There has been a renosaonce in research on psychedelics in recent years. Modern research (and not so modern!) has revealed the promising potential of LSD and psilocybin for treating alcohol and tobacco dependence, depression, and end-of-life anxiety, while related research on MDMA has shown great promise for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychedelics can also increase openness, and cause mystical-type experiences. Because high-doses of psychedelics are beneficial for severe, chronic psychiatric conditions (e.g. depression, anxiety, PTSD), researchers are now exploring whether milder mental health concerns may be treated by lower, recurring doses (i.e microdosing).
Not only that, but microdosing has become a new strategy to ‘hack’ productivity, creativity and the flow state.
Bit let’s start from the beginning…
What Is Microdosing?
Microdosing refers to the practice of ingesting a very low dose of a psychedelic substance.
Typical doses can be as small as one twentieth of a typical recreational dose, sometimes even less. So, for example, a microdose of LSD might be 6–25 micrograms, or a microdose of psilocybin might be .1 to .5 grams of dried mushrooms. People have microdosed using a wide range of different substances, but LSD and psilocybin are the most common.
How Do You Microdose?
People follow a variety of different schedules when microdosing, sometimes taking a dose each day but much more frequently interspersing dosing days with rest days. One common schedule is to microdose every three days. However, the scientific literature contains minimal research on this practice compared to full dose psychedelic usage – there are trials that have recently been competed or that are ongoing that we’ll touch on shortly.
An observational study on ‘microdosers’ concluded that:
this new paradigm has the exciting potential to shape future psychedelic research
Paul Stamets Micodosing Stack
We couldn’t talk about microdosing without talking about Paul Stamets, a well known mycologist, a stack that he recommends for microdosing which includes:
- Psilocybin 1-10mg
- Lions Mane 50 – 200 mg
- Niacin (a B vitamin) 100 – 200 mg
A very simplified breakdown of the hypothetical mode of action of the stack is this:
- Psilocybin mushrooms promotes neuroplasticity and new neural connections
- Lion’s mane promotes the creation of new nerve and brain cells
- Niacin drives these two ingredients to the furthest reaches of the nervous system.
Together they work synergistically and thought to enhance learning, cognition, neuroregeneration and many other things.
Microdosing And Neuroplasticity
For any sceptics out there who think the above sounds ‘out there’ The Berkley Foundation are investigating whether LSD microdosing, when used once or repeatedly, “can amplify brain plasticity, a phenomenon that has already been observed in cells, lab grown ‘minibrains’ and animals, but not yet in humans. Outside of the lab, the Beckley/Imperial team are also conducting the world’s first placebo-controlled, self-blinded study of microdosing.”
Microdosing And Mood And Cognition
The Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme was set up to study the effects of LSD microdosing on humans, with a particular focus on mood, cognitive functions, and pain management. The first study, exploring the dose-response relationship in LSD-induced physiological and psychological effects, saw twenty-four healthy volunteers each receive single doses of 5, 10 and 20 micrograms of LSD, or a placebo.
Results clearly demonstrate, for the first time in a controlled and rigorous way, the positive effects of microdosing on mood, cognition and pain management.
The researchers found that participants experienced “sustained levels of improved attention and positive mood changes after just a single microdose (20 mcg) of LSD.” We hope that the study will open the door for future studies to look at at the potential cognitive enhancing effect of LSD, in particular neurodegenerative disorders or ADHD.
Participants given an LSD microdose of 20mcg report increased “vigor”, they felt friendlier, and they had improved mood.
The same dose size showed a simultaneous decrease in reported negative moods such as depression, anger, and fatigue.
The results of another observation study where microdosers were surveyed about their experiences are summarised below:
Microdosing And Pain Management
Remarkably, changes in pain tolerance and subjective pain perception induced by the low dose of LSD under these circumstances were comparable in magnitude to those observed after administration of opioids, such as oxycodone and morphine to healthy volunteers.
More details of this study can be found here.
So it looks promising for the therapeutic value of microdosing psychedelics and I am so excited to follow the research and the policies around their use.
It is my hope one day we will have access to these incredible plant medicines to support both our health, but also our spiritual growth.
Resources: Psychedelic Books
- Book: Microdosing Psychedelics: A Practical Guide to Upgrade Your Life
- Book: The Science of Microdosing Psychedelics
- Book: Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys
- Book: Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca
Resources: Psychedelic Podcasts And Blogs
- My psychedelic episode of The Alex Manos Podcast: click here.
- My blog post on my psychedelic retreat at Synthesis in the Netherlands.
Resources: Videos & Talks on Psychedelics
- TED Talk: A doctor’s case for medical marijuana
- TED Talk: The future of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy
- MAPS: A non-profit research and educational organisation developing medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.
- Petition to legalise cannabis in the UK
- Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook
- Neural Correlates of the LSD Experience Revealed by Multimodal Neuroimaging
- Berkley Foundation
- A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics
- Microdosing Psychedelics: Personality, Mental Health, and Creativity Differences in Microdosers
- Exploring the Effect of Microdosing Psychedelics on Creativity in an Open-Label Natural Setting