The use of psychedelics has mainly been associated with dropping a hit of acid (LSD) or consuming a skosh of magic mushrooms, say, in a tea or an omelet. Until recently, people have not measured dosages of psychedelics out, other than adjusting for a rule of thumb dosage that can be completely arbitrary. Not so with microdosing, and psychonauts tout the benefits that result from these crumb-sized dosages of psychoactive substances.
Psychedelic Microdosing Overview
Psychedelic microdosing involves consuming minute amounts of research chemicals such as LSD or psilocybin, usually about a tenth of what you would take recreationally. The practice has recently grown in popularity, and media coverage, along with book-length treatises about it, are on the rise.
LSD and psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms or ‘shrooms, are the most popular substances people use for microdosing. Ayahuasca, cannabis, mescaline, and sometimes iboga, are also used to microdose
Is Microdosing the Key to Better Productivity?
As microdosing moves a bit more mainstream, its proponents say that the aim is not for an illicit high but rather to feel more creative, focused and present. Therefore, a micro-dose is a quantity too minute to trip on but just enough to sharpen the mind.
Microdosing started taking off between 2010 and 2013, thanks in part to influencer and LSD researcher, James Fadiman. Fadiman often preached the benefits that microdosing gives you to Silicon Valley coder circles.
In meetings with them, Fadiman said that they could achieve better focus and concentration through the practice. The appeal of a substance that gives you hours of uninterrupted concentration and focus was not lost on this group of professionals.
Beneficial Effects of Psychedelics
There have been thousands of early studies supporting the benefits of psychedelics, followed by a 40-year pause after laws prohibited them. Despite those prohibitions, we are in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance.
Modern research has uncovered the potential of LSD and psilocybin to treat addiction, depression and end-of-life anxiety. Meanwhile, research on MDMA has shown remarkable promise for treating PTSD.
Is Microdosing Suitable for Therapy, too?
Since research shows that full doses of psychedelics give relief to severe and chronic conditions, there is speculation that milder mental health disorders could be treated by recurring, lower doses of these substances.
This is especially relevant since certain full-dose outcomes rely on pharmacological mechanisms versus the subjective metric of experience people say that psychedelics have on their consciousness.
Research on microdosing has become more prevalent in the last five years. During this period, scientists have published nearly 400 papers about results from the practice in academic journals. Online microdosing communities number in the tens of thousands now, and they are speaking to a social need for research to inform the public about the beneficial effects of microdosing.
More Research is Needed
Unfortunately, when the research of microdosing psychedelics is limited to topics investigated solely in their full-dose counterparts, scientific research results can be premature and overlook potentially and unpredicted outcomes.
Another aspect to consider is that microdosing research could help with future psychedelic research by informing and aiding studies. For instance, results from previous microdosing research could be used to investigate the potential for mixing or contrasting full and micro-dose psychedelic psychotherapies.
10 Benefits of Microdosing
1. Improved Mood
Improved mood is the most frequently reported benefit obtained from minuscule amounts of psychedelics. A further breakdown that microdosers listed of mood improvements included calmness, happiness, peace, and well-being, along with fewer depressive symptoms.
Other benefits reported were an improved outlook, optimism, emotional and spiritual insights, appreciation of life and being more in touch with emotions.
Studies that link psychedelics to better mood have been mostly anecdotal and self-reported, but research in 2019 determined that when healthy subjects took microdoses of LSD, it improved their mood significantly.
The study’s authors recommended follow up studies, and they concluded that “13 micrograms is the optimal low dose to use repeatedly in testing the idea that microdosing improves mood.”
Another benefit that users associated with psychedelics often include heightened creativity, along with meta-creative processes. For instance, episodes of divergent thinking, shifting perspectives, openness and curiosity are experienced by psychonauts.
Micro amounts of magic mushrooms are apparently the breakfast of champions, as one musician reportedly was consuming a tenth of a gram of them during mornings to heighten his meta-creative processes. The musician further said that the ‘shrooms allowed him to focus his creative abilities and finish up an album he had been working on for years.
2. Improved Focus
Famous and innovative bursts of focus are often attributed to the psychedelic LSD. Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Francis Crick said he was under the influence of this mind-altering drug when he first discovered the double helix structure of DNA five decades ago.
Francis Crick said that he often used small doses of the psychoactive substance to boost his powers of thought. He attributed the tiny doses of LSD, at that time an experimental drug utilized to boost mental prowess, for his ability to unravel DNA structure.
Other heightened aspects related to focus that the microdosing community said they experienced were better concentration, conscious awareness, mindfulness, and increased engagement and attentiveness.
Microdosing can give you a boost of productivity, and people that use hallucinogens such as LSD and Psilocybin often report improvements in self-efficacy, a trait that is treasured by many Silicon Valley professionals. Self-efficacy traits can act as hot job enhancers because they offer strong feelings of motivation, ambition, productivity, confidence and a sense of urgency.
Temper that with other self-efficacy traits psychedelics reportedly give, such as self-care (introspection, meditation, and other behaviors that facilitate mental health), and you have a pretty robust productivity hack. Although we aren’t certain what microdosing actually does (if anything), some entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley swear by it and coach others how to do it.
5. Improved Energy
Another benefit attributed to psychoactive microdosing is improved energy. In the workforce, psychonauts have taken up microdosing LSD and mushrooms instead of caffeine as the stimulant of choice. These psychedelics lend a competitive edge on their colleagues since they purportedly give improved energy, as well as alertness, stimulation and wakefulness.
7. Cognitive Benefits
Cognitive benefits attributed to psychedelics concern clarity of thought (clear-headedness and lucidity), memory and cognitive enhancement (problem-solving, understanding). Researchers say that psilocybin, in particular, enabled people to engage in more out-of-the-box thinking, enabling them to better come up with alternative solutions to a problem.
Are you familiar with the phrase, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” In a nutshell, it means that new teachings become challenging, if not impossible, for many of us to learn once we are advanced in age. However, research indicates that psychedelics have beneficial effects on cognitive processes that are changed in older adulthood. Increased connectedness, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity and mystical experiences are argued to underlie these cognitive changes.
9. Physiological Enhancement
Biological processes falling under the umbrella of physiological enhancements include better cardiovascular endurance and sleep quality, fewer migraines/headaches and enhanced senses. Although physiological enhancements were reported to a lesser degree as a benefit of psychedelic microdosing, some survey respondents said they experienced it.
6. Social benefits
Psychiatrist Julie Holland told The Guardian in 2019, “You basically couldn’t design a molecule that is better for therapy than MDMA.” The use of psychedelics for social anxiety has been ongoing for decades, and some socially anxious people now take MDMA and other hallucinogens to cope.
Socially facilitating benefits that psychedelics give include a sense of connection, empathy, verbal fluency and extraversion. Moreover, scientists say psychedelic drugs combined with therapy could be a promising treatment option for social anxiety. Especially when it comes to autistic adults, for whom conventional therapy has limited effectiveness.
8. Reduced Anxiety
Similar to how they work with social anxiety, members of the microdosing community say that certain psychedelics reduce general anxiety. Additionally, a 2019 study at the University of California involved giving microdoses of DMT to rats. During the study, researchers said that the rodents appeared to lose most of their fear when they were introduced to stressful events after taking the drug.
10. Reduced Symptoms
Reduced symptoms reference benefits, such as reduced sensitivity to trauma, stress reduction and reduced substance dependence (quitting smoking, etc.). Microdosers also cited other benefits of psychedelic microdosing that are similar to this this category, including less painful periods, decreased coffee consumption and better sex.