When you think things can get no worse, it literally does. So far this year has been just been throwing problems our way, almost testing our patience. While mental health has been impacted by all the lemons life has been giving us, everyone's got their ways of coping. Some have turned to cook as therapy, while others have gotten to discover themselves. Yet others have gone down another route by experimenting with hallucinogens instead. By some I mean Americans! America has seen a spike in the use of LSD during the pandemic! They might think dropping acid would help, but does it?
LSD to combat the frustration of the pandemic?
Authors of a new study believe that Americans are dropping acid and the hallucinogen has become exponentially more popular as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “LSD is used primarily to escape. And given that the world’s on fire, people might be using it as a therapeutic mechanism,” University of Cincinnati doctoral candidate Andrew Yockey told Scientific American. “Now that COVID’s hit, I’d guess that use has probably tripled.”
The article further goes on to highlight how Americans are dropping acid even more after Trump rose to Presidency. (It comes as no surprise!) The researchers found that past-year LSD use increased by 56% over three years. The rise was especially pronounced in certain user groups, including people with college degrees (who saw a 70% increase) and people aged 26 to 34 (59%), 35 to 49 (223%) and 50 or older (45%). Younger people aged 18 to 25, on the other hand, decreased their use by 24%.
The real question we need ask is if LSD actually does provide an escape route from the mental impact the crisis has on us.
Does LSD actually make things better?
If you use LSD, you’re probably thinking “hell yes! It does” but experts don’t share the same opinion. “Similar to psilocybin, which is the active compound in magic mushrooms, recreational LSD users may turn to the drug not only to escape but also to understand the full capacity of their minds and to improve their well-being,” says David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist at Imperial College London. In addition to this, LSD is easier to carry around than a bag of dried, dead mushrooms, making it a better choice.
Research has shown how LSD, lysergic acid diethylamide is a psychedelic that can give a profound meaning to what would otherwise be perceived as mundane. With the world on fire, people are resorting to something, anything that can give them a sense of meaning. This claim is backed by studies that suggest LSD makes a difference for those who experience a disembodied sense of self. "Healthy people take having this coherent 'self' experience for granted." Katrin Preller from the University of Zurich says. She further went on to say that this makes it difficult to explain why LSD is so important.
While the National Survey on Drug Use and Health does not ask users why they took LSD or how large of a dose they consumed, it is suspected that the rising popularity of microdosing could explain the overall increase in LSD use.
Microdosing: a fad
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, microdosing involves taking amounts ranging from less than one-tenth to half of a “trip” dose of a psychedelic drug. The seemingly small amount is taken in an attempt to sharpen the mind, increase creativity or reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. An improved mood, happiness, peace, calm, optimistic outlook, appreciation were said to be the reported benefits of microdosing, as per a recent study. It was also observed that microdosers were found to be less neurotic compared to non-microdoses.
In addition to these positive emotions, they also reported increased focus, mindfulness and engagement. They were found to be more wise, open-minded, and creative, with increased productivity, confidence, empathy and extraversion. With 2020 seeming at its worst, it seems only fair that people would enjoy these little bursts of happiness. But, while microdosing may seem like a bunch of benefits, there are sticky points to go over.
The challenges of microdosing
Users have been victims of insomnia if dosing too late in the day, stomach upset, reduced appetite, headaches, and tingling sensations. While undesirable, these side-effects show considerable overlap with various existing medications. As common recreational doses, psychedelics do have a benign physical safety profile. This would essentially mean that the risks associated with lower doses are not in any way lethal. Nevertheless, chronic psychedelic use is different and comes with an unknown safety profile. Taking a psychedelic every few months or years is likely to have very different consequences than taking a psychedelic every few days, even at a low dose. The neurological consequences of frequent dosing are something users should consider before they take a call.
While Americans are dropping acid to cope with the pandemic, we too wouldn’t mind a way to escape the misery of 2020.