In the tech world of Silicon Valley, a new(ish) phenomenon has been brought to light: Microdosing. Microdosing involves taking very small amounts of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD or Mushrooms (Psilocybin), on a regular schedule. The same dose has also been applied to MDMA. The amount is small enough that it is below your perceptual threshold and the user will not feel ‘high’. You can go about your daily life with subtle increases in your productivity, creativity, focus and awareness.
For mushrooms, the recommended dosage is 0.2 grams. For reference, the recommended dose for a full fledged psychedelic experience on psilocybin is between 2-5 grams. The recommended amount of LSD is between 6–20 micrograms, or 1/16th-1/5th of a single tab of acid. This small amount is scheduled to be taken every 4th day.
For years, psychedelics have provided huge benefits to psychotherapy and have helped people overcome depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders and addiction. As well as the psychotherapeutic benefits, psychedelics help a users divergent thinking and can boost creativity and complex problem solving.
However, the stories from large doses are the reason people steer clear of such a drug. Bad trips (Different people needing different surroundings), the length of a trip and even the uncomfortable realisations one may have during a trip are just a few examples of why someone may not been keen on experimenting. Psychedelics can strongly alter your perception and cognitive processes. Microdosing is an attractive alternative for people who are intrigued about the effects of psychedelics but scared of what a full dose could do to them.
Scientific research into this subject has been revived since it was cut in the 1960s. In 2016, researchers from the Imperial College in London were the first to use brain scanning techniques to visualise how LSD alters the way the brain works. Their results suggested that psychedelics increase communication between parts of the brain that are less likely to communicate with one another, and decrease communication between areas that frequently do. This could be the underlying contributor to the altered state of consciousness that is often described during an LSD trip. It is also related to “ego-dissolution”, a term used when someone’s normal sense of self is broken down. People often report a sense of re-connection with themselves, other people and the natural world. While these tests showed great insight, they were classified as anecdotal by modern research standards as they were not double blind or placebo-controlled (they are volunteers). However, further scientific studies are being performed on psychedelics as we speak.
Lab tests and home tests alike are showing great benefits to users in their everyday lives including work productivity, exercise limits, social interaction and one’s overall well-being. But users with depression, addiction or other mental illness have received the greatest benefits. People who performed study on themselves with mental illness, have found LSD or Mushrooms more beneficial than their prescribed pharmaceuticals with reduced or completely removed side effects. As well as these deeper mental effects, microdosing has helped test subjects sleep better, eat better and generally helped improve their relationships with their bodies. Because different areas of the brain are interacting with each other when they normally shouldn’t, the brain can break free from its repetitive modes of thought and cognition, such as those that underlie depression.
As mentioned, the microdosing of MDMA has also been on trial for mental health issues. The empathogenic properties of MDMA have been used in treatment for people who are perceived to not feel appropriately connected to those around them, which is common in cases of schizophrenia, autism, or antisocial personality disorder. The release of the three neurotransmitters induced by MDMA causes strong feelings of happiness and comfort, helping people regain those feelings.
While the results of these tests have so far been positive, the case remains that we still don’t know the long term effects of taking small amounts of psychedelic drugs over long periods of time. While no volunteer patients have shown negative effects under the right dose, researchers fear that microdosing over a long period of time (more than 4 months) could possibly lead to disadvantages in cardiovascular health, though this hasn’t has been proven. Researchers also believe microdosing could raise anxiety and insomnia levels if a personal dosage is too big.
Until the safety of microdosing is confirmed by clinical research, we need to exercise caution, and make clear that microdosing carries potential risk. In light of this caution, microdosing has seen some huge breakthroughs and we could see proper patient testing sooner than we think.