Waldman begins taking two drops every three days. As the title suggests, over the month her supply lasts, she enjoys several unfrazzled, hyper-aware, “really good” days.
As a relatively drug-averse former attorney, Waldman offers a different perspective from the young tech entrepreneurs who have copped to microdosing to enhance their creativity and output. Her newbie status distinguishes her book, as does the unique way she weaves in digressions about drug policy and the criminal-justice system.
I spoke with Waldman recently about her experience; an edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Olga Khazan: What would you say was the biggest advantage for you of the microdosing, from your mood to your work?
Ayelet Waldman: I think for me personally the most important thing was that it kind of jump-started me out of a pretty significant depression.
Let's say an incident happens, someone says something that hurts your feelings, you see a tweet, whatever it is, some kind of stimulus, there's sort of this four-part process. You see this, there's the incident, you have an emotional reaction, a feeling, then you have a thought about that feeling, then you have a kind of impulse, and you act on the impulse, right?
What has always happened to me is those four separate responses were all sort of clumped together. So I would see something on Twitter, and I would respond right away. There was no time at which I thought, oh you're having a feeling about this, this is making me angry. Is it really making you angry or is it making you sad? Is it making you scared? And then, here's the impulse to act. Is that the right [way] to really be acting? I would do these things that I would regret, which would, for me, end up catalyzing kind of a depression.
For some reason the LSD microdose sort of slowed me down. I'm sort of trying to figure out 100 different ways to say this other than “mindfulness,” because I find the whole concept sort of aggravating. But I do think it came down to that. I felt happier or at least not as profoundly depressed almost immediately the very first day I took it.
God, here I am twisting myself into a knot to not say “mindfulness,” but that really is what it is.
Khazan: You tried a lot of different pills in the past, antidepressants and other drugs. Those are all newer things and they have lots of scientists working on them, testing them, and trying to market them. Why do you think this old psychedelic worked better than all those different drugs?
Waldman: First of all, this is a one-month experiment, and there's no guarantee that it would have continued to work, and there's also no research that what I was experiencing wasn't, as I say in the book, "the mother of all placebo effects."
But let's say that it was, let's say that what I experienced taking the microdose was an actual, real effect and not all in my head. I took SSRIs, I took Wellbutrin, I took some of the ADHD drugs, but only very briefly. But they didn’t work to enhance neuroplasticity in the same way that LSD does. My theory is that it has something to do with the neuroplastic effects.