Using Psychedelics for Problem Solving

Psychedelics are known for powerfully enhancing creativity and problem solving and have been researched for these purposes, with prominent scientists, engineers, and architects as research subjects. Also see our section on famous people who have used psychedelics, many of whom credit their experiences with leading to breakthroughs in their life and work.

Harvard/Stanford psychologist James Fadiman has been at the forefront of experiments using low and micro-doses of psilocybin, MDMA, or LSD to problem solve:

At 9:30 in the morning, an architect and three senior scientists—two from Stanford, the other from Hewlett-Packard—donned eyeshades and earphones, sank into comfy couches, and waited for their government-approved dose of LSD to kick in. From across the suite and with no small amount of anticipation, Dr. James Fadiman spun the knobs of an impeccable sound system and unleashed Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op. 68.” Then he stood by, ready to ease any concerns or discomfort.


For this particular experiment, the couched volunteers had each brought along three highly technical problems from their respective fields that they’d been unable to solve for at least several months. In approximately two hours, when the LSD became fully active, they were going to remove the eyeshades and earphones, and attempt to find some solutions. Fadiman and his team would monitor their efforts, insights, and output to determine if a relatively low dose of acid—100 micrograms to be exact—enhanced their creativity.”

The Heretic, The Morning News

You can more about Fadiman's experiments in his article The Promise of Psychedelic Research and his book, The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, or in the article linked above.

Tips for Problem Solving on Psychedelics

1. Have a problem in mind before you enter the trip.

Don't worry too much about defining the problem very specifically before you trip; part of the fun of problem-solving on psychedelics can be figuring out new ways to frame and define problems that you’ve been thinking about for a while. Just finding a new way to state the problem can lead to insights!

2. Dose low.

If you want to focus on solving a problem while tripping, you should aim for a dose that is high enough to alter your normal state enough to allow you that "outsider" perspective that psychedelics can offer, but low enough to allow you stay focused on something fairly mundane like a problem (as opposed to thinking about the meaning of life, love, truth, beauty, and happiness---though thinking about those things can certainly lead to insights about mundane problems as well!). A typical problem-solving dose may be 60mg of MDMA, 75ug of LSD, or a cap of shrooms.

3. Do your research.

Read the books and articles below and do your own searches as well.

4. Stay mindful.

Remember that psychedelics can exaggerate thoughts in ways that can be both helpful and unhelpful. Staying mindful of your thought patterns, emotions, and reactions while you are using psychedelics is very important to allowing you to come to the most useful, easily integrated, and healthy insights into your problem. Remember to drink a lot of water, take breaks from your problem if you’re getting really intensely into it, and clear your head a little bit.

5. Integrate your insights.

Talking through your insights with a friend or therapist, whether they were gained with a psychedelic or not, helps integrate them insights into your consciousness in a balanced and healthy way.

Books and Articles about Problem Solving with Psychedelics

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