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"I've been microdosing on LSD at work for months and no one knows."

There’s a lot you wouldn’t be able to tell about Julia just from looking at her.

She’s in her mid thirties, with brown, shoulder length hair, and deep brown eyes full of curiosity.

Impeccably dressed, she is someone you’d choose to sit next to on the bus.

Her co-workers would describe her as hard-working and creative. She’s straightforward but never unkind, and is often the last one in the office.

What they don’t know, is that for two months Julia has been taking LSD – almost like you would a vitamin – with her breakfast.

“I take it in the morning, diluted in a bottle of water,” Julia tells Mamamia. 

But she says she doesn’t hallucinate, or get a surge of energy. Rather, it’s the opposite.

Julia is practising microdosing, which involves consuming sub-perceptual amounts of psychedelics.

It’s important to note that it is illegal and the effects have not been scientifically studied yet. But, the theory goes that microdosing can improve creativity, boost energy, and even be used to treat mental health issues like depression, anxiety and addiction.

Author Marian Keyes speaks about her experience with depression on No Filter. Post continues. 

Speaking at the The Festival of Dangerous Ideas, law professor and author of A Really Good Day, Ayelet Waldman, spoke about what she believes to be the “therapeutic benefits of LSD” when taken in small, incremental doses.

Waldman was at her lowest when she ordered a vial of LSD online.

Throughout her life, she had been “held hostage by the vagaries of mood,” and eventually they became “intolerably severe”. Waldman had tried every medication available to her.

She began researching an underground group of scientists and civilians who were advocating the therapeutic benefits of microdoses of LSD.

Waldman’s work was one of the reasons Julia decided to try microdosing, along with a number of podcasts she listened to on the subject.

“I liked the sound of not only being more connected with nature,” she said, “but also experiencing effects that would positively influence your work life, efficiency, ability to concentrate and foster more meaningful interactions with people.

“It’s taking the concept of wellness,” she laughed, “to the next level.”

Julia takes anti anxiety medication for her Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and has done so for about 18 months.  But while her prescription medication drowns out what she calls the “constant hum of anxiety” that used to underpin her daily life, microdosing, she says, offers something different.

“It’s not a numbing agent like my anti anxiety medication can sometimes feel like,” she said. “It’s more so to help me concentrate and focus.”

A microdose is considered about one tenth of a standard LSD dose. Julia says she takes a dose every fourth day, keeping a regular cycle. Every few weeks, she stops taking the substance, and reflects on how her body is responding to it.

There are no known cases of physical withdrawal from LSD, and individuals don’t display the same addictive behaviours observed with alcohol, heroin or cigarettes. But Julia is aware that any drug can become psychologically addictive – hence her reluctance to become too dependant.

How to talk to people with anxiety. Post continues.

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It took about two weeks before Julia says she felt any effect.

“I found myself back at work, it was around 7pm, and I’d been sitting at my desk concentrating on something for about five hours without moving. And I was struck by how I could have stayed like that for longer.

“I’ve felt that multiple times since.”

Julia insists that at no point has she felt like she’s been ‘on a drug’. She feels like, as Waldman put it, she’s just having a really good day – more in touch with her creativity and “in the moment”.

Only the other day at work, she says two people sitting next to her started talking about microdosing hypothetically, and how it sounded like something they might be interested in.

She pretended she wasn’t listening.

Recommending microdosing to anyone is where Julia draws the line.

Her body is something she feels entitled to experiment with – and she knows any experience she has is irrelevant to others. A sample size of one proves precisely nothing.

And Julia is right. There are no long-term studies that look at the physiological or psychological effect of microdosing – so her experiment comes with a number of risks.

While there is some very small scale research that suggests LSD could treat mental health issues, there is also evidence to suggest that sustained or heavy psychedelic use can damage your heart.

In September 2018, the first ever scientific trials on the effects of microdosing with LSD were launched.

Researchers want to know if this could be a case of placebo. “You are doing something novel and exciting that you believe in – and you know you are doing it,” the director of the study, Balázs Szigeti, said.

“It is absolutely no surprise that you are getting a positive effect.”

There is, of course, also the glaring fact that microdosing is illegal.

But Julia wonders if in the next few years, when the research has caught up with our curiosity, that might change.

“I take prescription medication for my anxiety, that comes with a number of, sometimes quite serious, side effects. There are awful withdrawals for a lot of people. In many ways, it’s an imperfect drug.

“So why are we so afraid of LSD? And what, truly, is the difference?”

Perhaps – with more thorough research – we’ll be able to establish if there is.

If you think you may be experiencing anxiety, depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Tags: feature , features , her-story
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