After a litany of prescriptions failed to control her stormy mood swings and deep depression, writer Ayelet Waldman finally found relief in a blue vial of diluted LSD.
Feeling she "had nothing to lose," the San Francisco Bay-area former federal public defender deposited two tiny drops of the psychedelic drug under her tongue—and soon felt her gloom subside.
"I was starting to feel, frankly, suicidal," the 52-year-old told AFP. "If the other option is death—or at least, misery that feels like death—then there's no reason not to at least try something different."
Waldman says she renewed her spirit by "microdosing," a modish—albeit illegal and potentially risky—trend that involves ingesting a nearly imperceptible portion of a psychedelic drug, often LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.
The goal is not to hallucinate but to boost work performance and creativity—or, as was Waldman's case, treat a laundry list of ailments including mood disorders.
"Within the first day I felt better," she said. "The depression was just gone—and that was astonishing."
She credits her daily LSD regimen of some 10 micrograms of acid—about one-tenth of a full, far more kaleidoscopic hit—with improving her relationships and enhancing her work.
"I would have access to 'that flow,'" she said, describing how subtle doses of LSD changed her writing habits. "Your mind moves swiftly but not erratically, with a kind of really delightful focus."
Microdosing has gained traction outside drug-enthusiast circles in recent years, particularly among young professionals in California's Silicon Valley looking to dial up their careers.
Its growing popularity has been ushered along by several influential US podcasts and most recently Waldman's latest book, "A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life," in which she details how psychedelics helped her get off the manic-depressive rollercoaster.
'More in touch'
LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide, is a potent synthetic drug that gained notoriety in 1960s counterculture. In large doses it can induce hallucinations and drastically alter perception and cognitive functions for prolonged periods of time.
Carl, whose name has been changed for fear of legal repercussions, works in media in Washington and told AFP he has microdosed with LSD at work some half dozen times in the past year.
He said the tiny hits help him stay focused.
"You've got more energy," the 29-year-old said. "The core of your consciousness is still there—you just might be a little bit more in touch."
Oliver, whose name has also been changed, describes dropping microdoses as a "very mild euphoria—almost like anticipation of something good."
The 25-year-old, who is also a media professional in the nation's capital, has taken recreational tabs of acid—which he said have run him about 10 dollars each—in addition to tiny doses.
Rather than a full psychedelic experience, he said microdosing gives him "a slight sharpening of concentration, I think produced by the effect that LSD has of making everything feel textured and interesting."