Depending on your milieu and the type of news you consume, you may have already heard about microdosing. But what exactly is it, and how can microdosing be used therapeutically?
This article will cover a wide range of microdosing basics, from its legality and uses to the various substances people microdose and how to do so safely.
Microdosing is relatively simple to explain. “Micro,” from Greek mikros, means “small,” so this simply refers to a small dose. (And when talking about “microdosing,” people are generally referring to psychedelic or otherwise mind-altering substances.) But how small, exactly?
The concept behind microdosing is that when taken regularly, a small dose of a given substance may positively benefit one’s mood, creativity, and overall well-being. It is not about “tripping” at all, as the dose should be far less than the amount necessary to feel “high.”
In fact, microdosing is commonly thought of as a “sub-perceptual” dose, meaning that the amount consumed does not cause a prominent “high” but rather remains below the consciously perceptible level.
Indeed, microdosing is defined as only a .05% – 1% dose compared to an active dose, according to a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. Does this really have an effect, however? We’ll get into that more below.
Legality of Psychedelics in Montreal
The Canadian government considers psychedelics “controlled substances,” meaning they are federally regulated. For the most part, psychedelics are considered Schedule III substances by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). Ketamine and MDMA, however, are listed as Schedule I.
That said, some Schedule I psychedelics may be available in private clinics or for research purposes, while some Schedule III psychedelics have recently been permitted to qualifying patients under the direction of a physician.
There are certain exceptions due to research purposes and where you might live within Canada. For example, Vancouver has decriminalized psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) within city limits, and Toronto has also decriminalized small quantities of controlled substances within city limits.
Why Do People Microdose?
Now, why exactly do people microdose? That’s a good question; the answer will differ depending on who you ask.
Michael Pollan, the author of How to Change Your Mind, interviewed an old friend for his book and documentary. A mother battling severe depression, Pollan’s friend found significant relief by microdosing LSD. She is far from alone, and many doctors and patients are excited about the therapeutic possibilities of microdosing for treating depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more.
Another commonly cited reason for microdosing is for creative purposes. In fact, the phenomenon of microdosing emerged largely thanks to the outsized influence of Silicon Valley, famously home to giant tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft. Steve Jobs, for instance, the former CEO of Apple, referred to his LSD experimentation as a powerful aid to the imagination.
However, it remains to be seen whether these reported benefits are legitimate or an example of the placebo effect. We will get into the science of microdosing shortly, but first, let’s examine the most popular substances used for microdosing.
Substances Used for Microdosing
Here are the four most commonly used substances for microdosing: psilocybin, LSD, DMT, and cannabis. We will take a quick look at each one below.
Psilocybin is the psychoactive component found in “magic mushrooms.” In recent years, many encouraging studies suggest that psilocybin may positively impact people with depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression. In other words, where traditional medical interventions have failed, it appears that psilocybin can lead to a positive breakthrough.
LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by Albert Hoffmann, a Swiss chemist. It is derived from a fungus, ergot, that naturally grows on rye (and other grains). An infamous part of the 1960s counterculture, LSD has similar effects to psilocybin, and may help improve “mood, cognition, and creativity” when microdosed.
DMT is a naturally occurring tryptamine similar to other molecules, such as serotonin and melatonin. When taken as a psychedelic drug, it can have intensely powerful effects, such as ego dissolution or a profound sense of unity with the universe. It is less popular for microdosing than psilocybin and LSD.
Another substance that has seen recent experimentation with microdosing is cannabis. Commonly known as marijuana or weed, cannabis contains the psychoactive compounds known as THC and CBD (tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, respectively). While more research needs to be done, some studies suggest that cannabis can help improve mood and lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How to Microdose
Microdosing is simple on the surface. However, given the substances in question, it is also imperative to get right. The last thing you want to do is fudge the numbers when it comes to taking hallucinogenic substances.
So, we’ll now cover everything you need to know to safely microdose. That said, this is not medical advice, and you should consult a medical professional before starting any new regimen.
Preparing to microdose, no matter the substance, works on two levels: the physical preparation to ensure you take the correct dose and preparation in terms of research and mental preparation to ensure that you microdose safely.
Here are some helpful links to explore before you start microdosing:
Depending on the substance you choose to microdose, the methods will vary.
There are many ways, for example, to take psilocybin. You can crush mushrooms up and put them into capsules; you can make tea; you can soak mushroom pieces in lemon juice, which increases potency; or you can simply eat them. A standard microdose for the most common magic mushroom (psilocybe cubensis), is 0.05 to 0.15 grams.
For LSD, it is easiest to have a liquid solution rather than in “tab” form. A common method, which we will get into more below, would be to microdose 5 – 10 micrograms every three days (one day on, two days off).
As for cannabis, roughly 3-5 mg of THC is considered a standard dose (5-10 mg is often what you’ll see as a serving for edible and drinkable forms). Around .05 mg would be a standard microdose, though you should experiment with what works best for you. In any case, be sure to take your time, especially with edibles or drinkables—they can take more than two hours to take full effect.
Various protocols have been proposed when it comes to microdosing. We will explore a few of these protocols and what they outline in terms of microdosing different substances.
The Fadiman Protocol
James Fadiman is a well-respected researcher of psychedelics and especially microdosing. He proposes a microdose of about 1/10th of a standard dose, to be taken every third day (one day on, two days off). He also suggests two important concepts: tracking the experience by journaling and calibrating the microdose slowly and carefully to optimize the potential benefits. Finally, he recommends hitting pause on your microdose routine after about 6-8 weeks to evaluate your experience and make any changes.
The Stamets Protocol
Paul Stamets is another well-respected voice in the psychedelic community. He has focused his work primarily on psilocybin. Most recently, he believes strongly in a combination of psilocybin, Lion’s Mane (another mushroom), and niacin, arguing that it’s powerful enough to instigate a “quantum leap in human consciousness.”
Stamets recommends taking this “stack” for the first four days of the week, with the final three days allowing for a “tolerance break.” In theory, this helps you reset and experience some benefit when you re-initiate the process the following week.
Developing Your Own Protocol
You can certainly develop your own style of microdosing. Still, sticking to accurate “micro” doses and proceeding carefully is crucial. Fadiman’s approach is quite popular, especially for microdosing LSD, and his focus on calibration is an important one to keep in mind.
As outlined above, the two main microdosing schedules are popularized by James Fadiman and Paul Stamets, respectively.
Fadiman is a proponent of one day on and two days off (so a dose on Monday would be followed by a dose on Thursday).
Stamets, on the other hand, proposes microdosing for four days, then three days off (Monday through Thursday and Friday through Sunday off).
It’s a little bit strange to speak of “effects” when it comes to microdosing. That’s because the effects sought are not the same as those often associated with these powerful substances. Rather than complete ego dissolution or experiencing a sense of connectedness with the universe, microdosing effects are supposed to be mild, if really “felt” at all.
This is because microdosing is generally considered a “sub-perceptual” dose. The idea is that you do not reach the point where you feel “high” and end up focusing on your “trip” rather than whatever else you may be feeling or experiencing.
That said, many people who microdose have reported a general boost to their mood and an increase in clarity, concentration, and creativity. There are also many reports of microdosing helping reduce the symptoms of conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Sounds great, right? Of course it does, but what does the science say?
The fact of the matter is that microdosing research is still in its infancy, in large part due to regressive substance use policy in much of the world. That said, the climate has shifted dramatically in recent years, particularly on substances such as THC, MDMA, and psilocybin. So, while the science is catching up, it is still somewhat behind, and the benefits of microdosing remain in the realm of anecdotal evidence.
All this is to say that it is quite possible that some people microdosing may be experiencing a placebo effect, which is to say that it is psychosomatic—or, put simply, “all in their head.” They’re taking something to feel better, and so they feel as though they’re feeling better.
That said, there is increasing evidence that microdosing psychedelics provides significant benefits, for example, in this study of roughly 100 participants.
Here are some commonly cited pros to microdosing psychedelics:
- Pain management
- Mitigation of depression and anxiety symptoms
- Improved concentration
- Improved energy and mood
- Enhanced creativity
- Neuron growth
Now, here are some oft-cited cons to microdosing:
- Increased anxiety
- Workplace drug testing
People with a predisposition to mental health disorders, especially schizophrenia, should avoid psychoactive substances. Again, it is always advisable to consult with a medical professional before starting a microdosing regime.
Some of these undesirable effects may also be an example of the placebo effect in a negative sense—due to the anticipation of feeling something and/or nervousness about taking a given substance; people may feel some physiological discomfort.
Psychedelic therapy is not new, but it has rapidly picked up steam. Psychedelic integration therapy can help ensure a positive experience, as a licensed professional oversees every step of your journey, from planning and preparation to post-experience analysis and discussion.
Microdosing appears to have strong potential as a form of therapy. From Greek, “therapy” means healing, while “trauma” means wound. We all have our wounds, ranging from minor to severe, depending on your unique experience, and microdosing psychedelics may be a way to powerfully heal and grow as an individual.
While the science is still catching up, and you should always proceed carefully when taking any substance, psychedelic microdosing has helped many people, and it may be able to help you as well. For best results, consult a licensed professional who can accompany you through psychedelic integration therapy
Psychedelics have seen a radical shift in public consciousness in recent years. As more people explore these substances and share their positive experiences, a snowball effect occurs, particularly when legislation is enacted to legalize or decriminalize these substances. We have seen this firsthand recently with cannabis, a milder psychoactive substance.
Microdosing may not yet have the scientific backing of many standard pharmaceutical medications and protocols. Still, more researchers are working on this than possibly at any point in history. So long as you proceed carefully, microdosing should offer more potential benefits than potential downsides. In any event, however, it’s best to consult with a professional.
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