Microdosing: An Overview
What is microdosing and what, if anything, can it do for you?
Simply put, microdosing is taking about one-tenth the amount of LSD or psilocybe mushrooms needed for tripping.
In recent years, microdosing has become increasingly popular, especially among entrepreneurs and techies in Silicon Valley. Users of these low doses credit them with many positive changes, including easing anxiety, increasing creativity and improving both work performance and relationships. Whether this really happens or is all in the mind of the beholder has not yet been definitively answered by clinical trials testing the effects of microdoses against placebos, but preliminary research is positive, and more studies are underway. At the moment, most of what we know comes from the self-reports of people who microdose regularly.
James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and a respected authority on psychedelics and their use, collects information from microdosers worldwide. Many have reported decreased anxiety and depression as well as new feelings of resolve that have helped them professionally.
Fadiman recommends taking 10 micrograms of LSD every three or four days while continuing with regular daily activities.
Scientists in Europe have been studying the effects of microdosing for some time. (Research in the U.S. has been limited because LSD and psilocybin are illegal here.) The first placebo-controlled study of microdosing was conducted at the University of London. It was designed to determine if the participants, none of whom had used LSD in the previous five years, could even feel the effect of such a low dose. Some microdosers contend that you don’t; others maintain that if you don’t, it isn’t working. For the study, the participants were randomly assigned to take LSD or a placebo. Results showed that the microdoses altered the participants’ sense of time but suggested that most did not feel any drug effect. The study, which was published in 2018, also tested participants’ perception of time on the basis of how they reacted to the length of time a blue dot showed on a computer screen. The participants were to hold a key down as long as they saw the dot. Those who received microdoses held the key down longer than those who received the placebo, which better represented the time interval.
Another study, from the Netherlands, also published in August 2018, concluded that microdoses of psilocybin don’t affect abstract reasoning or the ability to solve problems and think rationally. But it did show improvements in the types of thinking regarded as the underpinnings of creativity, including mental flexibility and the ability to focus on abstract concepts in order to find answers to specific problems. However, because this study had no control group, there is no way to know if the improvements resulted from the activity of psilocybin or the subjects’ expectations.
James Fadiman says people tell him that microdosing has helped them get off pharmaceutical drugs, while others report improvements in sleep and maintenance of healthy habits.
Dr. Weil’s take:
“I’ve tried microdoses of LSD twice and did not like the feeling – could not get comfortable with the stimulating energy of the drug effect, which lasted too long (about 10 hours). I’ve microdosed with mushrooms several times and liked that better, but have not done it often or regularly enough to notice any effects on mood or creativity.”
Devin B. Terhune et al, “The effects of microdose LSD on time perception: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,” Psychopharmacology, April 2019.
Bernhard Hommel et al “Exploring the effect of microdosing psychedelics on creativity in an open-label natural setting,” Psychopharmacology, August 11, 2018, doi: 10.1007/s00213-018-5049-7