The premise of this journalistic memoir is simple. A middle-aged white suburban mom takes part in a secret, self-designed solo experiment. She will microdose LSD for a month in an effort to improve her mental health, keeping a diary to assess the results.
In the absence of clinical studies, Ayelet Waldman bases her drug trial on the pioneering experiences of scientists, artists and intellectuals, described online or in psychedelic lit. The dose is less than a tenth of a typical acid tab, meaning no tripping or hallucinations.
Suffering from mood swings, a frozen shoulder, insomnia and severe depression, Waldman is desperate to find a solution to issues that plague her work, marriage (to fellow writer Michael Chabon), parenting, and relationships. Daily, she measures the effects on her mood, sleep, chronic pain, irritability and productivity as a writer.
A self-proclaimed nerd and responsible citizen, she agonises over the illegal experiment. Is it irresponsible? Is it ethical? Is it safe? How can she legitimise a criminal act that could put her family at risk? Oh, and how does one source pure LSD anyway?
Soon, the project takes on breadth and depth, bridging the personal and the political. She contextualizes the self-indulgent experiment of a privileged white liberal by describing the devastating effects of America’s failed war on drugs, the excessive incarceration of millions of people of colour and the violence and death caused by allowing the world’s most lucrative industry to be run by criminals, rather than regulated by government.
Bringing her experience as a federal public defender to bear, she unpacks the hypocritical greed-fuelled American drug ecosystem, the myths fuelled by media hysteria and conservative politicians, and the dangers of criminalization. She makes a clear-eyed case for harm reduction policies and for LSD, MDMA and psilocybin to be legalized for therapeutic use.
I only knew Waldman as the co-creator of Unbelievable, one of the best written and acted serial dramas in recent years. Her writing here is crystal clear, self-aware and full of humour and wit. Her project is brave, humanistic and eye-opening.
Now someone hook me up already!