Over the weekend The New York Times published this piece on LSD microdosing: “How LSD Saved One Woman’s Marriage”:
Ayelet Waldman, a novelist and former federal public defender, recalled the sunny spring morning she rolled out of bed in her Berkeley, Calif., home and experienced the most curious sensation: She felt alive.As her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, slept and her teenage son and daughter slumped over the breakfast table, Ms. Waldman did not feel a trace of morning surliness, or of the suffocating depression that had dogged her for months. Rather, she says, with the perkiness of a morning-show host, she chirped about the loveliness of the blue skies and hummed upbeat ditties as she whipped up banana-strawberry smoothies. She even offered to braid her daughter’s hair. It was all so out of character that her children spoke up.“Mom, are you on acid?” her daughter asked sarcastically. Ms. Waldman froze. It was not yet the moment, she decided, to answer “yes.
Ms. Waldman had discovered microdosing, an illegal but voguish drug regimen in which devotees seek to enhance creativity, focus and mental balance by ingesting regular, barely perceptible doses of hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.
In the 1960s early research on LSD and other psychedelic drugs suggested that they might be useful in treating a number of psychological problems, including alcoholism. There was even one study that suggested that psilocybin might reduce criminal recidivism. However, this line of research was stopped when LSD became illegal and was regarded as a national scourge. Now, thankfully, that trend is reversing and there is more interest in studying the potential benefits of these drugs.
Pavlovian conditioning (also called classical conditioning) is a kind of learning. It is where we take a unlearned response and learn to make that response to a new stimulus. For years, the idea that drug overdose may be related to a particular form of classical conditioning has been suggested by learning theorists. A recent paper in Current Directions in Psychological Science, reviews the evidence;
Heroin overdose deaths in the Unites States more than tripled from 2010 to 2014, reaching almost 11,000 per year. Despite the use of the term “overdose,” many of these victims died after self-administering an amount of opiate that would not be expected to be fatal for these drug-experienced, and drug-tolerant, individuals. Various explanations of this overdose mystery have been proposed. I describe an explanation based on Pavlovian conditioning. Organisms associate cues present at the time of drug administration with the systemic effect of the drug. These drug-predictive cues come to elicit responses that attenuate the effect of a drug. Such anticipatory conditional responses mediate chronic tolerance. If the drug is administered in the presence of novel cues, tolerance fails to occur and the victim suffers an overdose. Overdose prevention strategies should incorporate information about the contribution of drug-associated cues to drug tolerance.
An amazing piece in the Guardian about the Nazi’s use of drugs:
In 1940, as plans were made to invade France through the Ardennes mountains, a “stimulant decree” was sent out to army doctors, recommending that soldiers take one tablet per day, two at night in short sequence, and another one or two tablets after two or three hours if necessary. The Wehrmacht ordered 35m tablets for the army and Luftwaffe, and the Temmler factory increased production.
. . . the invasion of France was made possible by the drugs. No drugs, no invasion. When Hitler heard about the plan to invade through Ardennes, he loved it [the allies were massed in northern Belgium]. But the high command said: it’s not possible, at night we have to rest, and they [the allies] will retreat and we will be stuck in the mountains. But then the stimulant decree was released, and that enabled them to stay awake for three days and three nights. Rommel [who then led one of the panzer divisions] and all those tank commanders were high – and without the tanks, they certainly wouldn’t have won.”