So it's OK to do drugs at work now?

So it's OK to do drugs at work now?

Elon Musk can be cagey about his purported drug use. After bombshell reports about internal concerns over the Tesla-SpaceX-Twitter-Neuralink executive using LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, and ketamine, Musk's line has typically been that it's not happening. More recently, he's shifted: OK, fine, it is happening, but it's just ketamine for depression, and actually it's good for shareholders. If his companies are doing well, Musk argued recently, and he's taking drugs while running those companies, then he should stick with the drugs, for capitalism's sake. One might pause at the logic, but Musk is hardly the only person making that calculation — plenty of people have come around to the idea that drugs are a decent work tool.

Professionals are increasingly using substances like LSD, psilocybin, and ketamine as mechanisms to improve their performance. Startup hustlers and working women say they're turning to "magic" mushrooms to be more productive and creative, to take the edge off, or maybe just to get a bit of a hangover-free after-hours buzz. Some executives are attending luxury psychedelic retreats, where they spend a few days tripping in a forest, trying to expand and unlock their minds in ways that they hope will expand and unlock business opportunities, à la Steve Jobs. The psychedelics market is a lucrative one and expected to reach $11 billion by 2027.

Drugs used to be viewed as dangerous, a hindrance to life success, or, you know, just something you did for fun. Now they're increasingly seen as a useful tool for work. Instead of trying to get high, people are using them to try to get ahead.

"It's not uncommon for the public view on things to flip-flop, going from negative to, 'Oh, wow, these things are great,' and viewing them as potentially good for everything," Greg Fonzo, a codirector of the Center for Psychedelic Research & Therapy at the University of Texas at Austin's Dell Medical School, told me. "The truth lies somewhere in between, right? No drug is for everything, and most drugs are not purely negative."


Microdosing — which means taking, say, one-tenth of a normal dose of a drug — is a trend popular among moms on the playground and workers in the office. Anecdotally, people say it helps with creativity, focus, productivity, and just feeling better on the job. Scientifically, the story gets more complicated.

The jury is still out on whether and how microdosing works, said Matthew Johnson, a senior researcher for the Center of Excellence for Psilocybin Research and Treatment at Sheppard Pratt. There hasn't been a ton of research, and while people say in surveys that microdosing helps improve cognitive function and reduce anxiety, some placebo-controlled trials suggest that, in actuality, it may not do much.

"The science of microdosing is: So far, we don't really know what's going on, whether it's all placebo effect," Johnson said.

In theory, microdosing is subperceptual. It's not like sipping a glass of wine to relax or having a cup of coffee to wake yourself up, both of which hit pretty immediately. The idea is instead to take tiny doses over time you don't notice, which hopefully benefit you in the long run.

If people are indeed feeling something off what they ingest, it's possible they're not technically microdosing — they're just getting a little bit high on the job. A glance at Reddit would indicate that unintentional at-work "oops" highs happen, which is because measuring these drugs precisely is hard.

"You could get a mushroom that has a little bit more or a little bit less psilocybin, and then you would end up having a perceptual experience, which, depending on the activity of the day, might be more than you bargained for," said Katrina Michelle, a clinical therapist in New York and the former director of harm reduction for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Of course, not everyone is looking for a micro experience to improve work performance. Some people are experimenting with psychedelics on the macrodose level. Some corporate elites are seeking out psychedelic retreats to improve their leadership skills, shift their perceptions, and, in some cases, even bond with their teams.

Rob Grover and Gary Logan, the founders of the Journeymen Collective, which offers luxury guided magic-mushroom retreats in Vancouver, British Columbia, told me their company worked with a multitude of executives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries to help them elevate their businesses to "conscious businesses," which they recognize sounds fluffy.

"When leaders become conscious leaders so that they're aware of what's going on around them, they have greater precision of thought, greater clarity, greater creativity that they can lead in a different way and they can lead in a more effective and efficient way," Grover said. "So that's where we come in and help people with a massive reset of their consciousness so that they can impact their company, their boards, their vision of what they're here to do in a deeply impactful way."

They work with people for a minimum of four months — one month of preparation leading up to two days of "ceremonies," followed by three months of "integration" post-retreat. Their experiences, which start at $15,000 a person for a group session, have seen a huge boom over the past couple of years: Bookings increased 183% from 2022 to 2023.