Microdosing & Medication: A Brief Look At It’s History, Benefits & Risks

Microdosing psychedelics like LSD or mushrooms with psilocybin has become a popular way to get sub-hallucinogenic effects by taking small amounts of the drug. But there isn’t much scientific research on microdosing.

Microdosing is the practice of taking small amounts of psychedelics. Some people think it is good for the mind. Recent research has started to look into this possibility, but it’s important to remember that microdosing substances are illegal and that having them comes with risks.

In this blog post, we talk about the history, benefits, risks, and problems of microdosing with medications. By asking microdosers about their experiences and looking for possible intervention points, we learned more about this interesting practice and what it means for future research.

Let’s dive into more detail about microdosing.

Psychedelic therapy is a type of therapy where people use drugs to help them open up.

People who do psychedelic therapy call the drugs “medicine.”

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History of Microdosing

Microdosing is when you take a small amount of a drug that makes you hallucinate on a regular basis to try to improve your mental health. James Fadiman, who is in favor of microdosing, has heard from hundreds of people who say it has helped them deal with anxiety, depression, and other problems.

But the scientific community has been slow to look into microdosing, and Fadiman thinks it’s time to do double-blind studies with placebos to learn more. Even though anecdotal evidence is good, scientific evidence is needed to show that microdosing might be helpful.

Microdosing has been around since the time of native cultures and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. Albert Hofmann, who made LSD, looked into microdosing and what benefits it might have.

Dr. James Fadiman has done a lot to study and spread the word about microdosing, and his work has had an impact on the field. Microdosing is becoming more and more popular, and many people want to know what science says about its effects.

Microdosing LSD

The history of microdosing LSD traces back to Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who synthesized LSD in 1938. It was through an accidental ingestion of a small amount of LSD that Hofmann discovered its effects.

His personal experiments and experiences with microdosing revealed a range of positive effects, such as heightened creativity, improved focus, and an overall sense of well-being.

Hofmann’s unwavering belief in the benefits of microdosing LSD was evident as he continued the practice until his death in 2008, leaving behind a significant legacy in the exploration of this approach.

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Magic Mushrooms

The history of microdosing magic mushrooms has deep roots in traditional indigenous cultures of Central and South America. These cultures have long practiced the ritualistic use of psychedelic mushrooms in small doses for spiritual purposes.

Shamanic traditions involved consuming magic mushrooms to induce altered states of consciousness and facilitate profound spiritual exploration. In the Western world, the awareness of magic mushrooms and their potential benefits was significantly propelled by the work of ethnobotanist R. Gordon Wasson.

In 1957, Wasson partook in a traditional mushroom ceremony led by Mexican shaman María Sabina, experiencing firsthand the profound effects of magic mushrooms. Inspired by his transformative experience, Wasson documented his journey, bringing attention to the powerful effects of magic mushrooms and sparking Western interest in their use.

Types of Psychedelic Drugs & Their Uses

Psychedelic drugs, such as LSD, PCP, Psilocybin, and Salvia, are ancient substances that can profoundly affect human perception and mood. They induce vivid visual images, auditory hallucinations, and sensory distortions, creating an altered state of consciousness.

These hallucinogens, derived from plants, fungi, mushrooms, or synthesized artificially, have the potential to produce rapid and intense mood swings.

Here is a brief overview of 4 common Psychedelic Drugs:

Psilocybin (Shrooms)

The chemical that makes hallucinogenic mushrooms work is called psilocybin. It is found in about 190 species of edible mushrooms that are native to tropical and subtropical parts of South America, Mexico, and the United States. Magic mushrooms, mushrooms, shrooms, caps, and boomers are all names for this drug.

How Is Psilocybin Used?

Mushrooms with psilocybin can be bought fresh or dried, and most people eat them. They can be made into a tea or added to other foods to hide their bitter taste. Psilocybin can cause hallucinations, a different sense of time, and an inability to tell the difference between dreams and reality.

Risks Associated with Psilocybin Use

Psilocybin is similar to LSD in that it changes the way smooth muscles in the heart, lungs, and glands work. It also changes motor reflexes, behavior, and how people see things.

When taken in high doses, panic attacks and psychosis can happen. Long-term effects like flashbacks, the chance of getting a mental illness, memory loss, and tolerance have also been talked about.

LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)

LSD is one of the oldest known hallucinogens and one of the most powerful chemicals that can change how you see things. It comes from lysergic acid, which is made by a fungus that grows on rye and other grains and is called ergot.

LSD is also called acid, blotter, cubes, microdot, yellow sunshine, blue heaven, cid, dots, mellow yellow, window pane, and many other names.

How Is LSD Used?

Most of the time, LSD is sold in the form of tablets, capsules, or sometimes liquid. Most people take it by mouth. The drug is often put on absorbent paper, which is then cut into pieces that are each one dose and decorated.

Risks Associated with LSD Use

In high doses, LSD can cause the user to have delusions and see things that aren’t there. It also changes the user’s sense of time and self. LSD can cause changes and experiences that can be both interesting and scary, sometimes to the point of panic.

LSD use can cause severe, scary thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, fear of losing control, fear of going crazy, and fear of dying. Users may also have flashbacks or recurrences of some parts of their drug use years after they stopped using it.

PCP (Phencyclidine)

PCP was once used as an intravenous anesthetic, but doctors no longer use it because it has very bad side effects. But it is often abused because it can cause hallucinations. PCP goes by many names, like “angel dust,” “embalming fluid,” “killer weed,” “rocket fuel,” or “supergrass.”

How Is PCP Used?

PCP is a white powder made of tiny crystals that can be dissolved in water or alcohol. It is often mixed with dyes and sold as tablets, capsules, or colored powder. PCP can be used by snorting, smoking, or taking it by mouth. It is usually a leafy plant like mint, parsley, oregano, or marijuana that is used for smoking.

Risks Associated with PCP Use

PCP makes people feel detached, far away, and out of place in their surroundings. They might hear things that aren’t there or have auditory hallucinations.

Some of the problems that can come from using PCP are extreme mood swings, anxiety, paranoia, and anger.

Users may also feel numb, slur their speech, lose their coordination, and feel like they are strong and can’t be hurt. Effects that can be seen include a blank stare, fast, uncontrollable eye movements, and a strange walk.

Salvia (Salvia divinorum)

Salvia divinorum is a herb in the mint family that can cause hallucinations when it is used wrongly. It hasn’t been changed in any way and looks like small dried leaves.

Salvia is also called shepherdess’ herb, diviner’s sage, seer’s sage, Maria pastora, magic mint, Sally-D, and many other names.

How Is Salvia Used?

Salvia leaves can be chewed, smoked, or heated to make a gas that can be inhaled (vaporized). Salvia can make you see bright lights, bright colors, shapes, your body moving, and weird distortions.

Risks Associated with Salvia Use

Salvia use can lead to fear, panic, uncontrollable laughter, hallucinations, and a feeling that reality is overlapping. Some of the bad effects on the body are loss of coordination, feeling dizzy, and speaking in a slurred way.

How Can Microdosing Help You With Treatment-Resistant Depression?

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Research suggests that psilocybin microdosing, using small amounts of the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, shows promise in relieving symptoms of depression.

Brain scans have shown improved connections and cognitive functioning in participants who underwent psilocybin microdosing trials.

The effects lasted even weeks after treatment. Psilocybin works differently from traditional antidepressants by promoting flexibility and fluidity in the brain, potentially offering an alternative approach to depression treatment. However, self-medication is not recommended, as further research is needed.

How Psychedelic Drugs Work

Psychedelic drugs interact with specific receptors in the brain, such as the 5-HT2AR receptor. By binding to these receptors, psychedelics produce various effects on perception, mood, and cognition. They promote brain plasticity, the ability of the brain to form new connections between neurons.

This mechanism may underlie their potential therapeutic benefits for conditions like depression and PTSD. Studies indicate that psychedelics, particularly those binding to 5-HT2AR, stimulate the growth of dendritic spines, which facilitate communication between neurons.

By influencing signaling pathways within neurons, psychedelics enhance plasticity and support the rewiring of neural networks.

It’s important to consider factors like dosage, mindset, and environment when assessing the effects of psychedelics. Therapeutic use involves a structured approach with psychological support and integration to maximize benefits and minimize risks.

In summary, psychedelic drugs exert their effects by interacting with receptors in the brain, promoting brain plasticity, and potentially offering therapeutic applications for mental health disorders. Further research is needed to fully understand their mechanisms of action and ensure safe and effective use.

Microdosing Psychedelics in Toronto University Clinical Trials

The University of Toronto is sponsoring a phase 2 study to investigate the safety and efficacy of low doses of psilocybin in individuals with depressive symptoms.

The study focuses on participants diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder (PDD) and pure dysthymic syndrome who are either unwilling or unresponsive to standard treatments. The research will assess the impact of microdosing on depressive symptoms through a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover design.

Participants will receive either placebo or psilocybin once weekly for four weeks, followed by four weeks of psilocybin treatment for all participants. Weekly surveys will be collected to evaluate participant ratings, and follow-up assessments will occur for up to two years.

The study aims to provide insights into the duration, effect size, and expectancy bias associated with microdosing psychedelics for depression.

Can You Microdose While on Medication?

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The answer is it depends! It depends on the psychedelic and the medication you’re taking. Some combinations may not be safe. Or might even make your symptoms worse.

However, there are certain categories of antidepressants that may be safely combined with microdosing under professional supervision. The interaction between antidepressants and psychedelics is still not fully understood, and more research is needed to determine their compatibility.

Combining antidepressants with psychedelics, particularly during microdosing, can be risky and is generally not recommended.

Most psychedelic medicines and antidepressants work by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain, and overstimulation of these receptors can lead to potentially harmful effects. While true microdoses of psychedelics may not pose a significant risk, combining them with antidepressants often nullifies the benefits of microdosing.

It is crucial to consult with a licensed psychiatrist when considering any changes to antidepressant medication or combining them with mood-altering substances.

Benefits of Microdosing (not recreational doses)

It’s important to remember that microdosing mushrooms may work for some people, but there’s no proof that it’s good for your health.

So, here are 5 possible benefits of microdosing that have been found in early studies:

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1. Improved Mental Health

It has been said that microdosing is good for your mental health. Users have found that it helps them feel less stressed, anxious, and depressed. In studies, a large number of people said they used microdosing as a way to treat depression and anxiety.

Even though more research is needed to prove it, anecdotal evidence shows that microdosing may help improve mental health.

2. Enhanced Brain Functioning

Microdosing may help the brain work better by letting people reach their full potential and be more opento new ideas. Some users say that microdosing helps them focus, concentrate, and think better.

But there haven’t been many scientific studies yet, and more research is needed to find out how big thes effects are and how they work.

3. Creativity Boost

Many people who microdose say that it makes them more creative. Even though this benefit is personal and hard to measure scientifcally, anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing may help people be more creative.

This effect might be caused by less stress, better focus, or somethnng else that happens when you take a small dose. Still, more research is needed to prove that these claims are true.

4. Temporary Focus

Microdosing may aid in maintaining temporary focus, allowing individuals to engage in sustained work or projects without distraction. Some studies indicate that microdosing can lead to lower levels of distractibility, helping individuals stay concentrated on tasks.

However, more research is needed to understand the specific mechanisms underlying this benefit and its generalizability across different individuals.

5. Support for Quitting Habits

Some anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing can help people quit other bad habits, like smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

Even though there isn’t much formal scientific research on this topic, people are still looking into how psychedelics, including microdoses, might help with substance use disorders. To figure out how well and safely microdosing works to help people quit bad habits, more research is needed.

It’s important to remember that most of what we know about the benefits of microdosing comes from self-reports and personal experiences. To find out how microdosing really works and how it might work, controlled studies with placebos and larger sample sizes are needed.

Also, microdosing should always be done carefully and with the help of a medical professional, since everyone reacts and experiences things differently.

What Are the Risks of Microdosing?

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Microdosing, like any form of substance use, carries potential health risks. These risks can be categorized into physical and mental health concerns.

Physical Health Risks

Microdosing may lead to physiological discomfort and undesirable physical effects. While the doses used in microdosing are typically sub-perceptual, individuals may still experience physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, increased heart rate, or gastrointestinal issues.

These effects can vary depending on the substance used and individual sensitivity. Furthermore, the lack of regulation and purity control of substances used in microdosing poses additional risks.

Illegally obtained substances can be adulterated with other unknown substances, making it challenging to determine their purity, potency, and potential harmful interactions. This lack of quality control increases the risk of unintended physical side effects and adverse reactions.

Mental Health Risks

Microdosing can also affect mental health, and individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions should exercise caution or avoid microdosing altogether.

Increased anxiety

People with anxiety disorders may find that microdosing exacerbates their anxiety symptoms. The increased stimulation and altered perception induced by microdoses of psychedelic substances can potentially heighten feelings of restlessness, unease, or nervousness in individuals prone to anxiety.

Increased symptoms

Individuals with a history of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of microdosing.

The substances used in microdosing can stimulate and alter perception in ways that may destabilize individuals with these conditions, potentially leading to worsened symptoms or triggering psychotic episodes.

Impaired mood

Moreover, microdosing may have an impact on mood regulation. While some individuals report improved mood and well-being, others may experience mood fluctuations, irritability, or emotional instability as a result of microdosing.

Final Thoughts

In Canada, psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin are illegal, but their therapeutic potential is increasingly recognized. The government is open to exploring their medical use, although the risks and benefits are not fully understood.

Microdosing with professional guidance has demonstrated certain benefits, but caution is advised. Further research is necessary to comprehensively understand their effects. It is recommended to consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice.

Author Microdosify

By Rachel Grey

I’m Rachel Grey, a Ph.D. psychologist specializing in psychedelic therapy with psilocybin and natural plant medicines. I obtained my doctorate from the University of Toronto, where I immersed myself in the study of these transformative therapies. With over 10 years of experience, let’s embark on transformative journeys of healing, growth, and self-discovery as we explore the power of psychedelic therapy together.

Updated on November 23, 2022
What is microdosing