Preliminary support that microdosing psychedelics enhances creativity
A growing number of professionals are taking small doses of psychedelics in order to boost their creativity and focus at work. Does microdosing psychedelics really enhance creativity?
For the first time, my colleague Zsuzsika Sjoerds, Bernhard Hommel and us showed that taking microdosing of a psychedelic substance, might enhance creativity.
Throughout the 1960’s psychedelics were extensively used (in large doses) in experimental research but also in creative and scientific vocations.
For instance the Nobel prize winner F. Crick was claimed to have discovered the structure of double-helix of DNA under the influence of a LSD trip, Kary Mullis admitted that psychedelics helped his Nobel prize discovery of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and entrepreneur and business magnate Steve Jobs said that LSD was one of the ‘’two or three most important things he had done in his life.’’
Although many people may strive for such a sudden boost of inside and creativity, the problem remains that psychedelic taken in large doses are generally unpredictable. While one day you may soar, full of insightful discoveries; the next, you may struggle through a terrifying nightmare. The potentially unpleasant and erratic experiences associated to psychedelics prevented majority of people from using these drugs. Yet, a new and substantially more stable way of using these drugs is underway – the microdosing phenomenon. Taking very small doses of psychedelics eliminates the challenging effects associated with large doses while still, reportedly, inducing very subtle changes in cognition. Media reports on microdosing being particularly popular among tech-workers in Silicon Valley has built a positive reputation of psychedelics in the context of cognitive enhancement. This has further encouraged a broader demographic to try microdosing, even those who would never think to try psychedelic drugs.
Microdose is usually around 1/10th of recreational dose which could achieve a subtle or even sub-perceptual psychedelic effect. Based on anecdotal reports, microdosing of psychedelic substances has been reported to have many benefits such as: improvements in creative performance, increased physical energy, improved ability to focus, and improve relational skills. The overall conclusions from these reports are that microdosing affect mood and cognition in generally positive ways while allowing the user to carry on with everyday activities.
However, where is the scientific evidence that indeed microdosing does enhance creativity?
“Creativity is just connecting things”, Steve Jobs, arguably one of the most creative minds of our time, once said. From a scientific point of view, creativity is a complex concept, commonly defined as the ability to generate ideas, solutions, or products that are both novel and appropriate, and is not about connecting the obvious, but about making remote associations.
For the first time, our team showed that taking microdosing of a psychedelic substance might enhance creativity. During a microdosing event organized by the Psychedelic Society of the Netherlands(PSN), we investigated, whether microdosing enhances creativity. Using validated creativity tasks, we tested once before taking a microdose and once while the effects were expected to be manifested. This was an open label study thus all the participants were aware that they received a microdose which is a caveat which we hope to address in the future.
We found that microdosing enhanced divergent thinking, the ability to generate novel ideas to open-ended problems (e.g., generate uses for a brick) and creativity-related problem-solving . This is the first study that provides preliminary quantitative support for the cognitive enhancing properties of microdosing psychedelics. However, future research has to confirm these preliminary findings and we cannot exclude that our findings are due to a placebo effect.
Why taking microdosing might enhance creativity?
We believe that psychedelics increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter associated with cognitive flexibility, a crucial skill to carry out creative thinking.
You want to know more? Please read our article:
Prochazkova, L., Lippelt, D., Colzato, L.S., Kuchar, M., Sjoerds, Z. & Hommel, B. (2018). Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. Psychopharmacology.