With the unprecedented pace of change and innovation today, a top executive’s biggest challenge is finding a way to manage stakeholder expectations alongside constant internal chaos. Maintaining a large company in this rapidly evolving environment can be overwhelming, and that’s why many leaders in the HR space and other industries are turning to an unconventional method that is expanding our perception of wellbeing: microdosing.

Microdosing is the controlled use of psychedelic drugs that can help alleviate the overwhelming feelings of stress that many of us feel in the modern workplace. A microdose is roughly one-tenth the normal dose of a given drug, to the point where its effects are sub-perceptual. Rick Doblin, founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, says it’s enough “to feel a little bit of energy lift, a little bit of insight, but not so much that you’re tripping.”

Generally stigmatized words like “tripping” and “psychedelic drugs” have microdosing, as a concept, facing the same sort of public outcry and scrutiny that all recreational drugs face. While microdosing certainly is still drug use – much like consuming caffeine is – it is subdued, controlled and provides a myriad of benefits for high-performing professionals without the risks typically associated with regular doses.

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One prominent reason microdosing faces pushback (beyond the legal regulations regarding drugs and their classifications) is cultural perception. When we imagine drug use and addictionone of the most common studies cited comes from the 1930s “Skinner Box” research.

Skinner Boxes were the names given to small chambers used by behavioral psychologists to assess the operant conditioning of animal subjects like rats or pigeons. The conclusion of the Skinner Box study on drug addiction was that if you put a rat in a cage and give them the choice between drug-laced or sugar-laced water, they’ll choose the drugs every time – until they’re fully addicted , or dead.

Skinner Box experiments shaped public perception early on to the dangers of drugs, and was prominently referenced in the War on Drugs, which began in 1971 and is still, technically, ongoing. However, a follow-up experiment was conducted in 1978, well into that war, by psychologist Bruce Alexander. The experiment was called the “Rat Park.”

In that study, the rat subject was placed in a larger cage than the previously used Skinner Box. This cage, or Rat Park, came complete with quality food, toys and other rats to socialize with. Drug-laced water was still provided, but this time the rat’s observed reaction was wholly different. In that safe, enriching environment, the rat only consumed a fraction of the amount of drug-laced water as compared to its isolated colleague. In this instance, the drug became another enjoyable factor in the environment to partake in rather than a strong addiction that consumed all of the rat’s energy and focus.

Read more: Over half of teachers want to quit from burnout

The conclusion of this study was that drug abuse isn’t an inevitable conclusion to drug use, but rather a negative adaptation to unhealthy environments. It also outlines another important point to bear in mind when talking about drugs: the strict regulation, enforcement and automatic sentences imposed on drug users has limited their accessibility for further study on psychological impact and informed usage.

Changing the culture on drugs
While public drug use might sound like a radically new concept, it is actually much more in line with the traditional human experience than we might expect. A wide range of human cultures have historically engaged in regular use of drugs and psychedelics for the purpose of ceremony, community and enjoyment.

Peyote and ayahuasca are two well-known examples of mind-altering substances used in the traditional ceremonies of Native Americans. Still used to this day, they both play important personal and communal roles in their respective cultures. Kava is another popular example of a mind-altering substance with extensive cultural use. Fairly mild, Kava is seen by Polynesian cultures as a calming experience, capable of making peace and channeling traditional spirit forces.

Publicly acceptable drug use can be even more mild, so commonly used that few people even consider them drugs. In some high-altitude communities, coca leaves (which contain the psychoactive alkaloid, cocaine) are regularly chewed as a mild stimulant, helpful for combating altitude sickness and providing energy. In western culture, coffee is perceived as a highly acceptable and social affair. While caffeine is technically a drug, coffee breaks are a classic example of casual community building in office settings.

Read more: ‘The best of both worlds’: How hybrid work is preventing burnout

It may seem that microdosing feels like a sizable jump from coffee. After all, some of the most popular substances used in microdosing are MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, and mushrooms. But the doses and effects aren’t as intimidating as you might imagine. A microdose is exactly what it claims to be: about one-tenth the size of a regular dose that you take every few days to experience subdued effects of the drug. A microdose, in that regard, can be taken fairly casually, typically over a morning coffee, and it doesn’t impede the regular order of your day. In fact, microdosing has far more benefits than side-effects.

The benefits of microdosing
People rely on any number of substances to reduce stress or simply get through their day, some less healthy than others. Smoking, alcohol and even caffeine are all used to help people cope with everyday anxieties and pressures. Microdosing, conversely, has been known to reduce those bad habits and greatly increase good ones. When used correctly, habitual microdosing becomes somewhat of an oxymoron. Recommended use rarely exceeds twice a week since the positive effects are greatly reduced beyond or below that frequency.

The brain is a machine constantly trying to predict the future and protect itself from catastrophe, but for ambitious industry leaders in high-risk, high-stakes environments where big decisions are constantly being made, compartmentalizing threats can sometimes feel impossible. Microdoses help reduce the brain centers related to that inner threat-detector, allowing individuals to focus more on the task at hand. It allows them to be present in the moment, reducing distractions and brain-chatter that isn’t relevant. Distractions that can sometimes have peers perceive them as uncompassionate – a boss, rather than a leader.

Industry leaders aren’t rats trapped in small cages; they’re social, focused and hardworking. But because of this, they’re also prone to chronic-fatigue, migraines and depression. Microdosing not only alleviates the latter problems, but improves the former personality traits.

It has resulted in individuals having increased focus, awareness, empathy and people skills, alongside improved creativity, productivity, energy and out-of-the-box thinking. This staggering improvement from microdosing is helping executives everywhere get ahead and stay ahead.

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