‘The only way I can finish a script on time,’ a writer friend told me a week ago, ‘is if I steal some Adderall from my kid.’
We were talking about the trouble we have getting things done, feeling inspired, being able to focus. I told her I was thinking about trying ‘microdosing’, the newest craze to hit the entertainment business.
This involves taking small, sub-perceptible amounts of a psychedelic drug like LSD (or psilocybin, the psychedelic agent in ‘magic mushrooms’) every four days. Not enough to get all Lucy-in-the-sky, but enough to lighten the mood and open up new creative pathways. That’s what people say, anyway. Like pretty much everything about showbusiness these days, the trend comes directly from Silicon Valley, where the big brains are trying out psychedelics and pretty much everything else to boost their neurological performance. It’s not the evolution the acid-dropping hippies of the 1960s would have expected — from ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’ to ‘Turn On, Get Really Productive, File For an Initial Public Offering’, but I have a script to write so it’s an alluring idea. Take somewhere between ten and 20 micrograms of LSD on Mondays and Thursdays and wait for inspiration and creative energy to hit.
‘Not interested,’ my friend said, when I told her about the bestselling book I’ve just finished, How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan. He writes convincingly about the beneficial effects of psychedelic doses (both micro and maxi) and has the kind of sober, New Yorker magazine-approved profile I thought she’d be impressed by.
‘I’m not depressed,’ she said, when I told her about Ayelet Waldman’s bestseller, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. Waldman had struggled with depression for years, and found that a few micrograms of LSD did what therapy and legal medication could not.
‘Look,’ she said, ‘my trouble is that I’m in my forties, I have three kids, my husband is a journalist, which is another way of saying “unemployed”,and I’m the sole breadwinner, and I’m tired. All the time. I’d love to be more creative, open up the neural pathways or whatever the bullshit is you’re slinging, but I just need to finish this script and get paid. I can’t afford to be creative.’
Hollywood has always fuelled itself with drugs. Film stars were opium eaters and pot heads from the early days. Cary Grant extolled the virtues of LSD in the late 1950s. Late-night shoots were, and are, kept on schedule with regular hits of whatever amphetamine is to hand. And one reason there’s so much shouting and erratic hamming it up in 1970s movies is that everyone was either high on marijuana or buzzing on cocaine. They were mostly drunks, too.
What no one really worried about, back then, was being productive or meeting deadlines. It took Silicon Valley’s invasion of the entertainment business to import the idea that psycho-pharmaceuticals would be useful in increasing shareholder value. Which is why my friend steals Adderall — an amphetamine similar to Ritalin prescribed for ADHD sufferers — from her own children.
‘They don’t need it,’ she told me. ‘But it’s easy to get it for them. All of their friends are on it. Doctors hand out prescriptions for kids left and right. So I get it for them, but keep it for myself… Don’t look at me like that. Why do they need it? They’re kids. They don’t have to earn.’
An excellent point. And a practical one. The key to success in this business, and probably every other one, too, is not in the creative spark that kickstarts an idea, but in the dogged execution. It’s not enough to have a vision for the TV show you want to write or the film you want to direct. Creative visions are cheap and plentiful. Pretty much everyone, if you ask them, has a ‘great idea’ for a show or movie. The real aristocrats of showbusiness aren’t the best at what they do — they’re just the ones who got up early and slogged through the ugly parts of the job.
Creativity, I decided, can wait. Right now what I needed was some Adderall.
‘I’ll sell you some,’ my friend offered. ‘For just a little bit more than I paid for it.’
Which seemed fair. Technically, yes, in that moment she became a drug dealer, but how many drug dealers do you know for whom ‘This is gonna make you so productive!’ is the sales pitch?
That was almost two weeks ago. I finished the second draft of the script yesterday, proving that Hollywood remains utterly dependent on pharmaceutical crutches.