LSD Saved Ayelet Waldman From Suicide. Researchers Think It Could Help Others.

Ayelet Waldman, a novelist and former federal public defender, at home in Berkeley, California on December 8, 2016. Waldman has written a memoir about her discovery of microdosing, the illegal but voguish drug regimen whose adherents use tiny amounts of LSD much as one might use Prozac. "I didn't do this on a lark," said Waldman. "I did this because I was afraid I was going to kill myself." Justin Kaneps

The scene was at once familiar and strange. Ayelet Waldman and I were at the kitchen table of her large old house in Berkeley, California. Her husband, the Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Michael Chabon, wandered in from the supermarket and started preparing dinner, something involving salmon. One of their four children, on break from college, came in search of beer, lingering for a few moments to chat about politics.

The strange part was what I was there for: Waldman’s month-long experiment with LSD, which she chronicles in her enjoyably punchy new book, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. Known primarily for her frank and frequently controversial essays on parenting and marriage, Waldman opens A Really Good Day with a description of her depressive tendencies, which she’d been treating with halting success for years. But prescribed psychotropics offered only itinerant help, and her suicidal ideation began to flourish.

It was during this dark night of the soul that Waldman came across a book that touted the benefits of microdosing LSD, taking only about 10 micrograms: “Not so much going on an acid trip as going on an acid errand,” she writes, given that a tab of LSD would be about 10 times stronger. Microdosing allowed her to avoid acid’s famous hallucinogenic properties while attaining a prolonged state of relaxation.

Related: Psilocybin, from magic mushrooms, reduces anxiety in cancer patients

Waldman’s LSD experiment lasted 30 days. She stressed that the drug remains illegal, and though some promising research has been conducted, it’s far too early to say whether LSD will one day be prescripted for those who’ve found Xanax and Prozac wanting.

The following interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

Tell me about your experience with LSD, which is a Schedule I drug.
Yes, it absolutely is. It's completely illegal.

Why did you commit a crime?
What are you, my mother? I hit this point in my life where I was just absolutely desperate. I just bottomed out. My marriage was in trouble. I became convinced that I was going to either ruin my marriage or, frankly, kill myself. And I didn't see any way out. I was profoundly depressed. Like, cataclysmically depressed. And suicidal.

Were you scared?
I was terrified. All I knew about acid was what I'd heard from friends or seen people on the Wesleyan campus tripping their balls off and being crazy. I'd never done it myself.

In the end, the only effect I noticed was this profound sense of well-being. Not even profound. A normal sense of well-being. Like a regular sense of well-being. Like if you're a normal human being. It was the most amazing experience. It was like all of the crap they tell you about mindfulness actually happening.

What did your husband think of the experiment?
He was willing to have me do it. He was desperately afraid I was going to kill myself. I was counting pills and googling daily the effects of suicide on children.

So why not take that risk and keep microdosing?
I’m a very bad criminal. I tried to buy it illegally and managed to convince myself that I was the victim of a [Drug Enforcement Administration] sting operation.

You’d tried medical marijuana. But that did not have the same results?
No. I don't like being intoxicated. I really am a kind of a Puritan when it comes to the recreational use of drugs. I don't like to drink. I don't like to feel stoned. I wouldn’t do [medical marijuana] during the day. And I’d certainly never do it and be online.

But with acid, you could?
You’re not tripping. If I gave you a microdose, you wouldn't know that I'd given you a microdose. You just might spend more time with your kids and be more patient with them.

Oh, no…
And have a wonderful evening with your wife. And at the end of the night you'd be like: Wow, that was really good day. And then the next day it would be even better.

Yet, you also had days when you were irritable.
Yeah, for sure. There were definitely days where I felt like taking the microdose made me a little more crabby.

You are not a fan of wellness culture.
I'm the most judgmental person you know, and I am superjudgmental about the whole wellness infrastructure.

You know you live in Berkeley, right?
I know. The capital of it. Something about it feels so fundamentally narcissistic to me. Some of the most self-aware people are the most obnoxious. They will snake your parking space in the parking lot of the Berkeley Bowl.

There has also been an LSD microdosing movement in Silicon Valley.
There are a lot of people on the microdosing Reddit board.

You’re a Redditor?
I am not at all. To be a woman on Reddit…how many rape threats can you handle in an hour?

I feel like there's almost as many articles about the movement in Silicon Valley as there are probably people actually microdosing. I'm not sure how much of a phenomenon it is. They’re all talking to the same four people.

Are you worried that the book might stigmatize you?
Dude, I'm so stigmatized. Like. seriously. You google me—what else are they going to say about me?

The reviews for Waldman’s new book have been quite good. Jennifer Senior, in The New York Times, praised her for engendering an “uncomfortable but necessary conversation,” while in The New Republic, the novelist Claire Vaye Watkins called the book “a passionate, persuasive argument for drug decriminalization.”  

Waldman says she could return to LSD if her mental state unravels, but knows the drug has its limits. “There is not enough acid in this world to handle a Trump presidency.”