Is LSD the Next Study Drug for College Students?

StudySoup in no way condones the abuse of illegal or harmful substances, it is purely in the interest of experiential journalism that we will report these events. Do not try this on your own.

I recently took a small dose of LSD before my Antro 5 final exam and live-Tweeted about the experience. My goal – answer one question: Is LSD the next study drug for students?

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

(Warning: this is a long read. If you want to jump to my experience, you can do so here)

Why I Took LSD for Finals

LSD has always been an experimental drug. Long before Timothy Leary encouraged American students to “turn on, tune in, and drop out,” people studied LSD as a treatment for anxiety, depression, fatigue, migraines, and other ailments.

These days, LSD has become an popular choice among tech startup employees as a productivity drug. Rolling Stone’s Andrew Leonard reports that young professionals are taking microdoses of the powerful hallucinogen in effort to boost their output and happiness. Why not try it to help with school?

Perhaps Timothy Leary had it all wrong. Maybe students should “turn on, tune in, and go to class?”

What Does Science Say About LSD and Productivity?

Swiss scientist Albert Hoffman performed the earliest studies on d-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). He first synthesized it on November 16, 1938. He hoped to use the drug to stimulate the respiratory and circulatory systems. However, studies were put on hold for a number of years.

It was not until April 16, 1943 that Hoffmann accidentally absorbed a small amount of LSD through his fingertips while synthesizing it that things got interesting. He described his first experience writing that he felt:

“a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away.”

Doesn’t sound half bad to me…

Just three days later, Hoffman took LSD in a more controlled study. He administered himself 250 micrograms – about 2.5 hits in layman terms. This produced intense hallucinations and psychotic effects within him, which inspired decades of research.

Since Hoffman, LSD has been administered to over 40,000 patients in the name of science. Despite the extensive research, I could not find any studies examining the cognitive ability, productivity, or academic performance of recipients. Instead, papers focused on the physiological response subjects, potential medical applications, and therapeutic benefits.

That’s where I come in…

What Users Have Said About Their Experience with LSD and Productivity

Evidence of the drug’s effects on productivity remains anecdotal (including my own). Freedom and Fulfilment, for example, reports that taking small amounts of LSD increases energy, improves your sensory perception, mood, focus, concentration, and creativity. The site also asserts LSD reduces anxiety and “ makes it easier for the flow of the universe to come through you.” Those are bold claims.

Users fill Reddit with self-reports praising taking the drugs effects on productivity. One user states, “Microdosing LSD gives you laser like focus, absurd NEED to get things done… That being said, it gave me too much anxiety.”

This is echoed by another post sharing,

“[My] ability to focus increased but ability to multi-task decreased. I think it’s a great drug if you have one large creative task… It makes “tunnel vision” easier, but I’ve learned the ability to focus intensely on one thing is quite literally at the cost of being able to focus on several… (sometimes couldn’t tell 5 minutes from 20 minutes) Anyone who is highly productive understands the importance of time management, so you can start to see how the inability to perceive it accurately could be an issue.”

With so little scientific evidence to go off of, I decided to put LSD to the academic test.

My Background with LSD

Before I jump into my most recent experience, I’ll give you a little background. I am an experienced LSD user. I have taken the drug on several times. I have “been to the other side” as people say and I feel confident in my ability to function productively while under the influence of the drug. I did not think I would have any trouble taking a test on such a small amount.

For those less familiar with LSD, a typical “dose,” or amount of the drug you would take to experience the full-effects, ranges from 100-150 micrograms. This can produce profound effects including hallucinations, euphoria, and heightened awareness.

At a lower dosage these effects are less pronounced. A typical microdose consists of 10-20 micrograms of LSD. Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, explain that this amount is enough “to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you are tripping.”
Wake Up and Dose

I woke up on Wednesday, December 9th feeling prepared for my Anthro 5 exam and excited for the experiment. I ate a light breakfast and skipped on the caffeine. I took approximately 12 micrograms of LSD at 9:35 am, giving it plenty of time to kick in before my noon final.

Following a 30 minute bike-ride to campus, I arrived with a surge of energy consistent with other reports. Though I arrived to a familiar place, the campus felt different. I found myself looking at details of campus that I neglected to appreciate normally. I wasn’t “tripping,” or seeing anything that wasn’t actually there, but the details of buildings, plants, and art caught my eye.

 

With just over an hour-and-a-half to cram, I walked to the library. The building felt alive. Students filled the seats and aisles with flashcards in hand. Chants of “one more test” echoed through the halls. I overheard students express emotions ranging from defeat and indifference to confidence and determination.

I found a desk tucked into the corner of the 4th floor where I laid out my notes. That’s when a problem started to emerge.

Despite my enthusiasm for the test, focus began to slip through my fingertips. My eye alternated from notes to the window and back again. What’s more, I became distracted by my commitment to documenting the experience online.

I decided the best course of action would be to give in to my curiosity until test-time. What more could I possibly learn in the 45-minutes remaining until test time that I didn’t know already? If I was to sit in a lecture-hall for the next 3-hours, the least I could do was enjoy the sunshine and the buzz while I could.

 

Test Time

I walked into the exam hall and found myself a seat near the back. I buried my phone in my backpack and turned it off. Understandably, they’re prohibited from use during a test and I didn’t want the urge to Tweet to overcome me.

I sat anxiously as droves of students filed into the building. I could hardly sit still – foot-tapping, pen twirling in my hand. I avoided eye contact in effort to avoid conversation. Though I felt clear of mind, I feared social interaction. I simultaneously felt an urge to connect with those around me and lack of confidence in my ability to communicate clearly. That was the first taste of doubt that entered my brain.

I waited for what felt like an eternity for the final to begin. When the doors closed and test distributed. I picked up it up and dove in. My eyes raced over the multiple-choice questions. Before I could fully digest one, my mind turned to the next. I decided it would be more efficient to read them all before answering any.

My mind was firing. I felt superhuman. Surely, my chemically enhanced brain could process all the information more quickly if I took it all in at once, right? Wrong.

My mind scrutinized each question with the intensity of an FBI background check. What was the professor really asking? What answer did he want me to pick? Was it a trick? What other questions did it require to be asked? Was there even a real answer? Three deep breathes. You can do this. Just answer the first question. I went to bubble in my scantron, but my hands felt foreign. It felt like I was watching someone else take a test.

 

Despite the physical challenge of filling in a bubble, my confidence returned. I became determined to finish the test. I answered all the questions I felt confident about and made a guess at the rest. I could not let myself be distracted by ancillary thoughts and questions entering my mind.

By the time I finished, several students had already left. I rushed outside. I felt euphoric, energetic, and happy. I felt accomplished, even though I knew I bombed the exam.

 

I may not have gotten an A, but I got my answer: LSD is a terrible study drug.

Post-Test

After finishing my exam, I explored my campus with a new perspective. I attempted to return to the library to study for another test, but enjoyed being outside too much. By the time I returned home, I was mentally and physically exhausted.

Still, I had a great time and would try it again. Maybe I needed a smaller dose? Maybe documenting the experience just took too much of my focus? Whatever the case, more experimentation is in order.

😉

 

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