Startups and psychedelics: Founders trip on smart drugs

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Updated: June 30, 2016 8:48 PM

There was a time when having a cup of coffee was the best way to brainstorm at work and get the creative juices flowing for that ultimate idea.

Startups, seed, investmentToday, startups in India, their denizens that is, are replacing this potent brew with smart pills and micro-doses of psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin. (Reuters)

There was a time when having a cup of coffee was the best way to brainstorm at work and get the creative juices flowing for that ultimate idea. The little burst of caffeine was considered the only powerful and efficient stimulant for the brain to make room for innovative thinking or a bolt of inspiration. Today, startups in India, their denizens that is, are replacing this potent brew with smart pills and micro-doses of psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin. In fact, these active chemicals in hallucinogenic mushrooms, which have already become a job enhancer in Silicon Valley, are now becoming a staple among many startup founders as well as investors across the globe. Ever wondered whether these smart drugs really have the potential to unlock the mind and think through problems or are such claims just a figment of someone’s overactive imagination?

Psychedelic drugs like LSD are psychoactive compounds that basically light up the nervous system. LSD which gained popularity in the 1960s is obtained from a fungus called ergot that grows on grains such as rye. Micro-dosing on such drugs has the potential to produce mild euphoria and an energy boost with improved cognitive functioning, emotional balance, and physical stamina without having any weakening effect on the body. At least that is the sentiment being wildly accepted.

When we talk about the startup world, entrepreneurs are seemingly the most effective when they think differently. For them, innovation is crucial for developing a profitable business and to let out the creative ideas, they are required to think outside the box and outside of mainstream expectations. Let’s take the example of Steve Jobs. The doyenne of technology and entrepreneurship once said that using LSD when he was young was one of the most enlightening experiences in his life and helped with his creative process. It reinforced his sense of what was important; creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and human consciousness as much as possible.

Micro-dosing or low doses of mind-altering substances are believed to be a non-toxic and non-addictive way of using psychedelics to boost focus, performance and productivity. However, the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the United States has stated that with no approved medicinal value, any use of LSD can be an abuse to the body. (SOURCE: This hallucinogenic drug can inculcate mind-altering experiences by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature; intensifying the senses and creating a disconnection from reality by changing the way the brain perceives certain things. With day-to-day use, one can become tolerant to certain amounts of LSD and may experience an increasing urge for indulging in higher doses for the same effects, resulting in long-term consequences.

So, are these reasons towards a potential negative effect of micro-dosing on LSD proven when its positive effects seem exponential on the other hand? Ironically, micro-dosing of LSD may even lead to a prolonged lifespan but this is yet to be validated and certainly does not mean every entrepreneur should start micro-dosing. Instead of taking the high moral ground on the proposed way to treat these power boosters, it is best to let scientific research and development guide us towards understanding its actual repercussions and relevance in the modern-day context. The trick is to find more sustainable alternatives to amp up one’s creative juices because prolonged consumption of happy pills may raise your spirits today but may prove unsafe tomorrow without adequate scientific substantiation. To avoid such detrimental side-effects, entrepreneurs should instead resort to more innocuous and healthy ways of recharging their creative cells. Meditation or regular exercise for example is known to heal both body and mind from stress while instilling positive energy when pursued daily.

Creativity and innovation fuel the existence of an entrepreneur. Although we cannot ignore the fact that some of the most groundbreaking technologies we rely on today have been created by entrepreneurs who credit these types of drugs for their enhanced capabilities, it would be wiser to recognize the hurdles blocking the brain to think big. The human brain is stronger beyond one’s imagination and has the potential to create miracles even without any special booster drug. So the true limitless pill may not be the fictional NZT. And while the one-off preview on LSD may certainly be an eye opener, the right path to feeling limitless may just be training your mind, and of course the occasional cup of coffee. Of course, it would be wiser to not succumb to the easy lure of psychedelic indulgence when it is likely to increase your susceptibility towards adopting it as a daily habit. Finding healthier alternatives to recharge and uplift your brain cells may prove to make you happier in the long run.

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