I know that microdosing — the practice of taking a very small amount of a mood enhancing drug — has been happening in America for a long time. But here in London microdosing was, until recently, a fringe activity. Now everyone — teachers, techies, lawyers, hedge fund managers and hipsters — is doing it.
It seems like half of London is stoned on something. You’re having a perfectly normal conversation with someone who seems perfectly normal — and then they mention, in passing, that they’ve been microdosing either mushrooms, ketamine, LSD or some other weird drug.
I was at what I thought was a dinner party full of straight, sober, professional people — only to discover that earlier in the evening they’d been microdosing mushrooms and LSD. I was totally surprised by this discovery. How was that possible?
In the old days when people took drugs, you knew they were on drugs because they acted weird, goofy, incoherent or dumb. They laughed uncontrollably at nothing or curled up into a fetal position and wept. Now normal people take weird drugs and just act normal.
In the 1960s people on LSD babbled about the meaning of life or the meaning of a Beatles song; today’s microdosers babble on about all the normal stuff found at dinner parties: their brilliant kids and their brilliant careers. I don’t get it: why bother taking drugs just so you can be your old dull self? But then microdosing isn’t about getting high, expanding your mind and all that cosmic jazz — it’s about being a little more relaxed, competent and creative. It aims for small tweaks to the self and little alterations to your mood. It helps you function better as a parent, a partner, a worker, a citizen — or so microdosers claim.
I keep meeting two types of microdosers (MDs). There are the social MDs, who take a dab of this or that before a social event to help them relax. Magic mushrooms are martinis for nondrinkers. They say it helps them overcome their shyness and feel more confident at parties. Fair enough.
Then there are the Microdosing Mums (MMs) who say it makes them better parents. “I enjoy playing with my kids more on mushrooms,” an MM told a British newspaper. Excuse me, but who needs psychedelic mushrooms to enjoy playing with their kids?
I can see the appeal of microdosing for today’s health conscious, progressive-minded mums. You only take a tiny amount, so you think you’re being a responsible parent. And your mushrooms are organic and most important of all, this form of self-medication is untouched by the bloody hands of Big Pharma.
My favorite group of MDs are the ones who start off the evening with just a little dab of this or that… and an hour later another dab… and then another dab and then — oh fuck it! Might as well finish the whole packet! They go from micro to macro to whacko.
Young England is just too hedonistic for sensible microdosing. The same is true with wine. While the French enjoy a civilized glass or two, the English guzzle down the whole bottle.
I can’t make up my mind about microdosing. It’s the total embourgeoisement of a bohemian druggy culture which has traditionally been about the pursuit of ecstasy through excess. Microdosing is moderation in pursuit of moderation. It’s the perfect leisure activity for our Health & Safety obsessed times.
It’s just so safe, sensible and middle-class! Teeny-weeny doses for the Shiny Happy People who sneer at the happy shiny people of suburbia. Pop culture has always celebrated excess, intoxication, the Dionysian drive. Would Keith Richards seem so cool if it was revealed he had been a secret MD all these years? And what if we discovered that Lou Reed had spent his life taking a walk on the mild side? But then, all that counterculture celebration of excess now seems to me just dumb and self-indulgent. (We baby boomers were very naive about the damage that drugs can do to people.) The Sixties thought that — to quote Blake — excess leads to the palace of wisdom. But they were wrong; it just leads to people passing out on your living room floor and puking on your plants.
Perhaps some of the hip Sixties parents could have benefited from a little more microdosing and lots less macrodosing. I remember as a kid going with my parents to stay at the home of the acid guru Tim Leary in Millbrook, in upstate New York. While acid-zonked parents sprawled helplessly in the sunshine, we kids ran riot. It was more Lord of the Flies than Woodstock.
I guess I should confess: I’ve always fancied myself as a wild macrodoser — five martinis, three tabs, two grams and whatever was going round. I’d just hit the accelerator pedal and go-baby-go! But in reality I’m a big wuss who does everything in moderation. One martini and I’m under the table — while everyone else is out of their heads and over the moon.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s September 2023 World edition.