First introducing the idea in 2011, James Fadiman Ph. D presented survey data illustrating benefits of microdosing at a conference on psychedelic research1. Fadiman offered the practice as an alternative to Adderall and other focus aids.
The Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman microdosed LSD for a few decades. At age 100, he was still giving lectures. Hoffman microdosed while he walked in the woods to clarifying his thinking2.
By 2015, the practice of microdosing was adopted by Silicone Valley to increase focus, creativity, and productivity. In 2016-17, researchers began testing its potential in other areas. As the movement to normalize microdosing LSD and Psilocybin continues, the discoveries of its positive potential are becoming more and more evident.
What is it?
Microdosing refers to taking a dose of psychedelics (commonly LSD or Psilocybin) small enough to fall below your perceptual awareness3. This small dose does not cause the “trip” usually associated with these substances. Usually, the amount is 1/10th to 1/5th the quantity that would be required to permit a “trip” or psychedelic experience. For psilocybin, this is usually .2 to .5 grams and LSD from 0-26 μg, micrograms4. This minimal amount is taken 2-3 times per week.
Why would you do it?
Research reveals there are vast and not yet understood benefits to microdosing. Dutch graphic designer, producer, and rapper Dennis van der Meijden has been microdosing for about three years. In general, he reports micro-dosing allows him to see himself from “…bird’s eye view.”3 Or viewing himself from a perceptual distance to correct himself or redirect his emotions and attention.
In a 2019 study, participants reported improvements in mood, the prevalence of anxiety, meditative practice, exercise, eating habits, and sleep5. Research from the Netherlands reveals significant performance enhancement in convergent and divergent thinking. Generally, creativity in problem-solving was enhanced to a significant degree.
Self-reports from study participants report improved academic performance, decrease in stuttering, and improved regulation of menstrual periods2. Dr. Fadiman says, “…it seems to rebalance people.”
The feedback from those who microdose is overwhelmingly positive.
How does it work?
It appears the psychogenics ingested in microdosing are serotonergic agents or substances acting as serotonin7. These substances have a direct impact on mood and behavior. David Olson, Neuroscientist at UC Davis Medical Center, believes microdosing increases neuroplasticity8. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections9. Generally, increased neuroplasticity means the brain can reprogram itself more quickly, making it easier to change behavior.
Serotonergic psychedelics chemically bond with the 5-HT2A receptors signaling the response usually triggered by serotonin10. Serotonin impacts mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness11. Although there is much to learn about the impact of serotonin, it appears to greatly impact the prefrontal cortex in the case of well-being. Scientists hypothesize that serotonin impairment in this brain area is linked to suicide12.
In general, serotonin regulates much of your body’s functions. From depression and anxiety to bone density and wound healing, serotonin is involved13. This knowledge gap complicates the understanding of how exactly microdosing works within the body. Much of the inner workings are yet to be understood.
The 5-HT2A stimulation is thought to prompt growth, connections, and neural activity14. Additionally, glutamate transmission is increased in this process, the neurotransmitter responsible for learning, memory, and cognition.
But, It’s Illegal
Today, psilocybin and LSD are considered a Class I controlled substance15. Meaning it is illegal to grow, possess, or sell. Yet, due to the benefits currently reported by their proponents, the substances are slowly being decriminalized. Denver, Colorado, was the first city to decriminalize mushrooms15. In November 2020, Washington was the first state to decriminalize psilocybin and legalize it for therapeutic use. This month (February 2021), Cambridge, Massachusetts, moved to decriminalize psilocybin and other drugs with psychedelic properties16.
While it’s still illegal, the tide is beginning to turn…
How do you feel about microdosing?