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Silicon Valley's Best-Kept Productivity Secret
" ... Psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin, the active chemical in hallucinogenic mushrooms, are having a moment in the tech community.
It is well-known that the godhead of technology and entrepreneurship, Steve Jobs, said using LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) when he was young was one of the most enlightening experiences in his life and helped his creative process. It's little wonder then that others in Silicon Valley, where creativity is valued above almost all else, are turning on to psychedelics. They're a staple among many of the startup founders, investors, and developers at the annual Burning Man festival, and have crossed over to a wider crowd throughout the year.
Rather than using them for recreational purposes, though, some people in the Valley and elsewhere have begun viewing these substances as practical tools for harnessing creativity and solving complex problems. Beginning with the legal acid tests of the 1950s and 1960s, users have taken hallucinogens in doses of 100 to 200 micrograms, causing them to trip. Instead, entrepreneurs and others lately have been experimenting with ingesting "micro-doses"--typically one-fifth of a standard dose for psilocybin and one-tenth of a standard dose for LSD--in an effort to perform better at work. At those levels, the user does not get high and does not trip.
Micro-dosing isn't Fadiman's brainchild. Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who first synthesized LSD in the 1930s, believed micro-doses could be a non-toxic and non-addictive replacement for drugs like amphetamine and methylphenidate (Ritalin), to enhance focus and productivity. According to Fadiman, Hofmann saw micro-dosing as "the most under-researched area of psychedelics," and the long-term effects of the practice still are unknown. Psychedelics can bring out symptoms in people with latent mental issues, but they generally are not known to cause mental illness in healthy users. They have not been found to damage the brain or other organs, and users can't fatally overdose on them.
Now, after 50 years of a government ban on all research, both private companies and academic institutions with the approval of the FDA are exploring the medical benefits of entheogenic substances, though the research has yet to extend to micro-dosing. Researchers have found that psilocybin helps in treating anxiety, addiction, and depression. Neuroscientists are studying LSD to help break habitual thinking in addicts and people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. And Entheogen Corp., a startup in Boston, is working on a drug for cluster headaches made from LSD with an added molecule that blocks its hallucinogenic effects.
A dose of creativity
Meanwhile, some in the tech industry also are using hallucinogens the old-fashioned way--one big dose to induce a trip. Some of the technology we rely on every day for our work and entertainment was created by entrepreneurs who credit these types of drugs for spurring their innovations.
One such entrepreneur, who asked not to be named, is a highly successful Silicon Valley denizen in his twenties who has held high-level positions at some of the best-known technology companies in the world. Every month, he ingests MDMA, psilocybin, ayahuasca, or LSD, depending on what he is trying to accomplish, and dives deep into his subconscious. While he says the practice doesn't necessarily yield eureka moments, it is essential to his creative process and spirituality.
"Psychedelics give me a new sense of emotional freedom, and a new perspective," he tells Inc. "Over the subsequent days and weeks, I start to integrate it with more practical ideas and things come out of that."
For him, psychedelics are but one tool among many--he views meditation as equally critical. But they work quickly and perform a function crucial for any entrepreneur: getting the mind into what he calls "a state where it's naturally creative all the time." "
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