Psychedelics are enjoying a surge in popularity that places them beyond recreational drugs, with the potential to treat mental health conditions. However, what attracts the most skepticism is the idea of microdosing with psychedelics.
What matters: Proponents of microdosing claim a variety of benefits, including improved productivity, positive mood, and well-being. What counts is reaping the benefits of psychedelics without the "high."
Making moves: The FDA recently laid out its guidelines for drug trials involving "classical psychedelics" for the first time ever.
As microdosing with psychedelics and the idea of entering a “higher state” receives renewed public interest, understanding the transformative process that one undergoes on a psychedelic trip becomes imperative. These experiences often provide unique emotions and insights, but the collective interest really lies in their therapeutic benefits.
How does microdosing with psychedelics work? The general scientific consensus is that we don’t entirely understand these compounds despite the vivid imaginative experiences that people who take them often describe.
Psychedelics (and their proponents) are enjoying a surge that positions these compounds as possible therapeutic drugs, showing potential to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain, and depression.
Even though their popularity has skyrocketed, partly due to the recent increase in clinical trials gauging their efficacy, scientists continue to remain skeptical of one key aspect of the recreational and therapeutic use of psychedelics: microdosing.
Psychedelic plants and mushrooms have been a part of indigenous medicine for thousands of years, but their roots can be traced back to religious traditions as in the ancient Sanskrit texts.
Microdosing with psychedelics isn’t a new idea, with reports tracing the use of low doses of psilocybin to as early as the 1500s. However, starting in 1966, several states banned their use.
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, classifying LSD and psilocybin, along with several others, as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use under supervision.
The talk: Microdosing is defined as the practice of taking very small doses of a psychedelic substance, often as low as one-twentieth (5 percent) of a full dose — supposedly changing its hallucinogenic effect, but not the legal status.
What matters: Finding the optimal dosage when it comes to microdosing requires some trial and error, but proponents have claimed a range of psychological benefits, including:
Beyond an improved quality of life, users have also reported that microdosing helps them manage symptoms of chronic pain, PTSD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression.
Psilocybin is a psychedelic compound obtained from mushrooms (belonging to the genus Psilocybe) commonly called magic mushrooms. It works by activating serotonin receptors in the brain related to feelings of happiness or love.
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The efficacy of microdosing in improving mood and cognition along with treating some chronic conditions is largely based upon anecdotal evidence consisting of passionate surveyors, and more recently by large online communities.
While many scientists have begun exploring the benefits of microdosing in comparison to full doses of psychedelics, much of the evidence divides the community — often concluding that the practice holds no benefits.
The state of things: According to 2020’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.6 percent of people aged 12 and older in the United States reported hallucinogen use in the past year.
Making moves: Oregon made history on January 1, becoming the first state in the U.S. to legalize the adult use of psilocybin, beginning a chain of events that might lead to the widespread acceptance of a multi-billion dollar industry.
“The goal is to help researchers design studies that will yield interpretable results that will be capable of supporting future drug applications.”
— Tiffany Farchione, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
This increased “openness” may represent how our society is experiencing a mental health crisis, where pharmacological treatment is stagnating, and the influential turn to alternative therapies.
Popularly known as the “Father of Microdosing,” Dr. James Fadiman introduced the concept of microdosing, along with the Fadiman Protocol which proposes a microdosing schedule of 1 day on, 2 days off, primarily based on his experimentation and research on microdosing.
Of the handful of studies reporting the effects of microdosing with psychedelics, scientific interest primarily leans towards these findings being premature and often wrong.
A great deal of optimism is involved in attempts at breaking the psychedelic taboo, but policymakers continue to be wary of compounds that can literally alter your perception. Microdosing presents a much easier reality — one where changing modern medicine wouldn’t require everyone to get high.