What Is Microdosing?

Everything you need to know about microdosing

What Is Microdosing?

On Monday, a tech startup CEO was fired after he took a microdose of LSD before a work meeting.

Former Iterable executive Justin Zhu told Bloomberg he took a small amount of LSD, a psychedelic drug, to improve his focus during a 2019 meeting. In an email to staff, Zhu's co-founder Andrew Boni said Zhu violated company guidelines and would be terminated as a result.

The move reignited a conversation about the potential benefits of microdosing, which Steve Jobs previously touted.

In short, microdosing involves taking very small doses of psychedelic drugs, such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) or psilocybin mushrooms, on a semi-regular schedule in order to experience reported benefits such as increased perception and creativity levels and decreased anxiety and depression . 

Only three studies have looked into the science behind microdosing in humans, so evidence of the method's therapeutic effects remains inconclusive.

One self-reported study from February 2019 found people who microdosed LSD or psilocybin were more open-minded, experienced better moods, and felt more creative than those who didn't take any drugs. Another February 2019 study found people who microdosed psychedelics regularly reported better mental health and a better ability to focus.

A March 2020 study from researchers at Imperial College London, however, found that microdosing's reported benefits could be attributed to a placebo effect.

Amanda Feilding, the founder and director of the UK-based nonprofit Beckley Foundation, hopes to add to existing research with a study documenting the effects of microdosing on a person's creative and cognitive abilities.

Fielding's study is currently in progress, and preliminary findings suggest LSD microdosing can increase pain tolerance.

Here's what we currently know about microdosing.

Microdosing is not designed to get you «high»

Microdosing isn't supposed to get a person high. Shutterstock

The dosage of a substance psilocybin or LSD should only be approximately one-twentieth to one-tenth the regular dose designed to «trip,» according to Dr. James Fadiman's research.

That's 5 to 10 micrograms of LSD or 0.1 to 0.4 grams of psilocybin mushrooms.

Because personal tolerances differ, the exact amount can differ person-to-person, but the ideal is to be in an increased state of perception, rather than a hallucinating state.

The general consensus from those who have tried microdosing is to not do it every day. Psychologist, experimenter of psychedelics, and author of  «The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys,» Dr.

James Fadiman recommends a three-day cycle. A dose is supposed to be taken on day one, and then not again until day four, as to not build up a tolerance and to experience day two leftover effects.

There's also an emphasis on journaling and taking notice of how your body handles it.

It's important, however, to remember that extremely limited research has been done on this topic and it is still illegal to purchase magic mushrooms or LSD in the United States.

Not everyone is talking about the same drug when they're talking about microdosing

LSD is a popular drug used when microdosing. Shutterstock

While psilocybin, commonly known as 'shrooms or magic mushrooms, and LSD are currently the most popular forms, Third Wave also lists cannabis, ayahuasca, mescaline, and DMT as possible substances for micro-dosing.

People who have tried microdosing say it increases their creativity and others say it boosts their mood

Steve Jobs has spoken about the benefits he got from microdosing. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Steve Jobs, cofounder and previous CEO of Apple Inc., was open about his LSD experiences. «Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.

LSD shows you that there's another side to the coin, and you can't remember it when it wears off, but you know it.

It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.»

According to Jobs, use of LSD contributed to his simplistic Zen-inspired design aesthetics for Apple products and packaging.

His friend and early Apple employee Daniel Kottke revealed that although Jobs apparently halted this practice once he launched Apple, the late creator's LSD habit has been taken up by the creative minds of Silicon Valley. For those with overflowing schedules in tech and/or startup environments, microdosing is seen as a way to get ahead by staying productive through exhaustion or by sparking creativity.

Источник: https://www.insider.com/what-is-microdosing-2019-1

Can Microdosing Psychedelics Improve Your Mental Health?

What Is Microdosing?

by Isabelle Grabski
figures by MacKenzie Mauger

When you hear the term “psychedelics,” you might think of hallucinogenic and mystical experiences.

Popular psychedelics include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), magic mushrooms (containing the psychedelic psilocybin), and DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine, part of the spiritual medicine ayahuasca), all of which can cause intense psychological experiences colloquially known as “trips.

” However, there is an emerging push within the scientific community to study these known recreational drugs as treatments for psychiatric conditions that could potentially be more effective with fewer side effects than traditional psychiatric medications.

This psychiatric interest in psychedelics is nothing new: in the 1950s and 60s, thousands of patients were experimentally given various psychedelics to treat alcoholism and other mental health disorders. It was only when the U.S. 1971 Controlled Substances Act was passed that much of this research came to a grinding halt.

After a nearly 40 year pause in this work, scientists are beginning to resume this research. Landmark trials from 2014 and 2016 have already shown that LSD and psilocybin respectively improved mood and anxiety in patients with various life-threatening illnesses for up to a year after treatment, with many more studies underway.


Alongside this renewed interest in psychedelics is an increasing popular approach known as microdosing. Microdosing is when patients take a dose of psychedelics that is too small to produce any perceptible effects, generally between 5 to 10% of a standard dose.

Despite the small amount of drug taken, there is evidence to suggest that microdosing can still bring about some of the benefits observed with full-dose treatment without causing the intense and sometimes negative hallucinatory experiences.

Nevertheless, some scientists are skeptical that these results are spurious, or worse, that microdosing may even be harmful. 

The potential mechanisms of microdosing

Figure 1: One potential mechanism for psychedelic drugs. The drug may bind to a molecular region known as the serotonin 2A receptor, and cause the cortex to become excited and form new neuronal connections.


Psychedelics are known to primarily affect serotonin, a chemical messenger that helps nerve cells communicate with other cells in the body. Serotonin is popularly portrayed in the media as being responsible for happiness, but in reality, its functionality is much more complex and widespread.

In fact, serotonin is associated not just with mood, but also with cognition, sleeping, eating, thermoregulation, memory, and even physiological processes vomiting. 

Since serotonin is so widely important in the body, there are molecular regions called serotonin 2A receptors located throughout the central nervous system. Chemicals can bind to these receptors in order to stimulate or block the serotonin system.

Although this mechanism is not fully understood, these receptors are believed to be the targets of psychedelics.

One hypothesis is that when these drugs bind to the serotonin 2A receptors, the brain cortex, responsible for cognitive, sensory, and motor functions, becomes excited, ultimately leading to hallucinations and other effects.

Some studies have even found psychedelics to increase neuroplasticity, which leads to the creation of more connections between neurons and could potentially explain the novelty of these intense psychological experiences. Microdosing is thus theorized to work in the same fashion, albeit to a milder degree.

Some research also suggests that microdosing may work by fighting inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the result of the body’s immune system protecting you from infection, but can cause damage when the immune system is activated without any real danger.

Long-lasting or chronic inflammation is implicated in a number of disorders, including auto-immune diseases and even mental health conditions depression.

Studies on animals have shown anti-inflammatory effects from microdosing, leading some scientists to speculate that this could point to another potential mechanism of action.

The early research on microdosing

Research on microdosing is still new, and thus there are a relatively limited number of studies available to understand its effects on humans.

As for 2020, the first clinical trials exploring microdosing as a treatment for mental health conditions are now underway.

Until those results are available, most human research has been limited to surveys of those who have tried microdosing on their own.

These survey results have largely been positive. For example, in one international survey, 79% of respondents reported improvements in their mental health after microdosing.

In other surveys, participants described experiencing better creativity and productivity, in addition to decreased levels of anxiety and depression. Although promising, these results must be taken with a grain of salt.

Because these are surveys, there is no way to confirm or enforce the dosage, scheduling, and type of psychedelic used, and indeed, some studies have already noted that experiences can vary depending on these factors.

Moreover, these results are susceptible to the so-called placebo effect, in which just the knowledge that you are taking some kind of a treatment can cause you to experience benefits, even if the treatment is not directly causally related to the effects. If this is the case, then microdosing might have very little to do with the reported improvements.

Figure 2: In one experiment, microdosed rats continued attempting to escape a pool even after a long period of time, whereas untreated rats gave up in the same time interval.

There has been some animal research to back these survey findings. In one prominent study, researchers at UC Davis administered microdoses of DMT to rats and observed responses similar to those arising from antidepressants.

Both microdosed and untreated rats were placed in a pool with no escape, and the microdosed rats continued swimming in an attempt to escape after the untreated rats had already given up. This suggests some degree of improved resilience and optimism in the microdosed rats.

Another study microdosed some rats with psilocin (another psychoactive component of magic mushrooms) and others with a different psychedelic called ketamine, and found both to mildly alleviate anxiety in rats experiencing a stressful maze. 

Results from animal research, of course, are not automatically transferable to humans. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that beneficial effects from psychedelics are plausible, spurring greater motivation for ongoing clinical trial research. 

Safety concerns

The question, however, is not just whether microdosing is effective, but also whether it’s safe. Until clinical trials are complete, we will not have a full answer, but there is already research to suggest that certain people may be vulnerable to negative side effects.

In particular, some people may have psychotic episodes or other mental health issues triggered by taking psychedelics, especially if they have a history of psychosis or pre-existing risk for serious psychiatric disorders schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Although microdosing involves a much lower amount of the drug, it is still possible that the negative consequences may hold true.

Furthermore, survey research has revealed side effects specific to microdosing.

Some people have reported unwanted symptoms such as migraines, over-stimulation, difficulty sleeping, physical discomfort, and sometimes even anxiety, despite the promise of these drugs to alleviate it.

It is not yet well-understood how these symptoms relate to the exact dosage, scheduling, and type of drug taken, but they do show that negative effects can potentially occur. 

All in all, it is still far too early to say whether microdosing is a viable way to harness the potential of psychedelics for mental health treatment.

Much more research needs to be done to understand not only how it works, but what the potential consequences and side effects are.

If clinical trials confirm the safety and efficacy of microdosing psychedelics, these could represent a new avenue for mental health treatment. 

Isabella Grabski is a 3rd-year Ph.D. student in Biostatistics at Harvard University.

MacKenzie Mauger is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard Medical School, where she is studying the role of condensate formation in epigenetic memory. You can find her on as @MacKenzieMauger

Cover Image: “Beach Mushrooms” by vladeb is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For More Information:

  • This review article summarizes the beneficial and harmful effects of microdosing.
  • Check out this article to learn about the potential mechanisms of microdosing. 
  • This article summarizes the current state of microdosing for psychiatric treatment.
  • To learn about potential therapeutic benefits of microdosing psychedelics, read this scientific paper.

Источник: https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2020/can-microdosing-psychedelics-improve-your-mental-health/

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