“Microdosing” on psychedelic substances like LSD—ingesting just enough to heighten cognitive faculties, enhance creativity, improve concentration and alleviate depression—is currently back in vogue among people not normally associated with anything remotely ‘countercultural’ in the USA.
The term psychedelic was coined in 1958 by British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond and is derived from the Greek words psyche (“soul, mind”) and delein(“to manifest”), hence “soul-manifesting,” the implication being that psychedelics can access the soul and develop unused potentials in the human mind. It’s a contention that’s gaining increased acceptance in mainstream universities.
New York University, for example, is hosting clinical trials using psilocybin to treat alcohol addiction. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) has been at the forefront of research in treating patients suffering from chronic treatment-resistant PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with MDMA, commonly known as ‘Ecstasy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently designated its MDMA-assisted psychotherapy project as a ‘breakthrough therapy.’ Apart from MDMA, MAPS also advocates the use of Ayahuasca, Ibogaine and medical marijuana for a variety of conditions ranging from bipolar syndrome and drug addiction to autism-related disorders, ADHD and clinical depression.
The therapeutic use of psychedelics isn’t new. Between 1953 and 1973, the US federal government funded over a hundred studies on LSD with more than 1,700 subjects participating. Psychedelics were tested on convicts, substance abusers, people suffering from chronic depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenics and terminal cancer patients. LSD was also tested on artists and scientists to explore its effects on creativity, and on divinity students to examine spirituality from a neuroscientific perspective. The empirical data gathered from these tests was largely positive.
LSD “truly was an acid, dissolving almost everything with which it came into contact, beginning with the hierarchies of the mind… and going on from there to society’s various structures of authority” says author Michael Pollan in his book How To Change Your Mind: The New Science of Psychedelics. And that’s what makes this subject socially and politically interesting.