MICRODOSING PSILOCYBIN MUSHROOMS
Psilocybin: /3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl/ dihydrogen phosphate
Microdosing is the act of consuming sub-perceptual (unnoticeable) amounts of a psychedelic substance. Many individuals who have integrated microdosing mushrooms into their weekly routine report higher levels of creativity, more energy, increased focus, and improved relational skills, as well as reduced anxiety, stress, and even depression. Some enthusiasts also report that microdosing mushrooms has helped them heighten their spiritual awareness and enhance their senses.
Psychedelic researchers have also discovered that psilocybin can have positive effects on mood disorders and anxiety. In fact, The Beckley Foundation is spearheading the push for the legalization of psilocybin mushrooms, backed by their research showing that psilocybin has long-term positive effects for treatment-resistant depression patients. Recently, Oakland, California decriminalized all plant medicines including psilocybin mushrooms, a move that followed Denver, Colorado’s, successful referendum to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.
Psilocybin is also proving effective at treating addiction. Researchers from Johns Hopkins found that 80% of smokers who took psilocybin as part of cognitive behavioral therapy were able to quit tobacco completely.
Mushrooms (and LSD) have also been found to have comparable or better results in treating cluster headaches than most conventional medications—many people have experienced extended periods of remission after treating their headaches with psychedelic substances.
With all these encouraging results on full doses of psilocybin, there’s reason to believe that microdosing mushrooms could bring about similarly positive life changes.
“This FREE Guide was just what I needed to take the first step into Microdosing. AND IT WAS THE BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE! After starting my microdosing regiment I now have more focus, energy and clarity into what it is I truly want in this world.”
James, New York
How Do You Microdose With Psilocybin Mushrooms?
Microdosing with psilocybin mushrooms is a fairly straightforward process. Essentially, you need to source your medicine or grow your own. If you’re new to journeying, you may want to consider sourcing Golden Teachers due to their massive popularity and relatively mild effects. You can find mushroom grow kits online, but most will require you to obtain psilocybin spores first.
Once you’ve grown or acquired the medicine and then prepared your microdoses, consume the microdose at the appropriate time, and follow a month-long protocol to ensure you experience lasting benefits. We outline each one of these elements in more detail below.
Get Third Wave’s Ultimate Guide to Sourcing Psychedelic Medicines for specific vendor recommendations, legal alternative options, and access to our entire library of psychedelic guides.
Preparing Your Microdose
Preparing psilocybin mushrooms for microdosing involves more steps than microdosing with LSD, but is still straightforward. The trickiest part is estimating how much psilocybin is in a particular mushroom. Different strains of mushrooms will not only have different quantities of psilocybin, but fresh and dried psilocybin mushrooms do, too. Even different parts of the mushroom contain slightly different amounts.
Regardless, we recommend drying a batch of mushrooms, grinding them into a powder, and measuring out around 0.1g of as your starter microdose. From there, you can adjust the amount accordingly. When you take a dose that makes you feel some changes (most notably drowsiness, the first effect that comes on in a psilocybin trip), roll it back to just under that amount. That’s your mushroom microdose sweet spot.
You can use any kind of psilocybin mushrooms for microdosing. The most popular ones are Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata, Psilocybe azurecens, Psilocybe cyanescens, and Panaeolus but you can find over 180 different types in nature.
Check out our recent blog to learn more about magic mushroom varieties and their vast beneficial properties.
Just be aware of how much psilocybin content your strain contains. (For example, Penis Envy is one of the most potent of all magic mushrooms whereas Golden Teachers are a more approachable medium strength.) Then, adjust your microdose accordingly. You can learn about the potency levels of different Psilocybe strains at Erowid.
Growing mushrooms from scratch is a worthwhile pursuit but it can be challenging to get right. If you’re interested in a more manageable method for home growth, check out Third Wave’s Grow Kit and Course, which includes instructions for sourcing mushroom spores.
How To Take Your Microdose
There are several ways to take your microdose. The most practical one is to precisely measure your dosages into empty capsules. This will ensure even distribution and also mask the taste.
Another option is to prepare a psilocybin tea by dissolving your desired dose of powder in hot water and even adding some honey. But feel free to experiment and mix the powder into (almost) any drink you take to start your day. However, we wouldn’t recommend you try Lemon Tekking, or mixing psilocybin mushrooms with citrus juice, because this concoction may intensify the experience beyond the sub-threshold level.
What Microdosing Schedule Should I Follow?
Experts in this area suggest different microdosing regimens, but our microdosing course follows James Fadiman’s system. Fadiman recommends taking a microdose once every three days: Take a microdose on Day 1. Then, do not take a microdose on Day 2 or Day 3. On Day 4, take another microdose.
Continue this process for several weeks.
For most people, morning is the best time because the beneficial effects will last throughout the day without interfering with sleep. It’s also helpful to take daily notes in a journal to observe the effects throughout this process and adjust accordingly—or just notice the positive changes.
It’s also important to follow your usual routine while microdosing mushrooms. The purpose is to enhance your day-to-day existence by integrating microdoses into your routine, so don’t change what you normally do. However, when you try microdosing for the first time, take a day off from work and social commitments. This will give you a chance to notice any unusual effects before microdosing in a more public situation.
While it may seem like you would only feel the effects of the microdose on the days you actually take it, try to observe the effect on the two days between doses, too. Many people perceive increased feelings of flow, creativity, and energy the day after they microdose in addition to the day of microdosing.
Can microdosing build up a tolerance to mushrooms?
The short answer is yes, microdosing mushrooms can affect your tolerance for psilocybin.
Paul Stamets recommends a slightly different microdosing protocol from above. He suggests taking a microdose every day for four days, then taking three days off to avoid building up a tolerance. He also suggests making psilocybin a central part of the stack, which also includes lions mane and niacin, to help with neuroplasticity and general well-being.
Psilocybin and lion’s mane both have the capacity to create new neurons and neural pathways, and also to repair existing neurological damage. Niacin works as a flushing agent and carries GABA across the blood-brain barrier, which helps with the distribution of the psilocybin molecules. All together, Stamets believes that “this unique combination of compounds can be incorporated into other therapies with such combinations providing unique advantages for medically significant advancements in repairing neurons, removing amyloid plaques, improving mental health, cognition, agility, and improving overall the ecology of consciousness.”
Microdosing every day is not recommended. Because your body produces a tolerance to psilocybin, you might see diminishing returns after a few days if they are taken every day. This is why Fadiman suggests leaving a couple of days between each dose. Plus, the fact that positive effects can sometimes be felt many days after a microdose is a good reason to space out your doses.
Another downside to microdosing every day is normalizing a very potent substance. You can compare it to the use of coffee for productivity purposes. When you drink coffee every day, over time you need to increase the dose to get the same effect. Within a couple of months, one cup turns into two, three, or four cups.
It is best to leverage microdosing as an occasional advantage, rather than a consistent go-to like coffee. So whichever protocol you follow, be sure to build in at least a few reset days where don’t microdose.
To ensure you have the best microdosing experience, it’s important to learn about psilocybin tolerance, including its effects on other psychedelics. Discover everything you need to know about psilocybin tolerancefrom our recent article.
For people who are new to psychedelics, even microdosing can be a daunting concept. Retreats are a great option for those who want to be introduced to psychedelics surrounded by experts in a guided, personalized setting. More specifically, curated microdosing retreats could be an option for people looking to begin their microdosing journey, and could be the best way to translate the psychedelic experience into lessons for living a better life.
Rise Wellness Retreat on the South Coast of Jamaica offers an all-inclusive retreat that includes workshops and classes held by certified wellness professionals and specially formulated microdoses of psilocybin.
To find a complete list of legal psilocybin retreat providers around the world, check out Third Wave’s vetted Directory.
What does science tell us about microdosing mushrooms?
While there has been some recent research on microdosing mushrooms, we know a lot more about what large doses of psychedelics do to the brain.
Much of what we understand about how psychedelics work involves serotonin, a chemical that is among the brain’s most important neurotransmitters. Serotonin affects nearly everything we do, from how we feel to how we process information. It keeps our brains ticking.
Psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin share a similar structure to serotonin and mimics the chemical’s effects (for a comparison of the two, see LSD vs Shrooms). This is why these substances have comparable effects to a full dose when microdosed, at least in the most important aspects described in the Benefits and Risks section of this guide. You can learn more about the differences between microdosing LSD and psilocybin
Because serotonin is so important to mood stabilization, common antidepressants (called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs) increase the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can make you feel happier.
Psychedelics work by mimicking serotonin. One of psilocybin’s main effects is to stimulate a serotonin receptor called “5-HT2A” located in the prefrontal cortex, which leads to two important results:
- The production of “Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor” (BDNF), a protein that is “like Miracle-Gro for your brain,” according to Waldman. BDNF stimulates growth, connections, and activity. 
- The increased transmission of “Glutamate,” a neurotransmitter responsible (in part) for important brain functions such as cognition, learning, and memory. 
Glutamate and BDNF work together in ways we’ve yet to fully understand, but it’s become clear that having more of each can lead to many of the benefits that microdosers are seeking. 
Psychedelics also cause parts of the brain that don’t usually communicate with one another to start talking, so the speak. These unique connections are formed by psychedelics’ ability to dampen the activity of an often over-used part of our brain called the “Default Mode Network” (DMN).  The DMN is responsible for many mental activities, including day-dreaming, self-reflection, and thinking about the past or the future. But research shows that a highly active DMN causes us to ruminate, over-analyze ourselves, and step out of the present moment to question the past and the future, all of which can make us unhappy. In fact, some studies suggest that depression is linked to an overactive DMN.  This helps explain why psychedelics could be used to combat depression and anxiety—as well as lead to insights and creative perspectives that may otherwise remain inaccessible.
BENEFITS AND RISKS
There are many benefits to microdosing mushrooms. But, at the risk of oversimplifying, most people microdose for two main reasons:
1. To reduce the frequency and intensity of undesirable states caused by various forms of mental illness including:
- Mood disorders
2. To increase the frequency and intensity of desirable states/outcomes, including:
- Flow states
- Improved relationships/increased empathy
- Athletic coordination
- Leadership development
Many people microdose for personal development or purposes of self-optimization. Reports suggest that the practice can improve creativity, productivity, and energy. Countless people also microdose to help them solve work-related problems, create new concepts, or simply to reduce procrastination. Microdosing mushrooms can also help you by improving your social interaction skills, athletic performance, and spiritual awareness.
Here are a few testimonials from Third Wave survey respondents on how microdosing helped them reach desirable states:
“Since microdosing I have come out of my shell. I have become more confident around other people and have formed an intimate relationship with another person where I have had difficulty in the past.”
“Microdosing LSD has been a very positive experience – it keeps me very present, focused, creative, and overall induces a deep sense of contentment! I found that taking it before going to my parents place made the family dynamic so much more enjoyable. It also has been great in terms of connecting with my partner.”
To learn how entrepreneur Janet Chang microdosed to improve creativity and work performance, listen to our interview here.
By far, the riskiest thing about microdosing mushrooms is the law. It’s crucial to check your local laws before microdosing, as the penalties for the possession of psilocybin mushrooms are still harsh in many countries. It’s still possible to microdose psilocybin mushrooms legally, and we never condone illegal activities.
Aside from the legal risks, microdosing mushrooms has proven to be a safe, non-threatening introduction to the benefits of psychedelics. Psilocybin has a long track record of safe use. Combine that small dose amounts, and microdosing appears to be safe.
As you can see in the graph below, psilocybin is one of the safest substances you can find, both biochemically and socially. It’s even safer than alcohol.
That said, psychedelics are powerful substances, and even microdoses have a risk potential. Emotional turbulence or anxiety is possible while microdosing, largely due to psychedelics’ “amplifying effect.” Psilocybin tends to amplify your current mood rather than act as a stimulant or numbing agent. For this reason, it is important to assess your mindset before consuming a microdose.
We also recommend discussing the risks with your physician if you suffer from psychosis, schizophrenia, or severe anxiety. When overdone, microdosing can lead to manic states, which could exacerbate underlying conditions.
Since there is no clinical research on the safety of microdosing mushrooms, it’s best to avoid microdosing for extended periods of time (longer than a few months). There is a potential heart riskof taking too many large doses of psychedelics over a long period of time. That said, we don’t know how this translates to microdosing.
Want to easily grow mushrooms at home?
Third Wave’s How to Grow Mushrooms Course and Grow Kit turn the daunting task of cultivating mushrooms into a simple one.
Our in depth guide and step-by-step videos will have you harvesting your own home-grown mushrooms in no time.
At some point in our lives, most of us have likely experienced “flow,” or the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, presence, involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. This can be the surfer effortlessly riding a big wave, the salesman elegantly working the room, or the writer who looks up from the page to realize night has fallen.
Simply put, flow is one of the great experiences of being human. We have no clinical evidence to suggest that microdoses of psychedelics can induce flow states, but studies have shown that moderate doses cause brain waves to shift toward alpha oscillations, which is also seen in the transition to a flow state . Additionally, higher levels of serotonin are found during flow states.
Unlike LSD, however, psilocybin appears to interact minimally and only indirectly with dopamine, another neurotransmitter associated with flow states. This interaction may be minimal in the microdose range. 
Perhaps most important, though, psychedelics’ ability to quiet the DMN creates an opportunity for our brains to make unique connections between areas that don’t usually communicate.  This is crucial to accessing flow states.
Since we know that moderate doses of psychedelics can induce similar effects to a flow state in the brain, it seems likely that a regular microdosing regimen could begin to shift our awareness in the direction of flow.
Microdosing and Leadership
Change and innovation are happening faster than ever these days, and leaders need to adapt quickly. Great leaders must come up with creative solutions to unexpected issues and problems, turning potential setbacks to their advantage. Staying at the forefront of any field requires mastering new technology and being open to novel ways of accomplishing tasks, taking both short and long term needs into account.
Additionally, modern leadership is becoming less hierarchical, dominant, and aggressive (archetypal “masculine” traits) and increasingly requires the ability to cultivate space to allow the best people to step in and contribute their highest gifts (archetypal “feminine” characteristics).
Microdosing helps to accelerate this developmental process for the next generation of leaders by facilitating enhanced creativity, mental flexibility, and honest self-reflection. Microdosing also improve self-confidence, which enables you to be more in touch with your emotions and helps you better communicate.
To learn more about how microdosing can help with professional development, check out this talk from Third Wave founder Paul Austin.
Anecdotal evidence supports the notion that a regular microdosing regimen can help people struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, mood disorders, and/or addiction (to name a few). Clinical research has shown that larger doses of psychedelics are effective at treating depression, anxiety, and addiction, but microdosing could be just as effective.
If you microdose while attending therapy, you may find that issues and topics that previously felt difficult to reach are suddenly accessible. You may also notice creative insight into yourself, your past, and your relationships that you didn’t before.
To date, qualitative and survey data have shown promising results for mental health improvements. For example, nearly half of those surveyed in a large, international survey who were previously prescribed medications reported that they stopped taking antidepressants after microdosing.
More rigorous double-blind, controlled clinical trials investigating how microdosing might affect mental health are underway, including the world’s first psilocybin microdosing trial. Learn more about this historic, randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study in our 2021 Psilocybin News article.
You can see all clinical trials, both past and present, investigating the effects of psilocybin for the following ailments:
- Bipolar disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Eating disorders
- Nicotine Dependence
- Opioid Use Disorder
Third Wave Microdosing Survey
Here are a few testimonials from Third Wave survey respondents on how microdosing helped them overcome undesirable states:
“Microdosing doesn’t allow me to be anywhere else but in the present moment. This has helped me tremendously with my anxiety and depression. I am incapable of worrying about what’s going to happen next week, tomorrow, or even five minutes from now. I can function without anxiety for the first time in years. I feel that my attention span is greater, I’m concentrating like never before. When I was suffering with pain I was given a lot of prescription pain pills and was quickly becoming addicted to them. Microdosing instantly helped me stop taking the several pills a day I was taking just so I could get out of bed, and I haven’t touched them since.”
“I have fought depression for some 6-7 years since adolescence, microdosing has, so far, consistently helped me get on with my day-to-day, just as much on no MD days as MD days. This also applies to Social & General Anxiety which has been less severe but experienced for the same period.”
“I overcame my depression with microdosing because I can consistently be productive and happy with it as a creative booster. It also eliminates any anxiety I get because I never used to raise my hand in class. I smoke a lot of cannabis and it’s unhealthy to overindulge. I found microdosing to make me feel the need to be productive so I smoke much less when I microdose and don’t indulge just to smoke.”
If you want to learn more about how microdosing can help you within a therapeutic container, get access to Third Wave’s Official Microdosing Course.
While we mostly have anecdotal evidence supporting the benefits of microdosing, research is increasingly showing that macrodoses have positive effects on mood disorders and anxiety. It’s been shown to have long-term positive effects for patients with treatment-resistant depression and is also proving effective at treating addiction.
Evidence is also strong that a psilocybin experience can be a powerful driver for personal growth. In fact, one recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that “a single dose of psilocybin produced substantial and enduring decreases in depressed mood and anxiety along with increases in quality of life.”
Research has also shown that psilocybin can be used to enhance one’s spiritual practice. In a recent study, 75 participants engaged in a six-month spiritual course involving meditation, awareness, and self-reflection. During the course, participants were given either a low or high dose of psilocybin. At the end of the six months, the participants given the high dose of psilocybin showed significantly greater improvements in measures of spirituality such as interpersonal closeness, life meaning, death transcendence, and forgiveness.
With all this in mind, many people believe psilocybin (and other psychedelics) could be a key component of self-improvement and self-optimization. By occasioning the experience of feeling connected to the universe (in whatever individual form that takes) and confronting the deepest part of yourself, many believe psilocybin can help you take the necessary steps to become the best version of yourself you can be.
Psilocybin mushrooms are still illegal to buy, possess and grow in many countries. Make sure you’re aware of your local laws before you decide to buy psilocybin mushrooms to microdose.
If you live somewhere that allows the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms for personal use, consider growing your own psilocybin mushrooms and storing them for future use with one of Third Wave’s top vetted mushroom growing kits.
If you live in Europe, you may have the option of purchasing psilocybin truffles, which are legal in the Netherlands. Remember, these are less potent than psilocybin mushrooms, and an ideal starter dose is 0.5g of dried truffle powder.
In the US, cities are starting to decriminalize psilocybin and consider legalizing it for therapeutic use. Find out which cities are leading the charge through our 2021 Psilocybin News article.
Psilocybin is the active psychedelic ingredient in psychedelic mushrooms. The threshold dose for feeling the effects from dried mushrooms is typically in the 0.2-0.5g range, though it varies for each individual person. A moderate dose in the 1-2.5g range, taken orally, typically produces effects that last from three to six hours. Psilocybin is about 100 times less potent than LSD and 10 times less potent than mescaline.
When you take psilocybin, your body metabolizes the substance into psilocin, both of which produce the psychedelic effects. Psilocybin and psilocin primarily interact with serotonin receptors in the brain and have an especially high affinity for the 5-HT (serotonin) 2A subtype receptors. In rodents, psilocybin has shown a strong interaction with receptors in hub regions of the brain that integrate sensory experiences. This could explain effects such as synesthesia—the experience of mixing sensory modalities, such as hearing colors or tasting sounds—and altered sensory experiences during mushroom trips.
THE HISTORY OF MICRODOSING
While the modern history of psychedelics reaches back to the 1950s, interest in microdosing saw a major revitalization with the publishing of psychologist and psychedelic advocate Dr. James Fadiman’s book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys in 2011, which explores microdosing as a subculture of psychedelic use. While a number of indigenous cultures—as well as modern professionals—have used microdosing to unlock a host of personal benefits, Fadiman’s book formally introduced the term “microdosing” into the mainstream.
Beyond coining the term, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide awakened the curiosity and imaginations of millions of people and provided practical information for anyone interested in giving microdosing a try.
Outside of the book, Fadiman’s ongoing research also serves as one of the few modern studies into the effects of microdosing —most current psychedelic research looks at the effects of larger doses on specific therapeutic outcomes.
Following the publication of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, the next boost in the public’s awareness of microdosing came from a podcast interview Fadiman gave with investor and author Tim Ferriss in March 2015. Ferriss, who rose to fame after authoring the bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week, has an enormous audience of individuals interested in entrepreneurship, “biohacking,” self-experimentation, psychology, spirituality, and other subjects that predispose them to an interest in the benefits of microdosing. The interview boosted Fadiman’s core microdosing messages and created more mainstream interest in the practice: soon after its air date, Ferris fans began experimenting with microdosing and discussing it in their own personal networks. Journalists also jumped on board and began writing articles about microdosing, creating even greater awareness and interest.
Interest in microdosing got another boost when author Ayelet Waldman’s published her 2016 book, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in my Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, which tracked her 30-day protocol of microdosing to her unstable moods caused by menopause. Before hse started microdosing, Waldman says her mood swings had become severe enough to put her marriage and relationship with her children at risk. After the 30-day protocol, everything changed. “This month changed my life,” she said in an interview with Third Wave, “and I am sad every day that I can’t keep doing it legally.”
Mycologist and psilocybin-enthusiast Paul Stamets has also had a hand in pushing microdosing into the mainstream. One of the most reputable, decorated, and self-practiced mycologists in the world, Stamets has dedicated his life to the study of medicinal and psychedelic fungi. His most recent patent application is for a nootropic stack (a combination of cognitive enhancers) that contains a microdose of psilocybin, lions mane, and niacin. He would like to see this supplement available as a vitamin, claiming that its efficacy in epigenetic neurogenesis has the potential to initiate “the next quantum leap in human consciousness.”
Now, tens of thousands of people around the globe are experimenting with taking small doses of psychedelics in the name of mental health, creativity, and inspiration.
Can psilocybin be detected in a drug test?
Psilocybin and its metabolites are not included in most standard drug screens; however they are sometimes included in extended drug screens.
Where can I get psilocybin mushrooms?
There are a few options for buying mushrooms. You can learn to hunt and pick them yourself (though this could be dangerous), grow them yourself (see below), buy them in countries where they are legal, or purchase them from the Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary, which is an online mail-order dispensary for microdoses of psilocybin mushrooms. To learn more about the dispensary, check out our interview with its founder, Dana Larsen.
If you’d rather source larger doses of psilocybin mushrooms, check out Third Wave’s Ultimate Guide to Sourcing Psychedelic Medicine for step-by-step instructions.
How can I grow my own mushrooms?
Growing your own psilocybin mushrooms is a good alternative to the potentially dangerous practice of collecting them. As well as providing a reliable, year-round supply, home cultivation eliminates the risk of misidentifying mushrooms in the wild. For many growers, it’s also a fun, low-cost hobby. Want to learn how to grow your own mushrooms and store them from home? Check out Third Wave’s Grow Kit and Course and mushroom storage tips for fresh or dried varieties.
While there are ready-made mushroom kits available online, some people prefer to start from scratch. The kits do contain a living mycelium substrate (the material underlying mushroom growth), which you need to grow your own mushrooms, but making your own substrate is typically more consistent, and less prone to contamination. For more information on how to start your own psilocybin grow, check out our guide here.
Is microdosing illegal?
Microdosing is not necessarily illegal. Several countries allow the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, the purchase of psilocybin truffles, or the purchase of LSD analogues. We do not condone microdosing where it is against the law, as penalties can be severe.
For a complete list of legal, trusted psilocybin retreat centers worldwide, visit Third Wave’s Psychedelic Directory
Is microdosing safe?
The riskiest thing about microdosing is its potentially illegal nature. Always be aware of your local laws and don’t undertake any illegal activities.
The first ever controlled, double-blind study of microdosing LSD and psilocybin suggests that the practice is more effective than a placebo and that it is safe.
Still unknown, however, are the effects that frequent microdosing could have on the body. This is why we recommend microdosing for no longer than a few months at a time.
One thing is for certain – with microdosing, there is no risk of having a “bad trip” or experiencing intense psychedelic effects. Taking a microdose is the ideal way to be introduced to psychedelics safely and comfortably.
How do I get started with microdosing?
There are lots of things to cover before you get started with microdosing – depending on the reasons you’re interested in the first place!
sychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook
Harm Reduction Journal volume 16, Article number: 43 (2019) Cite this article
Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of consuming very low, sub-hallucinogenic doses of a psychedelic substance, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin-containing mushrooms. According to media reports, microdosing has grown in popularity, yet the scientific literature contains minimal research on this practice. There has been limited reporting on adverse events associated with microdosing, and the experiences of microdosers in community samples have not been categorized.
In the present study, we develop a codebook of microdosing benefits and challenges (MDBC) based on the qualitative reports of a real-world sample of 278 microdosers.
We describe novel findings, both in terms of beneficial outcomes, such as improved mood (26.6%) and focus (14.8%), and in terms of challenging outcomes, such as physiological discomfort (18.0%) and increased anxiety (6.7%). We also show parallels between benefits and drawbacks and discuss the implications of these results. We probe for substance-dependent differences, finding that psilocybin-only users report the benefits of microdosing were more important than other users report.
These mixed-methods results help summarize and frame the experiences reported by an active microdosing community as high-potential avenues for future scientific research. The MDBC taxonomy reported here informs future research, leveraging participant reports to distil the highest-potential intervention targets so research funding can be efficiently allocated. Microdosing research complements the full-dose literature as clinical treatments are developed and neuropharmacological mechanisms are sought. This framework aims to inform researchers and clinicians as experimental microdosing research begins in earnest in the years to come.
The practice of microdosing psychedelics involves ingesting sub-hallucinogenic amounts of a psychedelic substance (e.g. LSD, psilocybin) and has recently grown in popularity. The number of popular media accounts and book-length treatments of microdosing has been growing [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]. Online microdosing communities have grown to the tens of thousands with more than 40,000 users subscribing to the /r/microdosing subreddit (/r/microdosing subreddit, Reddit Inc, San Francisco, CA, USA). This public interest speaks to a social need for scientific studies to inform the public about the effects of microdosing. Initial scientific investigations of microdosing are just beginning [8,9,10,11] (Rosenbaum D, Weissman C, Hapke E, Hui K, Petranker R, Dinh-Williams L-A, et al.: Microdosing psychedelic substances: demographics, psychiatric comorbidities, and comorbid substance use, in preparation) and future directions remain unclear. While full-dose psychedelic research is growing in prominence and outcomes from full-dose studies can certainly inform microdosing studies, focusing solely on known full-dose outcomes could result in missing unanticipated benefits and challenges specific to microdosing. As such, beginning with an open, exploratory approach could result in a better understanding of the potential benefits and challenges specific to microdosing. The present study aims to provide a data-driven taxonomy describing the positive and negative experiences reported by microdosers from an open-ended analysis of microdosing-specific outcomes, summarizing high-potential avenues for focused experimental investigations.
The benefits of full-dose psychedelics
While more than a thousand early studies linked psychedelic use with beneficial effects , there was a 40-year pause on psychedelic research following the prohibition of these substances . Despite continued prohibition, modern research has revealed the promising potential of LSD and psilocybin for treating alcohol and tobacco dependence [14,15,16,17], depression [18, 19], and end-of-life anxiety [20,21,22], while related research on 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) has shown great promise for treating post-traumatic stress disorder . Psychedelics can also increase openness and occasion mystical-type experiences in healthy controls [24,25,26]. As full-dose psychedelics appear to aide in the relief of severe, chronic psychiatric conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety, PTSD), milder mental health concerns may plausibly be treated by lower, recurring doses. This is especially worth considering if certain full-dose outcomes are found to rely on purely pharmacologic mechanisms rather than primarily on phenomenological experiences .
Limiting microdosing research to topics that have been investigated in full-dose research could prematurely overlook unpredicted and potentially distinct microdosing outcomes. Full-dose research has employed various focal assessments of symptomatology, mood, and personality that are likely applicable to microdosing research, but due to the low doses and lack of perceptual alteration intended in microdosing, other full-dose phenomena, such as ego dissolution and mystical-type experiences, are less relevant to microdosing research. Instead, as a means of preparing for a broad range of outcomes, the present work solicited open-ended reports of benefits and challenges. Additionally, as psychedelic substances act on distinct yet overlapping neural receptor sites, it seems plausible that distinct patterns could emerge for different substances. The present study thus included microdosers who used LSD, psilocybin, or both.
The challenges of full-dose psychedelics
While psychedelics appear to have considerable potential benefits and low physiological risks [28,29,30], full-dose experiences can put participants under considerable psychological risk . In a survey targeting participants that had at least one challenging experience (“bad trip”) with psilocybin mushrooms, 39% of respondents rated their full-dose experiences as among the top 5 most psychologically difficult/challenging experiences of their lives . Griffiths et al.  used both “high” (22 mg/70 kg) and “low” (1 or 3 mg/70 kg) doses of psilocybin as experimental and control conditions, respectively. A dose-response effect could be seen such that in the high-dose condition, 32% of participants reported physiological discomfort whereas only 12% reported the same in the low-dose condition; likewise, 26% reported anxiety in the high-dose condition versus 15% in the low-dose condition . Delayed-onset headaches are another possible side-effect of full-dose psilocybin .
To mitigate these risks, Johnson et al.  proposed safety guidelines for use with full-dose psychedelic substances, which rely on managing participant inclusion and having a comfortable, guided clinical setting. As microdosing does not involve the intensity of experience present in full-dose research, challenging experiences may be less likely. One may, however, anticipate that less frequent, less intense versions of full-dose challenges could be present even at the very low doses used in microdosing (e.g. restlessness instead of insomnia, mild anxiety instead of fear, mild headaches). As the study of microdosing is in its infancy, we could also expect there to be challenges that fall beyond the scope of reports based on full doses; the present study thus preferred open-ended surveying of drawbacks over pre-existing focal questionnaires.