Thursday, September 21, 2023

What Is Microdosing? Can This Psychedelic Treatment Really Improve Your Life?


Microdosing psychedelic substances is a growing trend that has gained attention in recent years for its potential benefits for mental health, creativity, and productivity. But what is it, exactly?

While there is still a lack of scientific evidence to support its use, many individuals have reported positive experiences with microdosing psychedelics. Major universities including NYU, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins have all begun exploring psychedelic studies to determine what role microdosing and psychedelic substances may play in promoting overall well-being and treating mental health conditions, among other issues. But does it work?

What is microdosing?

Microdosing is the practice of taking small amounts of psychedelic substances, typically one-tenth to one-twentieth of a typical recreational dose, in order to enhance cognitive function, creativity, and overall well-being. The trend has gained significant attention in recent years, with advocates claiming it can have a positive impact on mood, focus, and productivity.

According to Dr. James Fadiman, a leading researcher and expert in the field of microdosing, the practice can be traced back to the 1960s when some scientists were exploring the effects of LSD on creativity and cognitive function. “The original researchers found that if they gave people very small doses of LSD, they were able to think more creatively and work more efficiently,” Fadiman said in a 2020 interview with Rolling Stone. “That idea went underground for about 40 years until it re-emerged.”

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers used the psychedelic ayahuasca to help heal personal trauma | Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In recent years, microdosing has become more popular, with advocates including Prince Harry and NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers among others claiming that it can help with issues including trauma, anxiety, depression, and addiction. According to a 2018 survey of more than 1,000 people who had tried microdosing, 78 percent reported improved focus, 44 percent reported improved creativity, and 80 percent reported an overall increase in their sense of well-being.

One of the most commonly used substances for microdosing is psilocybin, the psychoactive compound found in a variety of fungi, often called “magic mushrooms.” Other substances that are commonly used include LSD, mescaline, and DMT.

Dr. Fadiman notes that there are no known long-term negative effects of microdosing, although there are potential risks associated with using these substances, such as increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and anxiety. It is also important to note that microdosing is not a substitute for therapy or medication for mental health conditions.

An ayahuasca ceremony in Ecuador
An ayahuasca ceremony in Ecuador | Courtesy Tom Snell

“Microdosing is not a panacea,” Dr. Fadiman said. “It is not going to fix everything that is wrong in your life. It is a tool that you can use to help you be more effective in the things that you do.”

Dr. Albert Garcia-Romeu, a clinical psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, has also conducted research on the effects of psychedelics. He notes that while there is promising anecdotal evidence for the benefits of microdosing, there is still a lack of scientific evidence to support its use.

“There are some studies starting to emerge that suggest there may be some cognitive benefits, but at this point, we really don’t know,” Dr. Garcia-Romeu said in an interview with NBC News. “It’s an open question that we need to answer through rigorous scientific research.”

Psychedelic treatments on the rise

Despite the lack of scientific evidence, microdosing has gained a significant following, particularly in Silicon Valley, where many professionals and entrepreneurs have embraced the practice. According to a 2019 survey by the website Third Wave, which provides information on psychedelic substances and microdosing, 46 percent of microdosers reported working in the technology industry.

The use of microdosing in the workplace has been a subject of much debate, with some arguing that it can improve productivity and creativity, while others have raised concerns about the potential risks and ethical implications of using psychoactive substances in a professional setting.

Dr. Fadiman notes that while there is no evidence to suggest that microdosing can enhance performance in specific tasks, it may be beneficial in promoting creativity and a more positive attitude towards work. “What people report is that they have more fun doing their work, they enjoy it more, they’re more open to new ideas, and they’re more willing to take risks,” he said in an interview with Vox.

best psychedelic retreats
Psilocybin mushrooms Courtesy Mushroom Tao

However, some experts have raised concerns about the lack of regulation and quality control in the production and distribution of substances used for microdosing. “The fact is that there are some people who are selling questionable products, and that’s really concerning,” said Dr. Garcia-Romeu. “We need to make sure that people who are interested in these substances have access to safe and reliable sources.”

Despite the potential risks, many people continue to experiment with microdosing, citing the benefits they have experienced. Dr. Fadiman notes that while the practice may not be for everyone, it can be a helpful tool for some individuals.

“It’s a tool that can help you find what’s meaningful to you and what’s important to you,” he said in an interview with GQ. “It can be a way to help you see things that you haven’t seen before and to help you move in a direction that feels good to you.”

In addition to its potential benefits for mental health and creativity, microdosing has also been explored for its potential therapeutic applications. Studies have suggested that psychedelics may have a role in treating conditions such as treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and addiction.

covid psychedelics
Courtesy Ümit Bulut | Unsplash

A recent study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that a single dose of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, was more effective than the commonly prescribed antidepressant escitalopram in treating major depressive disorder. While more research is needed to fully understand the potential therapeutic applications of psychedelics, the findings are promising.

Australia made headlines recently after it became the first country to decriminalize psychedelics for therapeutic use. Several U.S. cities have taken similar steps and Oregon is now the first state where psilocybin is legal in certain therapeutic settings. More legislation is expected to follow that could see widespread decriminalization and legalization make these substances more accessible.

As with any substance, it is important to approach microdosing with caution and to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning the practice. While some individuals may find microdosing to be a helpful tool, it is not a substitute for therapy or medication for mental health conditions.

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