So, are the assumptions unjustified or not? polarization is self-fulfilling, if people believe that it is "us" vs "them", then it is "us" vs "them".

> Do you disagree?

Disagree with what? The statement is very general.

The statement "some things are True, some things are not True" is tautologically true, and utterly unproductive.

but I think you've missed the point, the intersection of the two:

> it's well known that our perceptions are often wrong

If this is an example of a "generalizations across large groups of people", then you claim to believe that it "degrades our ability to see the nuance and diversity of opinion and perspective that clearly exists".

You can't be exact about large groups of people to absolute resolution, there is always a degree of generality. Your own statements show that, either a) there are some statements, perhaps due to their passivity, can be made about large groups of people (but as a result, say very little) OR b) there is some acceptable level of generality when talking about large groups of people.

My conclusion is that either, there is a correct level of generality (that you don't establish), or that you can never talk about large groups of people, or at least say anything productive about them.

> I didn't think my initial comment was going to result in this contentious thread

I think everyone speaks at some level of generality about many things, whether they realise it or not; so simply language policing others on that basis begs a lot of questions.


Thank you for taking the time to dive so deeply into my comment. For my own edification, I'd appreciate it if you would go a bit further. Assuming I have a point that I actually believe, what point is it that you think I'm trying to make? Regardless of whether you agree with it, how would you express that point more clearly? You point out, for example, that part of it was tautologically true and utterly unproductive. How can it be improved?


> Assuming I have a point that I actually believe..

This is like saying "assuming that 1 + 1 = 3, what is the square root of 7?"

If I don't understand there to be a valid point in your comment, I can't very well adopt your comments and try to rescue them..


Thank you for confirming. I sincerely wish you the best.


Assuming, dubiously, that you are sincere - Confirming what?


you're not going to bad trip on a small dose. Also, probably not dangerous. Compare that to your concentrated coffee.


Apart from the fact we're talking about microdoses, this seems exactly backwards. Surely if you are a happy person your risk of a bad trip is much reduced?


I think microdosing LSD for the purpose of increased work performance is absolutely ridiculous. I have absolutely nothing against performance enhancing drugs in the workplace or other areas so long as the drugs themselves can be taken safely, but I think the use of LSD and psychedelics in general for this purpose is misguided for several reasons.

I think self-reported gains in creativity are meaningless in defending LSD microdosing. Psychedelics are not magic creativity chemicals and their use does not inherently make anyone more creative. How are we defining creative? What does that even mean? Is the code I wrote on LSD really that much better than the code I wrote sober or on a different drug or combination of drugs altogether? What about strategic business decisions, design work, or documentation? How does one accurately measure 'creativity'- is that even a desired trait while working for most people?

I also don't see why it's necessary to use hallucinogens during the work day. Why can't you just drop acid on the weekend or vacation when you actually have the time to enjoy the experience (as heavily as you'd like) in whatever setting you feel most comfortable in? If you really are invested enough in your career to do psychedelics for the sole purpose of workplace creativity, can't you just do your creative thinking then? I think this approach to applying hallucinogens to your work would be as effective as microdosing, if not more so.

My biggest criticism is this though: isn't the whole point of psychedelics the expansion of consciousness and wisdom beyond its current state? The psychedelic community is generally a fairly anti-authoritarian one and I tend to think that it's not just because the state often treats the use of hallucinogens with the same level of violence as far more socially dangerous behavior. Using psychedelics for as shallow of a reason as coming up with ways to better optimize your stupid advertisement platform to sell foot cream to seniors is a tragedy. Besides, there already exist drugs for this purpose (coffee).

And these points ignore the main risks which are obviously being caught and having an adverse health effect.

I think this is a stupid trend highly indicative of just how boring and uncreative the tech industry is. At the end of the day, some of us use drugs to get through the work day. If you want to use psychedelics to do so, that's your business, I don't know how you function, but I doubt you're drastically outperforming the coffee guy or the straight edge guy at the office.


There have been some studies on the effect of psychedelics on creativity. A particularly relevant study by Oscar Janiger has been documented in LSD, Spirituality, and the Creative Process.[1] Other studies (including ones on microdosing) are discussed in The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide by James Fadiman.[2]

That said, this is a wide open field that could greatly benefit from more research. I am hopeful that such research will once again become acceptable to the scientific establishment before too long, as a number of studies on other effects of psychedelics have recently been completed with much success.

[1] - https://www.amazon.com/LSD-Spirituality-Creative-Process-Gro...

[2] - https://www.amazon.com/Psychedelic-Explorers-Guide-Therapeut...


What I wonder is whether the stuff on the street is really LSD. There's a lot of counterfeit material floating around, and (as far as I know) no testing kits that can detect the real thing. I'd be very wary -- especially at larger doses.


LSD is usually LSD because it is way more potent per unit volume than any other recreational drug. It's also cheap per dose. In terms of not knowing what you are getting it's much more common to find stuff like 'mdma' actually containing LSD. It's true it can be hard to know the dose. I'd also be very wary more because LSD can cause harm than it possibly being something else.

As an aside here's a dosage guide: https://www.reddit.com/r/LSD/comments/2hg6io/different_dosag...


"LSD is usually LSD because it is way more potent per unit volume than any other recreational drug."

This used to be true, but is very unfortunately not true any more. Newer synthetic drugs, like bromo-dragonfly, are approaching LSD in potency[1] making them essentially indistinguishable from LSD in practice, and resulting in actual fatalities.[2][3]

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromo-DragonFLY#Dosage

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromo-DragonFLY#Toxicity

[3] - https://erowid.org/chemicals/bromo_dragonfly/bromo_dragonfly...


There absolutely test kits that can tell the difference between, say, LSD and the 2C variants.


That's good to know, but at typical LSD dosages the 2C variants wouldn't be the ones I'd be worried about. Are there any kits to tell LSD from drugs like bromo-dragonfly?


I don't know about microdosing, but 300ug kept me 40+ hours awake and caused anxiety/insomnia for 6 months afterwards. So be careful.


I'll stick to meditation, yoga, and the occasional premium IPA. I do understand the compelling nature of chemical enhancement - especially for creative endevours. David Bowie cranked out amazing albums year-after-year while high on coke. But like usual, it became a problem he had to address.


Heavy stimulants are like running your car with NoS all the time. You'll get amazing performance until your engine fires a rod through your hood. Bowie had a near psychotic break.

Much lighter use however may be more sustainable. There is no law that says the human brain can't be tuned a little for different modes, and I have no problem with people doing that. There may still be tradeoffs though, so anyone doing this should try to be self aware and observe the effects carefully.


Hmm, i thought your body builds tolerance to LSD very quickly. I've seen people at music festivals take twice as much the next day to get the same effect.


It does. You're supposed to microdose every 4 days to avoid tolerance buildup.


But why?


How about not? Drugs still have incredibly harmful effects. Some people take trips and never come back off these drugs. Imagine going to work in the morning on a supposed "micro"dose just to realize you had an overdose and end up in a psych ward for two weeks. You'll also likely lose your job as most tech companies have no drug in the workplace policies...

This is just another BS article from someone who knows nothing about how drugs can very dramatically Fuck up a person's life.

(How do I know? I've worked with many recovering drug addicts in the past who all wish they had never started in the first place)


I'm sorry, but this sounds extremely ill-informed. You completely fail to distinguish between different drugs (which can be anything from caffeine to meth to "approved" medical drugs). Despite high school propaganda, it's not appropriate to lump them all together. Referring to them as "these drugs" is revealing.

Nobody "never comes back off" LSD - it isn't even addictive, and tolerance builds rapidly so it soon stops working anyway. It can be dangerous, if taken to extreme excess and/or combined with other factors like sleep deprivation or other drugs - but you'd really have to try, and "ending up in a psych ward for two weeks" is very unlikely.

From your perspective, I'm going to guess that the "drug addicts" you worked with were on something altogether more addictive and damaging, perhaps tobacco or alcohol. Don't generalise that experience to "drugs", unless you want to be dismissed as someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.


Imagine not being totally clueless, dosing appropriately, and having a relatively normal (perhaps a bit more open-minded) day at work. Not all drugs are created equal, and almost all of them can be used responsibly.

I find the micro dosing trend distasteful, but I hate anti-drug propaganda even more. This is just another BS comment from someone who has never done drugs and looks to force their misinformed values and opinions onto others.


Drug abuse is a real thing and has extremely negative effects for individuals and those in their lives.

That being said, it's a public health issue, not a criminal one. Abuse can also be significantly curbed by open and honest discussion about the benefits and negatives of various drugs. The DARE and scare model is an abject failure.


Absolutely. I have no interest in partisan arguments on the issue, that's all.

edit: fwiw imperio59 has a post history repeatedly denigrating LSD, psychology as a valid scientific practice, in addition to advocating for and linking to Drug Free World, a Scientology-backed nonprofit. Not even worth replying to.


Your comment regarding another member would have a lot more weight coming from an account with some history. It's bad form regardless to make comments like this, but you're also using their comment history in doing so, yet denying others from knowing your own.


Mostly out of ignorance many people abuse drugs, use them casually, without any respect for them or much knowledge either of how to use them or their dangers, believe in all sorts of myths about them, and even use them in self-destructive ways. Then they blame their negative experiences on the drugs.

It is possible to use psychedelic drugs constructively, in positive settings, and with knowledgeable sitters who can provide support when needed. Studies have shown time and again that such an approach maximizes the chance of very positive, profound experiences that are highly valued by the subjects for many years. That doesn't mean the experiences are risk-free. One could have a negative experience even when one has prepared thoroughly. But even negative experiences can be valuable if one faces them and tries to learn from them.

One other thing we should recognize is that people are going to alter their consciousness somehow. It seems to be a fundamental human need. The "just say no" approach does not work for a significant proportion of the population. Wagging fingers at that population and continuing to tell them "just say no" can even be counter-productive, as what is forbidden often becomes more alluring. Much more constructive and helpful is teaching people how to use these substances in a healthy, positive, and non-destructive way.


> Some people take trips and never come back off these drugs

What? Hallucinogens don't cause physical dependency and tolerance builds quickly so psychological habits are hard to form as well.


HPPD is definitely a real thing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hallucinogen_persisting_percep...

And there is some evidence that taking psychedelics can precipitate long lasting or even chronic psychosis in those with genetic predispositions

I interpreted what they said as a reflection of those facts, though you are correct that risk of dependence is relatively low


Sort of...

If you're familiar with the literature you'll find meta-analysis with a lot of phrases like "At present, HPPD appears to be a genuine but uncommon disorder". YEah, its in the DSM, but at best it's vanishingly rare. And according to the DSM past hallucinogen in combination with the symptoms alone is not enough to constitute a diagnosis of HPPD. It's also tangled up with a number of other confounding mental illnesses. And, even still it's believed that a user must possess preexisting risk factors in addition to heavy use to trigger HPPD. What I'm driving at is that microdosing is almost certainly unlikely to cause HPPD in healthy adults.


How do you know HPPD's occur when regularly taking microdoses instead of regal perception changing doses? It hasn't been investigated and I haven't read about it in anecdotal reports





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