Although the practise of microdosing is often flaunted as a transformative bio-hack for unleashing creative potential, inspiring innovative ideas, new ways to pump out code, design interfaces, or harness the full unlimited potential of one’s entrepreneurial spirit and mind, the real benefits of microdosing go far beyond that.
Let’s start off by clarifying exactly what microdosing is. A “microdose” can be defined as a dosage of psilocybin or a psychoactive substance that is too low to result in any noticeable intoxicating effects. One of the most commonly micro-dosed substances in the world are Psilocybin mushrooms or magic mushrooms. There are various compelling and beneficial reasons why consumers practise microdosing, with anxiety, depression and enhanced creativity being among the top.
Yet, while countless consumers have reported endless positive, life-altering benefits of microdosing, the scientific community, who are essentially responsible for putting these reports to the test, have continued to evade the topic, and refrained from acknowledging its potential benefits. In fact, the 1971 Controlled Substances Act went as far as to criminalize the possession, processing, and cultivation of several drugs, including psychedelics. To take it another step further, besides merely criminalizing the possession of these psychedelic substances, the act makes it close to impossible for scientists to access psychedelics for research.
Despite all the immeasurable hurdles scientists and researchers are forced to jump through, the rising popularity and heightened interest in microdosing has spurred a real push for increased scientific research on the topic. At present, academic journals have published nearly 400 different papers on the topic of microdosing. This is a stark contrast to five years ago when virtually no supporting research or studies on microdosing psychedelics could be found.
While strides have certainly been made with regards to studies on microdosing, quality research exploring the effects of microdosing on anxiety, or any other mental health condition, remains in short supply. Some studies have even gone as far as to negate the potential benefits of microdosing to ease anxiety by listing anxiety as a side effect of microdosing psychedelics, along with neuroticism and general discomfort. Yet, these are also common side effects of full-dose psychedelics.
Before you start thinking that all hope is lost, it is not! Some glimmers of hope remain as several reviews suggest that microdosing psychedelics may result in enhanced focus, improved mood and foster heightened levels of creativity. (These reviews are largely based on anecdotal reports from people who already microdose psychedelics.) In addition to the supporting reviews and studies regarding microdosing and its potentially far-reaching benefits, trails of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are also incredibly promising as researchers have already explored psilocybin and other psychedelics in the mental health setting.
There are however a few admonitions about microdosing for anxiety that should be considered. This includes certain aspects of the psychedelic experience that cannot be quantified by Western Science. For many, it is extremely difficult to fully define or adequately describe the personal significance and meaning of that kind of experience.
In a sense, a full-blown psychedelic experience may reconfigure one’s relationship to anxiety and trauma, while microdosing is more equivalent to taking medication. It is thus possible that a sudden spiritual epiphany caused by a full dose of a psychedelic drug may engage the root cause of anxiety in an entirely different way than microdosing.
Psychedelics can inspire what famed researcher Roland Griffiths calls “the mystical experience,” which, in essence, is a spiritual experience that is often equated to a religious epiphany or a state achieved by deep meditation. These “mystical experiences” are however only typically occasioned by high doses of psychedelics, not microdoses.
However, at this stage there has been no scientific studies conducted on the spiritual implications of microdosing or whether consistent microdosing can encourage a spiritual openness or “mystical experience” like that achieved by full-dose psychedelic-assisted therapy.
As indicated by preclinical animal trials and interviews with regular microdoses, microdosing psilocybin is most often intermittent. Therefore, for most consumers, microdosing psilocybin and other psychedelics does not mean taking a small dose every single day. Instead, intermittent microdosing of psilocybin means taking one small dose every three or four days, for up to several months at a time.
Microdosing intermittently rather than daily has additional benefits in that it can help consumers avoid developing a tolerance to psilocybin or any given psychedelic as it is not taken on a constant or regular basis. A tolerance to any given substance typically occurs when a consumer progressively becomes less sensitive to the effects of that substance or psychedelic, effectively rendering many of the cognitive and spiritual effects and benefits moot.
Studies conducted by scientists and researchers revealed that full-dose psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was successful in treating both anxiety and depression caused by life-threatening illnesses. On top of that, psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy inspired improvements in mood, levels of anxiety and overall outlook in cancer patients in a landmark study done by Roland Griffiths.These improvements also continued to hold up 12 months after treatment – proving to be incredibly successful and beneficial.
Many may be wondering why psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy resulted in such profound changes? The beneficial and potentially life-altering changes produced by psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy are linked to the incredible spiritual experiences that the substances inspire. While a microdose (a much smaller dosage of approximately 0.33 grams) of magic mushrooms is not likely to produce the same extreme mystical experience associated with consuming the full dosage of the fungi, that certainly does not mean microdosing magic mushrooms to ease anxiety does not provide the consumer with incredible benefits.
When Czech researchers compared the effects of microdosing ketamine and psilocin (which, along with psilocybin, is one of the psychoactive components in magic mushrooms) in rats undergoing a stressful maze test, the research, while experimental and limited, revealed that microdoses of both substances had a mild anxiolytic effect. Although scientists have been unable to conduct extensive studies on magic mushroom microdosing in a clinical setting, both the internet and countless survey studies are ripe with anecdotal accounts of people who have experimented with magic mushroom microdosing.
A dedicated and self-described microdoser expressed the following in one review: “I have had very positive results from infrequent psilocybin microdosing. I have found fast and relatively long-lasting relief from depression and social anxiety doing this, as compared to other pharmaceutical options I’ve been offered.”