Microdosing isn’t a shortcut to professional success

Originally published on Medium

The transition from fully committed to quitting was slow to start. My hours of operation started to sync with my circadian rhythm. The 9–5 became 8–3. Mornings were so efficient that by midday, I’d be fried. Done with screens, done with meetings. So I’d leave the office early.

On a microdose of acid, I’d feel completely in tune with my energy capacity, unable to ignore the afternoon dip. There was no more gray area of hanging around the office or poking around on Twitter, letting the time slip as the outside world turned. No more “should I stay or should I go” debacles in my head. I couldn’t sit (er, stand) at my desk any longer for the optics of working a few extra — unproductive — hours. I realized the work would never be done, so it was up to me when to go. And as soon as I felt accomplished for the day, I’d slip out the door. Down the stairs. Into the sunlight.

I didn’t initially start microdosing at work for the professional edge like many people in tech. I started to manage shifting moods that made it hard to leave my apartment. To feel better just being. And it worked. I felt happier and more comfortable within myself. I took it on workdays because I wanted to stay consistent in my regimen (one day on, three days off). Heightened imagination, concentration, and energy at work were really just nifty side effects. But eventually, this new way of feeling, thinking, existing made it much harder to spend time in the office.

After microdosing for six months, I didn’t progress at work; I quit.

There’s a few reasons why the wonderful effects of microdosing didn’t translate so well into the office. Microdosing may have drastically improved my mental health, but it simultaneously made me more critical of my office environment. I became more aware of everything, including the way work was impacting my health. The repetition, the stagnation, the stress. Peaking cortisol levels, nightmares about my coworkers. I’d turn on my computer and see a screen full of events I didn’t create. My time, energy, and life felt beyond my control. I started to wonder: Who am I really working for?

A feeling crept in. A desire for change, movement. Leaving on Fridays started to feel way too damn good.

Microdosing isn’t just a performance enhancement to power through the day, through the emotions, through the bullshit. It’s not like a shot of espresso, Adderall, or whatever nootropic is trending at the moment. It won’t take the edge off like a glass of wine at lunch. It reconnects regions of the brain and reroutes maladaptive thought patterns, so profound life changes — not just heightened productivity — may take shape. Psychedelic medicine and therapy shouldn’t be taken lightly. Or simply for professional gain. The potential impact could rewrite psychiatric care as we know it. This is bigger than 5-Hour Energy or Moon Juice or Four Sigmatic or Bulletproof-anything.

But some people are trying to market microdosing as such. A pick-me-up. A key to flow states. A way to bring teams together, even. But it won’t magically increase worker productivity or create a tech culture panacea. If anything, this heightened sensitivity could magnify the deep-rooted organizational issues privy to startups and escalate turnover.

Sure, not every company or startup cultivates an unhealthy work environment, but finding a balance these days is tricky. Especially for highly sensitive people overstimulated in open offices. Especially for people keeping up with the news cycle. Especially for content teams hustling information. Always online, always current. It seems easier than ever to spiral out of control and get completely drained in the process.

The thing is: I liked my job. I was the managing editor at Clue, a female health company in Berlin. I got to talk about periods and sex all day and help people understand their reproductive health. It was as good as it gets. But like most mid-level positions, no matter how fulfilling, things started to feel monotonous. A feeling crept in. A desire for change, movement. Leaving on Fridays started to feel way too damn good.

We don’t need to change our biology to be better at work, we need to change the way we work to be better for our biology.

I needed to mix up the mundane. If a 5 PM meeting invite appeared before my eyes, I’d decline. I tried to work remote as much as possible. But then I realized I was just avoiding the office because going in everyday didn’t make me happy anymore. Microdosing only amplified this urge to break free from the same schedule that repeated weekly. It didn’t make me better at my job — it changed the way I perceived daily life at the office and made me more certain that I needed to leave. To do something else.

It’s hard to quit. But young professionals are approaching work differently than previous generations. We’re more likely to leave a job and diversify our skills than commit for life. And yes, having a job at all is a privilege, but we’re still huddling at water coolers like it’s 1986.

So why isn’t our office culture advancing as fast as the technology? How many hours should humans be expected to stare at a screen per day? How many years should we stay at a company? What will happen when some jobs automate? Are there other ways to earn a living? What’s next?

We don’t need to change our biology to be better at work, we need to change the way we work to be better for our biology. Maybe “tune in, turn on, and drop out” wasn’t so far out — a premature, but inevitable, call for escape.

2 thoughts on “Microdosing isn’t a shortcut to professional success”

  1. I’m going through this microdosing journey right now with pretty much the same experience. However, not only am I questioning my job, but my career and life overall. I’m wondering if I studied the wrong thing in school have veered way off from my true self. It’s scary, but once you’ve seen “the other side” with acid there’s no turning back.

    Thanks for these articles… good to know I’m not the only one.

  2. I have no experience of micro-dosing LSD. Full dosing when I was younger, yes. Full dosing psilocybin, yes, and from time to time I still full dose on psilocybin, (and I am nearly 60.)

    Why?

    Because it is a psychological reset, and it provides a means to overcome – for a few brief hours – a sense of artificiality, that tinsel cheap falseness of living in a human world that is all but disconnected from the natural world. Let’s me clear, life is – for those of us not subject to war, pestilence, and starvation as proximate fears – an incredibly vibrant experience, or it can be when we let it.

    The entheogenic compounds provide a means to feel – in a very visceral way – how deeply interconnected we are to the rest of the biosphere and the universe. The idea of *self* as separate, distinct and alienated being disappears in the experience. My inner poet and composer jumps to the fore. I can hear the music of life pulsating through nature. I can feel the complex weave upon which my particular expression is one of many aspects by which the universe has projected an intelligent mirror to reflect upon itself. It takes away my fears, resentments, and disappointments. I become the embodiment of gratitude, and drink deeply of life, as I will continue to do to the very last instant of my existence.

    One Knot for me

    One moment here, the next I’m gone.
    Without refrain; a noteless song.

    I see the sun, I drink the sky.
    When it doth set; I shall die.

    A beautiful woman, a soaring bird.
    Without a breath; not a word.

    High I soared, my time ran out.
    A great oak tree; I hang about.

    Time’s hangman pulls, the door flaps.
    The rope goes taut; my neck snaps.

    A woman sits, beneath the tree.
    She knits souls; one knot for me.

    The point is this, we have the day, and nothing more is guaranteed. Live it, love it, breath it, devour it, and do so in such a way as to have the smallest possible ecological footprint. Do that, and let others see that there are alternatives to the psychosis of modern life; those narratives that keep people enslaved to behaviours that are narrow, selfish and destructive.

Thoughts?