By Douglas Capraro
The term “microdosing” refers to the administration of drugs in doses so low that its unlikely to produce a full-body effect. Originally developed to test patients in clinical drug trials, microdosing has since become synonymous with a much more legally ambiguous, though no less beneficial treatment protocol. Now, there is a new microdosing phenomenon in which people start off their day with a small dose of psychedelic drugs such as LSD or Magic Mushrooms.
What are the results?
It turns out that microdosing may be help people overcome a number of problems, ranging from anxiety and bad work habits to addiction and depression. Spiritual and psychonautic enthusiasts are not the only people taking advantage of this new craze either. Now, it’s been reported that experts in Silicon Valley and even athletes have found something to gain from microdosing.
The Roots of Microdosing
Taking psychedelics like LSD and Magic Mushrooms is definitely not for everybody. However, with microdosing, individuals are able to benefit from the positive side effects of these drugs without having to endure a long and possibly unpleasant trip.
The preferred dosage usually involves a tenth of the regular amount needed to get the full body effects of a psychedelic drug, which comes out to around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms. This amount should be taken on a semi-regular basis, which is usually recommended to be about once every four days. With this kind of regiment, people can go about their daily lives while benefitting from a heightened sense of mental awareness, well-being, work ethic and creativity, among other things.
The roots of microdosing can be traced all the way back to the 1940s when scientist Albert Hoffman first discovered LSD. Although he believed that LSD could be dangerous if misused, and that the 60s generation did not apply the drug correctly, Hoffman referred to the drug as “medicine for the soul.” He is reported to have been microdosing for at least the last two decades of his life. When he passed away, he was 102 years old and was giving two hour lectures up until the age of 100.
During the 1960s, Dr. James Fadiman was also researching the potential of psychedelic drugs. His early studies involved administering LSD and another hallucinogen called Mescaline to scientists, mathematicians and architects. The idea was to find out if these drugs could positively impact their problem solving abilities, and the results were very positive. However, his study would be the last research done using LSD for decades due to the Food and Drug Administration’s mid-1960s research ban of the substance.
Now, Fadiman is involved in an ongoing research project on microdosing. He conducts this study by collecting hundreds of self-reported testimonies from people around the globe that microdose for various reasons. Participants are sent a microdosing instruction sheet and are told to email him after they’ve completed their trial with a number of different observations. This has includes how their day went, their level of ease and creativity, as well as any differences in their typical mood patterns, food intake, among other things.
The Benefits of Microdosing
Overall, he has received very positive responses from participants, most of whom experience improvements in mood, enhanced focus, productivity or creativity, and less reactivity. He never asks participants to continue microdosing for more than a month, though most decide to continue on their own accord at a much slower rate. Based on these findings, Fadiman concludes that microdosing is “an actual movement towards increased health or wellness.” He elaborates:
“What that means, for instance, is that people who write in for anxiety seem to get help with their anxiety. People who use it for learning, improve their learning… Another young man used it for severe stuttering, and others have used it for social anxiety. One young woman, an art historian, even found that it regulated her periods and made them painless.”
One major benefit that participants in Fadiman’s study have discovered is how well microdosing can help them ween off of certain medications. ADD sufferers, for instance, have reported that microdosing helps them in the same way that Adderall does, except without the negative side effects. In turn, microdosing has has helped these individuals either eliminate the need to take ADD medication or significantly reduced the amount of meds that they take.
Fadiman also reports cases in which individuals have used microdosing to help come off other medications, such as anti-psychotics. Additional cases include a man who quit smoking and many others who simply improved their sleeping and eating habits.
However, there are a few cases where people did not enjoy their experiences microdosing. Some simply went back to feeling anxious and depressed after finishing their cycle. Others reported building up a tolerance after taking too much LSD. This only comprises five of Fadiman’s reports though, and there is evidence to suggest that there are many benefits to microdosing for those who stick close to his regiment.
Outside of Fadiman’s research, there is also another segment of people who have benefitted from microdosing: Silicon Valley.
Certain professionals in San Francisco who work at tech startups have begun to utilize microdosing as a way to enhance their creativity and ability to focus. One such individual, going by the pseudonym “Ken”, spoke to Rolling Stone about his experiences with microdosing. Ken handles a number of different tasks at his job in Silicon Valley, including hardware and software design, sales and business development. He described one of his experiences microdosing as “an epic time,” saying, ”I was making a lot of sales, talking to a lot of people, finding solutions to their technical problems.”
Similarly, Author Baynard Woods was inspired to join the trend after reading the Rolling Stone piece about Ken and this “creativity enhancer of choice” for young professionals. During his first microdosing experience, Woods reported having a heightened sense of ease and awareness. He did not feel like he was high or having a psychedelic trip though. Instead, he felt truly engaged in the work he set out to do that day, explaining:
“At one point during my first session, I looked up and realized I’d been totally engrossed in my work with no real awareness of anything else for an hour. But the focus wasn’t like the amphetamine compulsion that comes with Ritalin or Adderall. It couldn’t be satisfied by cleaning the floor or digitally screaming at a stranger on Facebook. Instead, I found myself more deeply absorbed in that zone we all hope to be in where the doer and the deed dissolve together into the pleasure of pure work.”
Even more surprising than this extra attentiveness to his work though was the extent to which microdosing averted him from using Facebook and his phone. During his daily bus ride, which was usually consumed by aimlessly looking through Facebook, Woods found himself looking around, feeling “more empathy with the other people who were also standing around waiting.”
He was still able to go online to complete his tasks for work, but his compulsion had subsided. By the second time he microdosed, Woods said that he went three days without online stimulation completely. It was only at the end of the three days after a morning dosage that he would feel any desire to pick up his phone and scroll through the internet.
The most telling aspect of Woods’ story though was when he ceased his microdosing regiment and returned to many of his old habits. The experiment was relatively successful during his cycle but he been getting night terrors towards the end of the experiment. He also experienced negative effects a couple of days after combining his LSD intake with alcohol. It took quite a few weeks, but eventually Woods returned to his old internet habits.
What his story shows us is not that the process doesn’t work. Instead, Woods’ account proves that microdosing has loads of untapped potential. But in order to function properly, microdosing needs to be in the hands of medical and scientific professionals. There are many factors unique to each individual who tries it but the possible benefits of microdosing are plain to see. However, the longer drugs like LSD and Magic Mushrooms remain stigmatized and highly illegal to possess in our country, the more difficult it will be for professionals to conduct serious research.