The art started thanks to hallucinogens

Psychedelics expert: "Those who take LSD in microdoses will dominate the future world of work"

Since half of Silicon Valley has been raving about it, the former hippy drug LSD has been considered the miracle cure for self-optimization. Psychedelics expert Paul Austin on the benefits, risks and side effects and why the right dose is also crucial with LSD.

NZZ am Sonntag: Are you on LSD?

Paul Austin: No, I'm on vacation in Vietnam. Yesterday I visited Angkor Wat and ate something bad, so I'm a little lazy today. Anyway, I'm taking a break and taking psilocybin mushrooms two to three times a week as a dietary supplement.

Do you take hallucinogenic mushrooms or LSD like other people take vitamins?

Only in very low doses. I want to see if psilocybin affects my energy levels and neural plasticity as well as LSD, the ability to learn things faster, adapt better to new situations, and perform better. This form of self-optimization is very popular in Silicon Valley.

But LSD is synonymous with delimitation and total loss of control. Trip stories go from seeing pink elephants to never coming down. This hippie drug is supposed to increase our performance?

Substances like LSD have long been demonized. Perception was based on misinformation, prejudice and political propaganda. At the moment, however, a change is taking place. As with partially legalized cannabis, both research and society are increasingly seeing the benefits that LSD can have.

Who would be?

A typical microdose is 10 percent of a usual dose. The visual perception hardly changes, but our efficiency increases. In addition, LSD is non-toxic, non-addictive and has huge potential. Those who take LSD in microdoses will dominate the future world of work.

A steep thesis. Suppose you had that microdose by now. How would you feel

More energetic, focused and creative.

To person

Paul Austin

The US American Paul Austin, 28, can be considered the first professional coach for so-called LSD microdosing. When he came into contact with psychedelics in 2015, he now runs “The Third Wave”, an online platform dedicated to providing advice on the responsible consumption of psychedelic substances. As part of the 14th European Trend Day, Paul Austin will be a speaker at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Rüschlikon on March 14, 2018.

Apple founder Steve Jobs described LSD as one of the most important experiences of his life.

LSD has also changed my life, especially my social intelligence. I used to be very introverted and could barely approach people. My heart started racing and I was totally nervous. Today I'm less cerebral, more relaxed and more sociable. I can articulate my thoughts more pointedly, combine ideas better and conceptualize them in projects.

For example?

Three years ago I started taking tiny amounts of LSD twice a week. A month later I went to Budapest with friends. In so-called Third Wave Cafés, where there are artistic lattes and everything is Fairtrade, we talked about the growing number of LSD studies and the hype surrounding “microdosing” in Silicon Valley. Suddenly it became clear to me: Oh, Third Wave - we are experiencing a new psychedelic age. Indigenous cultures used hallucinogens in the first wave, the '68 generation in the second, and now we.

This observation could just as easily have been made in a sober state.

Maybe. Either way: The aim is to integrate the findings into everyday life. Microdosing gave me the confidence to start my own company and to take responsibility. Also, I've never been a great storyteller, now it's my second nature.

As a so-called social entrepreneur, you run the online platform “The Third Wave”, earn your living as a microdosing coach and tour the world as a speaker. Rolling Stone magazine called you an advocate for all psychotropic substances. Is that true?

I want to raise awareness of their benefits. I now have a team of six to eight employees. We clarify and convey knowledge about the latest research through podcasts or interviews. Most people don't know much about substances like LSD. Especially not about its advantages.

There is evidence that LSD leads to more unconventional and flexible thinking patterns. Nevertheless, experts warn against do-it-yourself consumption as you promote it. There is a fine line between self-optimization and loss of control.

Of course, it takes a lot of education to use LSD to promote personal development. You have to be very systematic, eliminate distractions, plan in advance and ensure that you can work in a focused and concentrated manner.

This is also called chemical yoga, brain doping or biohacking. What fits best?

Biohacking is too physical, as is the term yoga. It's also about a mental benefit. The relationship between body and mind plays an important role. Microdosing is optimizing the self, mentally, physically and spiritually.

«People have the drive to change states of consciousness. And the fact is that substances like LSD are among the healthiest drugs. "

On a scale from 1 to 10, by how much do you think you can improve your performance?

Accepted drugs like caffeine increase convergent thinking. You can work through lists and get things done more quickly. The same applies to stimulants such as Ritalin, which were previously associated with brain doping. Microdosing, on the other hand, creates a state that we call flow. Creative projects can be promoted better and ideas can be implemented more easily. Sober you move on a 4 or 5, in the flow more on an 8 or 9.

If you believe people like you, microdosing is a real miracle cure: It should not only promote concentration and creativity, but also mentally balance. Renowned writer Ayelet Waldman wrote an entire book about how microdosing helped her out of menopause and even saved her marriage. Aside from the fact that LSD is illegal, what's the catch?

LSD is very stimulating. When I moved to New York six months ago, where everything is louder and more intense anyway, it increased my stress. That's one of the downsides.

Psychologist and microdosing pope James Fadiman found that it can worsen anxiety disorders.

Those who are prone to panic attacks should be careful. In addition, it always takes time to get used to the substance and find out how to best use it at work.

Then you come into play with your courses.

Yes, I advise people on calibrating and optimizing their dosages. In this way, the risks can also be minimized.

LSD inventor Alfred Hofmann used tiny doses of LSD twice a week to go for a walk in the forest. What do you understand by optimal use?

One microdose, twice a week. Feel the benefits on the first day, let it linger on the second and take a break on the third. Then start all over again. The goal is not to stand out from reality, but to achieve a lasting effect. Indigenous cultures of South America did this thousands of years ago. High dosages did not become popular as part of the counterculture until the 1960s.

How big is the risk of psychological dependence, of the fixed idea of ​​not being good enough without the substance?

Hallucinogens are not physically addictive. If you stop suddenly, you have no withdrawal symptoms. But yes, there is a psychological risk. That is why we recommend taking a longer break after 5 to 10 weeks. The key is to combine microdosing with yoga or meditation and extend the benefits over a longer period of time.

Your most negative experience?

Flow states are great and helpful. However, those who are in the flow too often can become impulsive and manic. I, too, have sometimes made hasty decisions or said things that were not thought through.

For example?

I was interviewed by a conservative television crew. I'm used to unpleasant questions. But when they told me that they wanted to question the anti-drug agency DEA for the same contribution, my brain started racing, I thought, oh my god, now they know everything. I don't do anything illegal, I don't deal, but pass on information. Still, I panicked.

LSD is also forbidden.

Of course, but I'm only providing information. The authorities don't care about microdosing anyway. Under Nixon, drugs were criminalized in order to get the minorities under control. And the "War on Drugs" was above all a war against the Latinos and the blacks. Microdosing, on the other hand, is popular among the white middle and upper classes. And there is no point in going against the people who pay taxes and contribute to the advancement of society. So I'm not really concerned. But if things should get critical, I'll just move to Amsterdam.

Still, they say it's not a good idea to make LSD available to everyone. Or do you think the substance should be legalized?

Not yet. Most people have no idea what to do with it. That is why we strive with “The Third Wave” to impart knowledge for meaningful and effective use. At some point, however, the use of psychedelic substances should be regulated in a similar way to driving a car: Anyone can take an exam and prove with an ID that they have trained in responsible behavior. Most people still have to learn that.

Have to? What is so wrong with a clear head?

Nothing. As human beings, however, we have the drive to change states of consciousness. And the fact is that substances like LSD are among the healthiest drugs. The health effects of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine are well known. With this in mind, psychedelics are definitely an alternative.

How did you come up with that?

I started taking trips when I was 19, hiking, on the beach, or just listening to music. After that, I was in a better mood for weeks. I was also able to concentrate better on my studies. That encouraged me to take an unconventional path in life. After graduating in Business Management, I taught English in Turkey and Thailand. Until I found out about microdosing in a podcast interview with Jim Fadiman and experimented with it for over seven months. The experiences really blew me away.

What kind of people are you taking advice from you today?

Our platform “The Third Wave” is currently accessed by 60,000 new visitors every month. For a private telephone consultation, they pay $ 127 per half hour. There are two customer groups who use our offer: the typical Silicon Valley audience, entrepreneurs, software engineers or other tech people between the ages of 20 and 40 who want to increase their productivity. The vast majority are between 40 and 60. They want to tackle problems such as depression in the courses or remain productive as they get older.

You grew up in the Midwest and were pretty young at 27. What do your parents say about promoting psychedelic drug use around the world?

The first reaction, of course, was: freak out. Now they support me, mainly because the current state of research shows that these substances can also help with problems such as depression or addiction. Recently my mother even told her church friends about my work. This is a big step towards acceptance. I also need my parents as a kind of parameter for the cultural debate about psychedelics. When people in the Midwest start looking seriously at hallucinogens, it signals the cultural shift we want.

"Microdosing represents increasing self-empowerment in the workplace."

A drug is always a statement about the time in which it is consumed. What does it mean that the former intoxicant of the counterculture has become a self-optimization stimulant for the performance society?

The West is beginning to realize that the need for control is in large part responsible for the suffering of humanity. To counteract this, work areas are created that rely less on hierarchical structures and rather promote team spirit. Our world is becoming more and more chaotic and dense. If you want to assert yourself in this, you have to think creatively and adapt quickly. At the same time, there are more and more decentralizing technologies that enable the individual to create projects.

At most, this applies to a small part of the world's population.

Perhaps, but more and more people are breaking out of the traditional model in order to work as freelancers or consultants for interesting ideas or projects that make sense. Microdosing represents increasing self-empowerment in the workplace.

In the late '68s, LSD was synonymous with counterculture and rebellion. Today it is supposed to make us efficient super people. Where is that supposed to lead?

It is a neutral tool that can be used for good or bad. Those who are more efficient have to work less. What used to take us 40 hours can now be done in 20. That creates more time for family, friends or traveling. Everyone can form their own narrative.

I'm not sure if this equation works out. Western societies are already struggling with the common disease of burnout. How does the body keep up with that?

As a startup founder, I've already felt the signs of burnout. But I took the time to evaluate how much I should and want to work. Becoming more adaptable to a system that is already sick surely cannot be positive.

Suppose psychedelic substances actually have all of these wonderful abilities that you attribute to them. What would a society look like in which all people “microdose”?

People would have a different relationship to work, they would invest more time in friends or nature. When you feel more connected, your social and ecological perception also changes. It may well be that this would also change the political systems, people would organize themselves differently and, for example, overcome nationalism. They could overcome boundaries that they impose on themselves.

That sounds a lot like hippie thinking now. Speaking of which: the counterculture once invented the LSD slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. What should it be today?

Good question, I have to think about it a little longer. So far I don't have a slogan, but a quote on my website. It reads: The Third Wave is a new psychedelic age. It's an era where it's not about getting out and rebelling, but about making psychedelics part of our mainstream. One shouldn't fear their negative effects, but rather embrace their incredible benefits.