MISSOULA - Many of us drink a cup of coffee or an energy drink to get motivated in the morning. But some people are taking it one step further. They are microdosing; hitting a small dose of an illegal psychedelic drug to increase productivity in the workplace.
“I don’t want to hold this too long because I’m not trying to trip today," Scott said.
In order to protect his identity, we’ll call him “Scott.” He’s a college student at the University of Montana and is just a few semesters away from receiving his Bachelor’s Degree. He also works part-time.
However, to balance his busy schedule, he takes drugs. Small amounts of LSD, in fact.
“Take Shakespeare’s classic quote, “the whole world is a stage.” LSD is like a backstage pass. It’s like your part of the audience all the sudden…you’re not a character in the play, Scott said.
Scott gets the drug from a dealer and the dealer gets it from a producer, who makes LSD in bulk quantities. A typical trip would be around 100 micrograms of LSD. But, microdosing is a tenth of that; cutting the regular dose into smaller pieces. And Scott says it helps him with mental health, self-improvement and increases creativity.
“Something that tends to be really frustrating to me is with anxiety you get locked into those very rigid ways of viewing the world and viewing yourself. And the psychedelic experience really gives me the tools, I think, to observe the ways I am thinking about things without that dimension of frustration," Scott said.
Many associate LSD with the 60’s when flower children were attending Woodstock while rocking out to Jimi Hendrix and defining the hippie generation.
But this is not how the new age “microdosing” would be explained. It's high-level students, creative architects, innovative tech CEO’s -- it could even be the coworker who just got a promotion.
But is this self-medicating psychedelic treatment really a healthy option?
“There’s been some recent research on LSD again, so the FDA has started to re-approve studies. Some of those studies are showing some promising results," said Dr, Robert Munjal, a psychiatry specialist at Providence St. Patrick Hospital.
"Some more recent studies have been on depression and anxiety in cancer patients; where the long-term risks were not as worried about. There have been some really good results, so I think that there is potential for positive benefits," Dr. Munjal added.
Dr. Munjal says these studies were done in a controlled setting. He also added there are very serious side effects of using psychedelia, especially if someone is already struggling with mental health issues.
“They cause people’s ability to determine reality from unreality to unravel a little bit. They distort perceptions and they can even create perceptions that don’t exist, and so very many hallucinogens can mimic a psychotic state," Dr. Munjal said.
LSD users can also experience flashbacks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention LSD does produce tolerance, so some users who take the drug repeatedly must take progressively higher doses to achieve the same high.
Scott is just one of many young professionals who are microdosing in Missoula. They’re taking microdoses of hallucinogens before class or even work.
Deputy Missoula County Attorney James McCubbin says the use of psychedelics has become a growing concern in Missoula.
“We are seeing an increase over the last few months of both mushrooms and LSD and I have seen more referrals and aware of more law enforcement intelligence regarding those drugs," McCubbin said. "It does seem to be on the rise here. We're taking it seriously."
McCubbin told MTN News that being caught with these substances can result in felony charges for each incident of possession. The maximum sentence for a basic drug charge is five years and/or a $5,000 fine.
Some users say the benefits from microdosing are worth that risk.
“Lumping psychedelia into the same category as all of you narcotics and your amphetamines seems...it’s like linking snowboarding to golf because they’re both sports," Scott said.
"I feel like the positive and benefits largely outweigh any sort of negative stigma around psychedelics. I feel like the culture is going to shift when they realize that there is a lot of good stuff that can come out of moderate’s responsible use of drugs like LSD," Scott added.
Despite being illegal and knowing the long-term effects of hallucinogens to the brain, some users will continue to microdose LSD until a suitable or legal option becomes available.