Well-known psychedelic substances like N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and magic mushrooms are often associated with hallucinations, spiritual, psychological and mystical encounters. Colloquially, we’d term a person going through such experiences as tripping. Yet, regardless of the reputation these recreational substances have garnered over the years, the scientific community focuses on human hallucinogen research to understand their effects on mental health.
Our focus here is on magic mushrooms, how they affect your brain, the beneficial effects of microdosing psilocybin and how you can go about managing your dosage. In addition, we shall rely on modern clinical research to help build a cause of the potential therapeutic benefits of microdosing psychedelics and any risks you should know. Hopefully, you will not have to experiment in the dark.
Your Brain on Magic Mushrooms
If you have ever heard of serotonin before, you might associate it with happiness since modern media forms portray it as responsible for the feeling. Nevertheless, this chemical messenger serves a complex function in our nervous system, and research has shown it is responsible for regulating a host of other bodily tasks. For instance, the body’s thermoregulation processes, retaining and recollecting memories, cognition, eating, some physiological processes and sleeping depend on this molecule.
The serotonin chemical affects the aptly named serotonin system through special regions of the nervous system that contain serotonin 2A receptors. Admittedly, neuroscientists do not comprehend the complete workings of the system. Some chemicals interact with this system and either cause it to go on overdrive or get blocked.
Since tryptamine substances are quite similar in structure to serotonin, they can bind to the neuroreceptors and cause physiological and psychological effects. It is hypothesized that the substances cause excitation in the areas of the brain cortex that manage cognitive, motor, and sensory tasks. As a result, you could hallucinate, have enveloping psychological experiences.
What Does Research Say About Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms
Recent positive media reports and widespread interest from internet communities, from as early as 2011, have popularized microdosing psychedelics as an excellent way to realize favorable alterations in mood, boosting well-being and thinking. In addition, taking minute amounts gives you access to the benefits without the burden of disrupting your behavior or being intoxicated. Nevertheless, it is quite difficult to define the quantity of a psychedelic drug you need to take to achieve a microdose. After all, very low doses may be ineffective.
What About a Full Dose?
Despite the media coverage and heaps of anecdotal reports testifying the benefits of developing a microdosing regimen, it is critical to consider whether scientific research makes similar positive claims. Traditionally, the protocol for doing a clinical trial on the therapeutic efficacy of psychedelic drugs involves full-dose consumption in controlled settings.
In addition, researchers would ensure that the participants were comprehensively screened and had reliable psychological support throughout the clinical trials. Ultimately, it is vital to document whether there have been any positive effects on the mental health reported outcomes and if they are lasting.
Numerous scientific reports on such psychedelic research claim a significant difference in a person’s behavior and outlook for healthy participants. In addition, some studies have shown that psychoactive substances cause sustained symptom reduction of psychiatric disorders in afflicted populations.
However, there are positive and negative consequences of taking high doses of psychedelic drugs that introduce the need for future research to find ways of mitigating the extremes. For starters, if participants reported a bad trip where they panic or delve into tricky psychotic states, there may be no favorable changes. Thus, the methodological limitations make psilocybin-assisted therapy challenging to conduct.
Does Microdosing Work?
The craze surrounding microdosing psychedelics may have come up as a way to reduce the adverse effects of taking a full dose. After all, the thinking is that you can gain the benefits without bearing the risks.
Unfortunately, microdosing research has not come up with concrete findings on the hyped benefits of such a regimen. In particular, the studies that avoid open-label or observational surveying methodologies while focussing on using placebos as controls fall in this category. In addition, the different research studies employ double-blind administration with healthy participants.
The controlled research can sidestep the pitfalls of positive expectancy on mental health conditions after participation. Interestingly, previous research based on observational surveys has resoundingly supported the anecdotal reports on the favorable effects of microdosing psychedelics. The current media portrayal in conjunction with other elements of confirmation bias may be responsible for the scales tipping in favor of the practice.
The minimal research using a randomized clinical trial also has its shortcomings. For instance, once you detect the subjective psychoactivity associated with psychedelic substances, you will know you are taking the real deal and thus be susceptible to confirmatory biases. In addition, since placebo effects are non-existant, the accuracy of the results may fall victim to experimental biases.
Admittedly, this concern is common across studies focussed on drugs with perceptible subjective effects. Nevertheless, the positive perception of microdosing is a factor to consider since treatment expectations impact how a placebo-taking group responds. After all, there is a lack of significant scientific evidence supporting the advantages of a psychedelic regimen since both groups reported positive mood, cognitive enhancement, and decreased anxiety.
A study found that having positive expectations before starting psychedelic therapy goes a long way in predicting if you will reap positive mental health outcomes because of it. Thus, you can take the following benefits with a grain of salt.
Benefits of Microdosing
Thanks to Compass Pathways, an organization trying to bridge the gap between evidence-based breakthroughs in mental health and patients, psilocybin has received the designation of Breakthrough Therapy from the FDA. But, of course, it may take some time before we can access FDA-approved shrooms for dealing with treatment-resistant depression and mental health treatment for depressive symptoms. Still, this shows promise for the benefits of psychedelic microdosing.
For starters, numerous anecdotal evidence points to improved brain functions when taking the drug. But, unfortunately, there have not been any sustained gains even when the person has not taken their typical dose.
Moreover, promises of increased creativity from psilocybin or other substances can be tricky to define. Still, a significant portion of the people undertaking the practice do it to boost their creative side and boast positive results. It may be that increased concentration and reduced anxiety combine to yield more creativity.
On that note, regular and controlled psilocybin treatment has been linked to improved concentration. In addition, some users claimed that they got less distracted and could work on demanding projects while on small amounts of these recreational drugs.
Furthermore, a portion of users observed over various surveys reported using microdosing to deal with anxiety disorder, depression and other disorders. In these cases, typically, about half of the participants claimed a feeling of general well-being.
Finally, some people claimed they could quit drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Plus, some even stayed away from coffee and other regular stimulants when they microdose. Nevertheless, there is a need for further research to help quantify and qualify the heaps of praises surrounding this practice.
How to Microdose Psychedelic Substances Like Shrooms
a). The Tools
For starters, you will need access to quality shrooms. Secondly, look for a scale that can give you accurate readings of a hundredth of a gram. After all, it is essential to minimize the quantity as your goal is still being productive while under the influence.
Third, find a grinder that can help you get a fine powder of the dried psilocybin mushrooms. The process should be simple: grind it up, measure it accurately and sprinkle it onto things you can eat or drink.
Finally, you can use gel caps if you are concerned the taste might not be palatable. Plus, you do not have to ruin your smoothie with the extra, and often polarizing, flavor.
b). The Method
James Fadiman and his book ‘The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic and Sacred Journeys’ had a hand in popularizing the microdosing trend. In the book, he outlines an approach that most people getting into the craze look to as the unofficial user manual. There, Fadiman proposed that you need to take a small dose every three days for one month.
Generally, the psychoactive feeling tends to wear off within a few hours, but the benefits like improved mood linger for a couple of days. Moreover, regardless of the nonaddictive aspects of taking psilocybin, you can still build a tolerance to the drugs. Thus, giving your body time to ‘recover’ ensures that you do not have to increase your initial dosage to yield positive results.
Another important consideration is when you decide to take your microdose. Ideally, anytime before 10 in the morning can help prevent insomnia at night. However, regardless of when you decide to indulge, it would be best if you did not divert from your typical schedule, from meals to work and leisure.
Furthermore, taking a break maybe something you decide to do down the line. After all, the Fadiman recommendation entails being diligent with your doses for a month. After that, according to the book, most users will stop taking it unless they feel they need the psychedelic substance during particular occasions.
c). The Dose
Generally, you will experience a full psychedelic trip by taking about three and a half grams of shrooms. In this case, a microdose is about a tenth of that amount or less if you are starting. In addition, you also need to consider your body weight as it has a bearing on what amount will cause tangible effects.
It is safe to start from the low end and gauge how you respond to the amount you are taking. After all, you wouldn’t want to be ‘chasing dragons’ when you are at work or school. Eventually, you can start taking the recommended dose once you are comfortable with the feeling. Hence, start from 0.1 grams and have small increments to reach the desired balance.
d). Useful Tips
If you are trying microdosing for the benefits, you need to monitor your progress, if any, to find out if the regimen is working. A journal is an excellent way of documenting your experiences. You can keep track of any effects you are feeling, what time in your schedule you are on and the amounts you have been taking.
Secondly, if it is your first time trying this out, ensure you should spend the day with yourself to assess how you are while under the influence. Cancel any social affairs or take it on your day off to relieve any stress you may be feeling. After all, your mindset is a critical part of whether you will experience benefits from microdosing.
Risks Associated with Microdosing
Interestingly, the wave of microdosing is not solely the domain of magic mushrooms. Admittedly, people do not refer to the same recreational drug when discussing the benefits of a small and controlled dose. For instance, some people stand by the miracle of taking LSD, cannabis, DMT, Ayahuasca, Iboga and Ketamine.
Nevertheless, one of the potential risks associated with microdosing psilocybin is the potential for abuse. For example, if you go beyond the limit capable of producing psychoactive effects, you can end up having a bad trip or doing something embarrassing while at work or school. In addition, you can engage in acts that could harm you or the people around you.
Furthermore, take note of your mental state before you start your regimen. Remember that psychoactive substances can profoundly affect your emotions, and if you are not prepared, you can have a frightening experience.
Lastly, it is possible to build a tolerance against psilocybin. A condition known as tachyphylaxis describes the reduction in the effectiveness of a drug in successive doses. Also, this effect is more prominent in drugs that have neurological effects.