Substance Abuse

Microdosing: The Supposed Benefits and Potential Risks–Part 1

“People are like, ‘Yeah microdosing!’ But in reality, there is not a single controlled trial ever on this yet. So whether it’s helpful or hurtful we don’t know.”

~ Dr. Stephen Ross, MD, Director, Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Bellevue Hospital

Is microdosing a form of drug abuse?

Or, as supporters suggest, is it a safe way to use psychedelic drugs to improve one’s quality of life?

Although the practice is gaining in popularity, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about microdosing that should be considered when discussing its safety and effectiveness. Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about microdosing.

First Things First—What is the Definition of Microdosing?

“In fact, true believers make it sound like it’s Adderall, Prozac, a venti Starbucks coffee, and a weeklong meditation retreat combined into a single ingestible substance.”

~ Amanda Fortini, Esquire magazine

Microdosing is the practice of using extremely small amounts of psychedelic drugs to supposedly realize certain purported positive effects, including:

  • Increased physical energy and performance
  • Improved stamina
  • Emotional balance
  • Better problem-solving skills
  • As a treatment for a variety of conditions – anxiety, depression, psychosis, ADHD, and PMS

The idea is borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry’s “minimum effective dose” principle. This means consuming the lowest possible amount that produces the desired effects without also triggering any negative side effects.

A “microdose” of a psychedelic drug is typically between one-tenth and one-half the “normal” amount, depending upon the substance. Dosages this small do not usually produce the hallucinatory or psychedelic effects common to such substances, indicating that the dose is “sub-perceptual”. However, proponents of microdosing say that there is a response at the cellular level that results in several positive benefits.

The Supposed Benefits of Microdosing

“What microdosing seems to do is rebalance people. Here’s a generalization, which is how I’ve come to this conclusion: A number of people, by the time they’ve finished a month, say, “I’m sleeping better, I’m eating more healthy food, I’ve returned to yoga and I’m doing meditation.” They’ve improved their relationship to their body ― or their body has improved their relationship to them…What seems to happen with microdosing is that you’re more attuned to your own real needs.”

~ Dr. James Fadiman, PhD

Although there is a shortage of verified, peer-reviewed scientific data on any microdosing advantages, there is a plethora of anecdotal reports purporting supposed positives. According to these subjective accounts, microdosing can help in a wide variety of ways:

  • Anxiety—academic, general, or social
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Athletic Performance – boosted energy and stamina
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Contentment – aids in “living in the now”
  • Creativity
  • Depression
  • Dexterity – driving, playing a musical instrument, etc.
  • Empathy – increased caring and consideration for others
  • Healthy choices – better adherence to meditation, yoga, exercise, and diet routines
  • Job performance – increased production, greater enjoyment and satisfaction
  • Learning – promotes greater focus; languages, computer programming, advanced math
  • Menstruation – eases PMS symptoms, pain, and cramping
  • Migraines
  • Mood elevation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Procrastination
  • Problem-solving
  • Psychotherapy – grants greater personal insight
  • Recovery from addiction
  • Stuttering
  • Trauma – reduces unexpected triggers
  • Writing – eliminates writer’s block

What Is a Typical Microdosing Schedule?

“With microdoses, the point would be to create subtle changes in people’s psychophamacology or experience, in much the same way as most traditional pharmaceuticals are used now.”

~ Brad Burge, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

The regular, daily use of any psychedelic drug can lead to tolerance– the need for ever-increasing amounts in order to achieve the same results. And because they affect the brain so profoundly, taking higher doses psychedelics or hallucinogens can trigger unpredictable results.

For this reason, microdosing every day is not recommended.

In his book, The Psychedelic Explorers Guide, Dr. Faldiman recommends a once-every-three days schedule:

  • Day 1 – Microdose day
  • Day 2 – Aftereffects, no dose
  • Day 3 – No dose
  • Day 4 – Microdose day

People experience psychedelic microdosing differently. For that reason, it is recommended that when beginning a microdose schedule, the user should take a day or two off from work and other social commitments. This gives the person an opportunity to judge the effects for themselves.

While microdosing, it is important that you not change your daily routine. The entire purpose of a microdose regimen is supposed to be to enhance your everyday life.

How Long Does a Microdose Last?

“It’s like the coffee to wake up the mind-body connection.”

~ Martijn Schirp, hallucinogen enthusiast

The duration of a microdose can vary wildly depending upon the specific psychedelic substance consumed. Users have experienced effects lasting as little as 8 hours and as long as 72 hours. Other factors include body weight, metabolism, and dietary habits.

For most people:

On the first day (Microdose), the full effects are felt, remaining throughout the day.

On the second day (no dose), residual effects are felt in a subtle, more balanced manner.

Of special relevance, these next-day aftereffects seem to be unique to microdosing. For example, when a full dose of psilocybin mushrooms is taken, it wears off in about 6 hours, while a full dose of LSD wears off in about 12 hours. But when either substance is microdosed, the effects last for more than a day.

On the third day (no dose), the user returns to their baseline normal. Practitioners are urged to keep a journal to record their changing thoughts and feelings, adjusting the microdose as needed.


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