Study: LSD Use On the Rise Among American Business Leaders

A recent analysis of psychedelic drug use among American adults has indicated that business leaders and managers seem to be dropping more acid than their subordinates. 

The study, published last Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Substance Use and Misuse, analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and looked at trends related to use of lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as “LSD,” or “acid.”

The study looked at data from over 168,000 adults over the course of the years 2006-2014 and found that people who identified themselves as managers in their field had experienced a notable increase in LSD use in the last year of the study, significantly more so than other full-time employees who did not identify as managers. 

“The results suggest that the prevalence of past year LSD use increased over time at a greater rate among business managers than non-managers and that this difference cannot be accounted for by changes in business managers’ perceived risk of LSD use or general substance use relative to non-managers,” the study said. 

NSDUH survey responders self-reported their own drug use which included information on psychedelics including LSD. Researchers used this information to form correlations and they found that business managers and leaders experienced a .07% increase in LSD use over the last year of the study whereas other full time employees who were not in a leadership position only increased by .02%.

Author of the study and postdoctoral researcher at Germany’s University of Bamberg, Benjamin Korman, told PsyPost that he wanted to embark on this study in order to apply science and logic to a recent resurgence in popularity with regard to classical psychedelic use among American adults.

“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,” Korman said to PsyPost. “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.”

Indeed psychedelic use has been on the rise once more, in part due to a new swath of studies and academic interest in the use of psychedelics to treat a barrage of treatment-resistant mental health disorders. In terms of recreational use, the majority of psychedelic use has long been associated with a younger demographic. This is likely the lingering sentiment of Nixon-era propaganda portraying psychedelic users as degenerates and draft-dodgers. 

However, the data does reflect that young adults are by far the biggest consumer demographic of psychedelic drugs, although a 2022 study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found psychedelic use was actually decreasing among adolescents. However, Korman told the PsyPost he wanted to identify trends outside of age-related correlations. 

“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 said to PsyPost.

This data represents a major shift in LSD use, according to the study, as in 2006 LSD use was higher among subordinates than among higher ranking members of company hierarchies. In 2014, managerial LSD use increased at a higher rate than regular employees.

This could be due to a myriad of factors including public perception shift with regard to the risks of taking psychedelics that may have made it easier for certain people to try them. However, Korman told PsyPost that his team accounted for several different factors over the course of the study and could not identify a direct causal relationship between risk association and LSD use. Rather, he said the opposite could be true. 

“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.”

These findings are, naturally, preliminary and subject to more review. It is important to note that the study could not provide any insight on current day LSD trends as the available data stopped in 2014. More research will need to be performed to dispute or verify Korman’s claims and figure out specifically if/why managers might be celebrating Bicycle Day more than their employees. 

“In line with my previous comment, one question that remains unanswered is why the prevalence of LSD use among business managers increased,” Korman said to PsyPost. “My study could only show what wasn’t explaining the effect, but not what is.”

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