A recent study has unveiled a significant increase in the use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) among business managers in the United States. The research, published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse, sheds light on a growing trend of LSD use that appears to be particularly pronounced among those in managerial positions.
The study, aimed at understanding evolving patterns of substance use, comes as part of a broader resurgence of interest in classic psychedelics like LSD within both scientific and public circles. It sought to examine whether anecdotal reports of increased LSD use among business leaders were indeed representative of a broader trend or merely a media-driven phenomenon.
Prior to this research, there had been growing speculation about the influence of psychedelics, including LSD, on creativity, problem-solving, and personal growth. Notable figures like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had openly discussed their positive experiences with classic psychedelics, fueling curiosity about their potential benefits, especially in the business world.
“The number of anecdotal media reports on psychedelic drug use among employees and business leaders have increased dramatically in recent years, though empirical evidence regarding the prevalence of this use was lacking,” explained study author Benjamin Korman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bamberg in Germany. “My intent was to determine whether these media reports stemmed from skewed reporting or were representative of an actual shift in psychedelic use within the workplace.”
To investigate these claims and changes in LSD use over time, the researcher turned to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). This annual survey, which gathers data from a wide cross-section of the U.S. population, provided a rich source of information. The current study focused on adults aged 18 and above who were working full-time and had participated in the survey between 2006 and 2014, marking the beginning of the current psychedelic resurgence.
Korman analyzed data from over 168,000 adults employed full-time, with a special focus on managerial status, age, gender, educational attainment, income, and past-year use of various substances. Importantly, the research accounted for the complex sampling design of the NSDUH survey and involved statistical analyses to ensure the findings’ validity.
The study found that LSD use within the past year had been steadily increasing among full-time employees. However, the most striking revelation was that this rise was even more pronounced among business managers, irrespective of gender. While non-managers saw a modest 0.02% yearly increase in past-year LSD use, managers experienced a much more significant 0.07% yearly increase.
“Although previous research has suggested that psychedelic drug use in the United States is predominantly increasing among young adults, my findings suggest that notable growth in use is also to be found among those at the highest tiers of organizational hierarchies,” Korman told PsyPost.
Intriguingly, the study noted that in 2006, the prevalence of past-year LSD use was lower among managers compared to non-managers. However, by 2014, the tables had turned, with managers reporting a higher prevalence of past-year LSD use. This shift represents a noteworthy change in behavior among business leaders, marking a nearly 1100% increase in LSD use among managers during the specified period.
The study also investigated whether changing perceptions of LSD’s risks or the use of other substances explained this trend. But the analyses found no significant differences in the perceived risks associated with LSD use between managers and non-managers over time. This suggests that other factors may be driving this temporal trend among business leaders.
“I was surprised that decreasing perceptions of the risks associated with LSD use could not explain the findings,” Korman said. “This suggests that it is not the potential negative effects of LSD that are responsible for differences in use between business managers and non-managers, but maybe perceptions of the potential positive effects of LSD use.”
But the study, like all research, includes some caveats. Firstly, the research was confined to the 2006-2014 timeframe, making it difficult to provide a current snapshot of LSD use among business managers. Future research may need to extrapolate the findings to understand the present situation better. Additionally, while the study identifies a significant increase in LSD use, it does not delve into the underlying motivations driving this trend.
“In line with my previous comment, one question that remains unanswered is why the prevalence of LSD use among business managers increased,” Korman said. “My study could only show what wasn’t explaining the effect, but not what is.”
The study, “The Rising Use of LSD among Business Managers“, was published October 11, 2023.