Small doses of psychedelics might help you solve problems
Ingesting tiny amounts of magic mushrooms could enable people to experience their reputed creativity-boosting effects, without the risk of ‘bad trips’ associated with higher doses.
The dose makes the poison, according to the old adage. And a recent study on microdosing with magic mushrooms suggests this might be true.
Research led by Luisa Prochazkova of Leiden University in the Netherlands indicates that ingesting tiny amounts of magic mushrooms could enable people to experience their reputed creativity-boosting effects, without the risk of ‘bad trips’ associated with higher doses.
Prochazkova and her colleagues set 36 people three tasks before and after giving them a dose of 0.37g of dried mushrooms. The tasks assessed the subjects’ convergent thinking (the identification of a single solution to a problem), their fluid intelligence (the capacity to reason and solve new problems) and their divergent thinking (the ability to recognise multiple solutions).
After taking the mushrooms, the participants’ convergent thinking improved, they were more flexible in their approaches to finding solutions, and had more ideas about how to complete the divergent thinking task. Their intelligence scores and general analytical abilities didn’t change, however, suggesting that the effect is limited to the creative elements of the brain.
These findings correlate with anecdotal evidence from tech workers in Silicon Valley, where there’s a trend developing for microdosing LSD in the belief that it can enhance productivity.
Prochazkova hopes that the findings from her study will stimulate further research into the effects of microdosing psychedelics. “Apart from its benefits as a potential cognitive enhancement technique, microdosing could be further investigated for its therapeutic efficacy to help individuals who suffer from rigid thought patterns or behaviour, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder,” she explains.
WARNING: Psilocybin (the psychedelic substance in magic mushrooms) and LSD are Class A drugs according to UK law. Anyone caught in possession of them will face up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both. More information and support for those affected by substance abuse problems can be found at bit.ly/drug_support
Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Science Focus Podcast.