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Microdosing with psychedelics has gained a lot of traction in recent years. As more research comes out revealing possible benefits, people may wonder how microdose can help them improve their lives.
What Exactly is Microdosing?
Microdosing refers to regularly ingesting small amounts of a psychedelic substance. The most common substances used are lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms), and ketamine.
Most microdoses are given at around 1/20 to 1/10 of a recreational dose. Taking psychedelic drugs at such minimal doses means that users are less likely to experience any of the typical psychotropic effects of these drugs, such as visual artifacts or altered experiences. Instead, users report that microdosing results in improvements in well-being, focus, creativity, and mood.
Where Did Microdosing Start?
Nobody knows when people first began microdosing with psychedelics. There is a long history of microdosing among various cultures, tribes, and religions. Substances such as peyote, psilocybin, and morning glory seeds were used to promote everything from hunger-reduction to amping people up to go hunt for food.
There was a huge boom of psychedelic use in the 60s. Many popular artists of the era were very open about their use and how it influenced their work. Probably you’ve heard the 20-minute guitar solos that came from it all. In addition to artists, scientists were also excited about the possible benefits of these drugs. This led to work examining how psychedelics could be used to treat mental illnesses. However, the political world wasn’t open to the growing body of research.
In May 1963, two key psychedelic researchers, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (A.K.A. Ram Dass) were fired from their positions at Harvard after controversy arose about their research using psychedelics. In 1966, there was a prohibition put in place on all psychedelic research. This meant that even though scientists were aware of the benefits of these substances, they could not conduct formal research. By 1970 all psychedelic substances were completely banned.
Despite the legal issues, many psychedelic enthusiasts continued to experiment on their own. In a 1976 interview, Albert Hofman, the man who discovered LSD, mentioned using very low doses of LSD. He did not create any literature on the actual practice of microdosing but is said to have microdosed until his death at 102.
Microdosing continued to be an “underground” practice in various circles. Over the years, its soiled reputation began to see a shift, and it made its way back into the research world. By the early 2000s, using psychedelics even became trendy again.
Current Popularity of Microdosing
Many people credit the current mainstream popularity of microdosing to the release of the book The Psychedelic Explorers Guide  by James Fadiman. Inspired by this literature, psychedelics became popular with a very different user base. Around 2010, tech workers in Silicon Valley, particularly coders, began microdosing with LSD and psilocybin in order to enhance their productivity. Users reported hours of uninterrupted creative flow with minimal side effects and improved mood. The only risk seemed to be that the drugs were illegal and getting your dose wrong could mean an unintended trip on the magic bus.
Over the last few years, there has been more focus on how people can use psychedelics to help with things like depression, anxiety, creativity, focus, openness, and more. As the benefits of these substances are revealed, their legal statuses are also gradually changing. But is the hype legit?
What does the research say about the benefits of Psychedelics?
Most of the current research on psychedelics has examined their benefit when given as a full dose for conditions such as depression and end-of-life anxiety.
To date, only one psychedelic has even been legalized for medical use. Ketamine was recently approved as a treatment for depression after research found that it not only alleviates depression symptoms but reduces suicidal ideation .
A 2020 study  at John Hopkins University found that psilocybin was four times more effective than antidepressants for reducing depression symptoms. They used a dose equivalent to around five grams of dried mushrooms per 70 kg of body weight in a group of depressed individuals who had been weaned off their medications. Research  available on LSD has found it useful for addiction and anxiety.
In many of these studies, the positive changes that occur are often correlated with some profound psychological insight that occurs during their trip. So how does microdosing help?
Research on Microdosing with Psychedelics
There is limited research examining microdosing with psychedelics. The floodgates have recently opened for psychedelic substances which means that microdosing research is on the way.
The available research  shows that people who microdose report lower levels of negative emotions and attitudes and increased open-mindedness and creativity compared to those who have never microdosed. Another study  found that people who microdose with psychedelics had increases in convergent and divergent thinking. These are common qualities of creativity. A study  that examined LSD microdosing did not examine any measures of well-being or health but did find that there were brain changes in time perception following microdosing. This study demonstrated that these minuscule doses were in fact “doing something” in the brain.
The work so far tells us that microdosing may improve the overall quality of life and make people more resilient to daily stressors. According to formal research and self-reports, it appears that the most common benefits from ingesting small doses of psychedelics are improved creativity, open-mindedness, and a better sense of well-being.
It is possible that microdosing with psychedelics improves functioning in areas of the brain associated with these qualities. In fact, research  shows us that psilocybin may increase neurogenesis in important areas of the brain associated with our fear and stress response. That’s a pretty neat effect.
Some Examples of Microdosing with Psychedelics
Microdosing is described as a sub-threshold dose. These are some common examples:
- Psilocybin Microdosing
People reported improved focus and energy; an overall positive sense of well-being. Check the work of James Fadiman and Paul Stamets, they have written about microdosing with psilocybin.
- LSD Microdosing
People reported a boost in energy and focus. Some said they found life more meaningful. It may help with cravings and addictive behaviors.
- Ketamine Microdosing
Commonly reported benefits are relaxation along with an improved sense of well-being.
Other commonly microdosed psychedelics include N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), ayahuasca, and 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA). These are less commonly used.
Side-effects and Risks
There is always a risk of taking “too much” of a substance and experiencing a psychedelic trip. Experts recommend that you do not mix alcohol with psychedelic drugs as it can blunt the effects.
Otherwise, users can experience some side effects of drugs like psilocybin such as mild stomach upset. Currently, there are no long-term studies examining the effects of psychedelic use.
Accessibility to Psychedelics
Access to psychedelics is limited, even for microdosing purposes. Their availability depends on the geographical region. Check local laws or if you have severe symptoms such as depression, talk to your doctor.
There is a growing body of evidence telling us that microdosing with psychedelics may have life-changing benefits for many people. Users have claimed that microdosing has helped them wean off of antidepressants and ADHD medications. Others have said it has helped them lose weight, form better habits, and battle addiction. Research and anecdotal reports also show improvements in creativity and focus.
- The Psychedelic Explorers Guide. https://www.psychedelicexplorersguide.com/
- Single and repeated ketamine infusions for reduction of suicidal ideation in treatment-resistant depression. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31759333/
- Effects of Psilocybin-Assisted Therapy on Major Depressive Disord. A Randomized Trial. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2772630?resultClick=1
- Therapeutic Use of LSD in Psychiatry: A Systematic Review of Randomized-Controlled Clinical Trials. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6985449/
- Microdosing psychedelics: personality, mental health, and creativity differences in microdosers. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30604183/
- Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30357434/
- The effects of microdose LSD on time perception: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30478716/
- Effects of psilocybin on hippocampal neurogenesis and extinction of trace fear conditioning. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00221-013-3579-0
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