Would You Believe Me if I Told You that LSD or Shrooms Helped Depression?

Graphic courtesy of Sarah Impola, the graphic designer of this piece who also learned a great deal about microdosing. This is a rough sketch of the chemical compounds in psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and MDMA (LSD).

What I’m doing: LSD as a medicine? As a spiritual awakening, medicne and life-contemplation tool? Sure, why not. This idea never freaked me out because I was raised open-minded, liberal and let’s face it—my parents are hippies and grew up in the ’70s. They educated me about the power of psychedelic drugs and dispelled popular beliefs surrounding them. They did not encourage them per say, but informed me that, unlike society’s tunnel vision on psychedelics that see them as negative mentally-altering dangerous substances, their use covers a wide spectrum, including medical discovery and assistance. I believed the latter, but their medical use was never something I dived into until now.

When I first pitched my story on microdosing, I wasn’t sure where it was going to go. Microdosing entails taking sub-perceptual particles of LSD-25 (lysergic acid diethylamide, the compound in acid that was discovered accidentally in 1938 by Albert Hofmann at Sandoz laboratory in Switzerland) or psilocybin (the hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms) or even rarely MDMA (the compound in E, or ecstasy) for medical purposes every couple of days. It is gaining medical and cultural relevance these days; I am so happy to be reporting on it in this time of upward curve. But it’s not an easy subject or one that’s at first tangible to grasp. In fact, I’ve never done so much research about a topic as I’ve done with microdosing. After spending weeks searching scientific studies, medical trials, articles and videos about microdosing, I felt like I’d jumped over a huge hurdle of achievement: now I could have intelligent conversations with people who microdose or study this form of medicine and learn more about the psychedelic culture and future.

But where was I going to find local people for this? That was the next hurdle I had to jump over. Thanks to my father, who has also done plenty of research on psychedelic medicine, including cannabis, I found a local Meetup that amplified my story. Chicago’s group The Future of Psychiatry was exactly what I needed; I got in touch with two people who have had experience microdosing and were willing to talk. With this subject, it’s natural that people would want to be shadowed and anonymous, especially for the obvious fact that psychedelics are a Schedule 1 drug and are illegal in the eyes of the government. Luckily, I found one person who was willing to go on the record about his experience microdosing psilocybin, and his story amplified my understanding and sympathy for the “drug.”

What I’m learning: How does microdosing act as a medicine? It’s neither a simple answer nor an easy one, but I set out to investigate this medical and scientific trend and wow, I learned a lot; every day I am still learning. According to my sources, my research and the advocacy surrounding microdosing—most notably the work from MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) and from Jim Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and the Microdosing Psychedelics website resource—there is a huge shift in perception and understanding surrounding hallucinogens. A recent John Hopkins study on the effects of psilocybin and LSD in cancer patients and those suffering from anxiety, depression and terminal illnesses found a great deal of relief after taking LSD and psilocybin. It is showing psychological benefits in addition to physical assistance and proving to be an important tool for spiritual quests, creativity and introspection. The study is one of many steps that have created an increased cultural acceptance of the drug; movies like the newly released Sunshine Makers on Netflix (go watch it now!) and books show that psychedelics are re-emerging into a medical renaissance (as PBS called it) and are losing their stigma from the ’60s and the days of Timothy Leary. And everyone agrees this is the case. In fact, the Psychedelic Science conference 2017  is gearing up in Oakland, California from April 19-24, where researchers from MAPS as well as hallucinogenic supporters, aficionados and Dr. Fadiman will be in attendance to further discuss ths growing topic and its positivity!

Ayelet Waldman‘s amazing, witty and enthralling book A Really Good Day about her monthlong experience on LSD to help her depression and personal life has been by my side through this whole story. After speaking with her, it’s clear she is living proof of the powers of this medicine. “I wish LSD was legal so I could go back on it,” Waldman told me, which struck the heart of this complicated topic while encompassing it with a bow on top. Could this really be a medical miracle?

I’ll leave you with that to get your mind racing. Check back in June when our magazine is on stands around the city!