I’m not sure there was a single “aha!” moment, because there have been so many of them. But if I had to pick one out of the bunch it would be the pitch, that whale of a pitch, the biggest pitch I ever won and lost at the same time.
We enter that scene from the corner behind my back, dramatically panning up. There’s the founder, Alex, sitting across from me, his eyes already drifting back down to his constantly vibrating phone. And his associate beside him, Todd, who is for some reason opening a fresh pad of paper and preparing to take notes. As if something I’m about to say is going to be worthy of such a task. The room is quiet, the kind of anxious quiet that’s waiting for someone to fill it with something.
That someone is me, a thirty-seven-year-old marketing exec trying to land the biggest single campaign of the year—possibly my life, if I’m being honest. Millions of dollars. And that something … is … just on the tip of my tongue.
Right where the tiny fragment of an LSD tab was just two hours earlier.
Hit pause on that scene—and don’t roll your eyes just yet. There are a few things you should know about me. Starting with the fact that we might have a lot in common.
I’m cautious of pollutants and toxins to a phobic degree, which in New York City means I pay out the nose for air and water purification toys. I follow a strict organic diet, much to the annoyance of friends and family, one that is extremely rich in greens, good fat, and loads of protein. And I don’t start eating that diet until noon, per the Leangains protocol (16 hours fasting, 8 hours feeding), right about when the Bulletproof coffee starts to wear off—all of which keeps me at near constant “visible abs” bodyfat.
Add to that a rigorous supplement regimen that not only includes what to take, but when to take it, with daily and weekly cycles—all optimized around improved cognition, preventing degenerative disease and (potentially) increasing longevity, among other goals. And yes, of course, I’m strong as an ox—I squat more than two times my bodyweight and only missed four gym days last year.
Yeah, I’m a veritable wellness and fitness nut. (Just like you?)
So why is a guy like me messing with the most notorious psychedelic drug ever—on an extremely important work day!?!?
The short answer is simple: because I want to get the most out of me. I’m not into drugs, I’m into performance. And I’m not satisfied with the type of performance most people achieve—I’m chasing after extreme performance. To achieve above average physical performance, we all know what we regularly put our bodies through. (Ever nursed the delayed onset muscle soreness from yesterday’s boot camp or power yoga sesh?) Well, in some circles, the pursuits taken by those attempting mental greatness are no less intense.
Meet LSD. Quite possibly the single greatest mental, spiritual and emotional performance enhancer I have encountered on the planet. And that’s no small statement.
Which also brings us to the long answer.
I can’t say I’ve tried everything, because there are things that even I won’t try (see above fear of toxins and pollutants). But I’ve tried a lot of things. Let’s start with the smart drugs. Formally known as nootropics, they basically all look like generic white sugar and make your lazy little Monday morning brain capable of doing things it couldn’t. Piracetem, Oxyracetem, Noopept—if you can Google it, I’ve probably ingested it. And then, after a few days or weeks, tossed the rest of it into the trash.
While it’s all extremely subjective, the thing I found is that nootropics can give you an boost, but they’re a chore to maintain and aren’t without consequences—or risks. They might be legal, but they can still fry your brain at the wrong, high dosage. Plus they practically require a major in neurochemistry—take this, but only after you’ve taken some of that, but not too much of that, and not too soon after the other. Many of the more popular nootropics are sold in Europe and Russia as anti-Dementia medicine, and for good reason—they force your brain’s neurochemistry into a more optimal place for cognition and memory related tasks. But they aren’t going to give you much more than that, well unless you include the typical hangover. What’s the point of having an edge if it leaves you blunt the next day?
Which brought me to microdosing.
And this is the part of the article where I’m forced to admit my career in self-experimentation has not always been in the name of self-improvement. About 17 percent of people try a psychedelic in the US. And at the start I was no different. But, in a pattern that should now be all too clear to you, I wasn’t satisfied to merely ingest a few shrooms at a Phish show and call it a career. I wanted to be a real psychonaut, and so I took it upon myself to try them all.
Mushrooms of all varieties, even psychedelic truffles—because, of course, I grew up in the suburbs of the East Coast. But I journeyed far from there, in both the literal and the figurative. Peyote in the Chihuahua Desert where I learned what epic really means. They weren’t all trips of the “good” variety either: Salvia divinorum is just as bad as the videos on YouTube make it look. But where you’ve probably run out of drugs to ask me about, I was just beginning. And when you get that far down the list, they no longer even have street names. They’re just organic chemical compounds.
5-Meo-DMT? Who doesn’t want to experience what death, with its massive final release of mystical dream compound DMT, feels like? (Not going to lie, it feels kinda weird.)
2-CT-7? The closest I’ve come to experiencing a parallel universe—and I don’t mean in a good way. I mean in a Stranger Things kind of way, complete with terrifying creatures that haunted me for years.
Yes, my romance with psychedelics during my youth was about excess, and overtly so. Hell, my friends and I would trek into Death Valley each winter, because in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around you but dirt and rocks, you can take a massive dose and still be completely at peace.
But there was one drug in all my travels that I never tried, and intentionally so—LSD. And it wasn’t my own decision either, but rather, the better judgement of the same group of friends who tripped far and wide with me, had seen me at my highest and my lowest, and who knew me well enough to know that I of all people (possibly prone to mania and losing it) should never open that one last Pandora’s box.
Now’s probably a good time to come back to the scene, the first one—the big pitch.
The one where I’m on LSD.
And yet, I wasn’t tripping. Not really.
“It’s a micro-dose, dear. Micro.” I pleaded with my wife just a few weeks earlier. “As in small!” I added for clarification through a slammed door.
You see, sometime before we married, during the human courtship ritual known as dating, we had discussed all of the things we had done in life, the things we wanted to do—and the things we would never do.
On the never list? You guessed it. LSD. Hence the blow-up.
She had put her foot down when I read her article after article from the Reddit microdosing forums the previous week, extolling the virtues of what was then being billed as a Silicon Valley trend. Her stance crystal clear: LSD was a dangerous, volatile compound, that had no place in a nice family household.
So you can imagine, a few days later, when I casually mentioned my dosing schedule for the week, how loud things got on our quiet little corner of Brooklyn. But I was resolute. This was not only my right, as a grown-ass man, it was something I desperately needed to do, because, frankly, I was feeling … bored. Not bored actually, but boredom’s evil twin, complacent.
Maybe not depressed per se, but uninspired—to the point that I worried the spark had gone out. The passion that had propelled me through my twenties with such reckless abandon now flickered amid the endless chores of parenthood, the constant negotiations of marriage, and the responsibilities of a day job. Sure, it was in the “creative industry,” but somehow that made it even worse. Nothing makes you lose your taste for pizza like working at the local Dominos.
Enter the microdose: A tiny fraction of a dose of LSD, which simultaneously releases seratonin and makes the receptor sites more available for activation.
A recent study finally provided realtime imaging of the brain on LSD, and it is beautiful. Regions of the brain, talking to one another in ways they usually don’t, all dialed up to the max, creating a fiery morphing ball of electrical and vascular activity.
Or in English, creative passion in smidgen of paper.
It is also really good for fitness endeavors. There are allegedly Olympic athletes who swear by it. I actually stopped taking it before lifting because I would push myself too hard.
There was a learning curve, of course. I took too much the first time, what the forum regulars call a “mini-dose” vs. a true, sub-perceptual “micro-dose”. That made for a odd yet fun day, but not an exceptionally productive one.
The second time I took half as much, with twice the results. And that’s when it started to click. The ability to completely lose oneself in the work at hand, regardless of the work, cannot be understated. Flow state, instantly achievable, no matter what task I threw myself at. But instead of the depersonalization associated with Adderall, the closest comparable experience I had on file, this had an empathy boosting effect. More social intelligence, more emotional range.
The third time, half as much again—and, I went into the pitch. I wasn’t even there to pitch big. They wanted a $100,000 worth of disposable digital flotsam. But while in the meeting I had this sixth sense kick in. I could see the forest for the trees—the big picture. And there, between their glances at each other and the awkward responses to my questions, I not only realized the whole damn thing was for the taking—I saw exactly how to take it.
So I won the pitch. The whole thing, not just the little slice of pie that was allotted to my shop.
A few weeks later, the client had buyer’s remorse and a new strategy in mind, and they cancelled the entire project.
But that’s not the point.
I had discovered something way more valuable—a tiny little trick for kickstarting my creative drive. One that didn’t leave me hungover the next day, but going strong with an afterglow. After a lifetime of chasing the big trip, I had discovered the best trip of all was maybe a teeny tiny one—one so small that you couldn’t really tell the difference between the trip and just another really great day.
And that’s the most interesting takeaway from this whole microdosing experiment. As I continue to taper both the frequency and dosage, I’m getting to the point where I’ve seemingly rewired my brain—that’s my hypothesis shared by LSD microdosing proponents such as James Fadiman—and perhaps programmed my subconscious around a set of consciously decided habits and traits.
For a performance junkie, that’s a hell of a trick, and has me continuing to sing the praises of microdosing even as I do it less and less. But as the dosage gets down to the absurdly small—1 or 2 micrograms—that’s when it starts to get really interesting. Because that suggests that all of us, even you, might be just a tiny neurological paradigm shift away from your best. day. ever.
Eric Ergot is an ad exec and sometimes writer. He is currently working on a satirical psychedelic thriller set in Brooklyn currently titled James Franco’s Bad Trip. You can follow him here: @EricErgot
Fine print: The author is using pseudonym. Well+Good is not advising illegal drug use. This is the experience and opinion of one person, not ours. Please read responsibly.
Drugs are making a mark in the wellness space: Ask Cannabis Feminist founder Jessica Assaf, who calls the plant the next billion dollar business run by women, or this “bad mom” who microdoses LSD for depression.