“I've been microdosing for about a year, and it's been one of the most productive, happiest years of my life,” says Anna.

Most everyone likes a little jump every now and again to help them through the day: coffee, nicotine or ADHD meds are popular. But some real go-getters are taking that up a notch. Businesspeople, students and professors alike are all downing small doses of LSD, psilocybin or mescaline and then going to work or school per usual. Most say they do great — although they admit to spending a lot of time hoping colleagues can't see their pupils are the size of dinner plates.

"Anna" is a CU Boulder graduate and professional in her late 30s. She takes about 10 mcg of LSD — about 1/12th of a dose — most Mondays and Thursdays.

“For trying to do work, I used to take Ritalin, but that shit is meth,” she says. “It's called meth! Methylphenidate. I got shit done on Ritalin, but in the way Walter White got shit done: slaughtering my emails like it was a White Power gang. On LSD, I can slay emails, too, but it's friendlier, more wholesome. It feels like I'm getting shit done the way John Lennon got shit done. And no one seems to be able to tell, except I'm a little friendlier, a little smilier, and I spend a little more time talking to the cactus in the kitchen.”

She’s made exceptional strides in her life since beginning to microdose.

“I've been microdosing for about a year, and it's been one of the most productive, happiest years of my life,” she continues. “I went back to night school, got two new jobs, got engaged. I've changed a lot of things lately. Exercise, meditation, eating better. I love work more than ever, especially on acid. I love my partner more than ever, especially on acid. And I love acid. I still drink coffee, though. I just take LSD with it.”

The man who discovered LSD, Albert Hoffman, was an amazing chemist — but not a great businessman. He told people what would happen to them on large doses (a few hippies ended up in mental hospitals). Though Hoffman himself sometimes took LSD in small doses to help with his thinking. 

"If Sandoz (Hoffman's company) had paid attention to what happens on small doses, there never would have been a market for Ritalin," says James Fadiman, one of the world's foremost psychedelic researchers.

Fadiman should know. He ran an experiment in the 1960s where engineers and designers took moderate doses of mescaline (100 mcg) to work on intractable problems in their field. The results were nothing short of incredible. They said they were able to think about the problems at a basic level, be more open to novel solutions, feel heightened motivation and be less judgmental of their own bad ideas.

They walked away with new designs for mechanical devices, space probes and even business letterheads (and probably also a deeper appreciation for Pink Floyd). Prudently, given all these successes and happy people and no apparent downside, the government halted the research in 1966.

Despite all that success, Fadiman says it never occured to him to try small doses. 

"We missed it entirely," Fadiman says. 

Nevertheless, over the past 5 years, Fadiman's friends have been whispering to him that small doses of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, 2C-E and other psychedelics have helped them be better workers and citizens — without tripping their faces completely off. Fadiman has collected about 200 microdosing case reports, from all kinds of people, from college students to a guy who runs a $200 million medical devices company.

A small percentage of the reports are negative, he says; microdosing can worsen anxiety and the manic phases of bipolar. It also reacts badly with lithium, among other things. But the vast majority of reports, he admits, are positive.

Some people think LSD microdosing is the future of psychedelic drugs. Entrepreneur Paul Austin, for one, is so convinced by his 7 months of microdosing LSD once or twice a week that he started a website about it. He’s also collected about 100 case reports and claims 95 percent are positive. Google searches for microdosing, he says, have increased exponentially over the last year. "I don't think it's a panacea," Austin adds, "but I think psychedelics will be one more tool people can have." He's even organized an event in the Netherlands Dec. 17 where people can try out microdosing with psilocybin truffles, which are tolerated there. 

So while the government may always claim that LSD and magic mushrooms are as dangerous as heroin and more dangerous than cocaine, and some doctors will still say that acid makes you legally insane, Fadiman says that's not true: "Used correctly,” Fadiman adds, microdosing “LSD seems to move people toward better mental health — used correctly is the magic word there."

Although, it turns out, people have different definitions of "correctly."

"A.L." is a college professor who used LSD to help him get his PhD.

He says:

My definition of microdosing is probably different from a lot of people: one half to one hit, taken every 8 hours for up to 72 hours straight. You're still productive, you still do shit, you just feel really cool all the time. You can go to class and when they ask you about shit, you'll be able to respond, you won't sound like a nipplehead. I'm not saying people should go do this. I'm not a doctor. I mean, I am a doctor, but I'm not a fucking medical doctor.

A.L. is obviously an unusual case. The key to microdosing, says Fadiman and most other microdosers, is to take a "sub-perceptual" dose, meaning: you can't quite tell you're on it. You just feel happier, more interested in your usual work, more interested in your co-workers.

LSD also seems to be a replacement drug for a lot of college students. "Matt," a student, father and husband at CU Boulder in his 20s says:

For about a month, I stopped taking my ADHD medication and started microdosing LSD. It helped me think differently. Everything was coated in a thin layer of significance. Then I went back to my ADHD meds. I compared my scores on my tests between the two months. They were about the same. But, honestly, I liked the LSD better. It didn't have as many nasty side effects.

Because it's not easy to legally research and obtain this stuff, there is little conclusive data on how many people microdose, what LSD does to people long-term or whether microdosing tends to help people reach their dreams. It’s all anecdotal at this point.

But resources are on the horizon. A forthcoming book on the subject, titled "A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in my Mood, My Marriage and My Life," was written by Ayelet Waldman. She says that, many days, she forgets she's taken LSD, and just ends up in the evening realizing she had a really good day.

She hasn’t had any deep conversations with the local cacti yet. But why wouldn’t she? If it works for some, it can't be all bad. And, as long as she's just taking small doses, the cacti won't talk back.