Guide to Microdosing - Frshminds

Frshminds’ Guide to Microdosing

We’ve compiled the Frshminds’ guide to microdosing as an easily readable resource for you get up to speed on an emerging trend in wellness, the microdosing of psychedelics.

What Is Microdosing?

Microdosing is popping just enough of a chosen psychedelic to alter one’s brain chemistry, but not enough to trip out. Sub-perceptual psychedelic doses are the trend business people, biohackers, and wellness enthusiasts alike claim to be a competitive edge and creativity hack. As you read through this guide to microdosing, you will learn more about these benefits.

Another group of self-experimenters tell stories suggesting access to some of the same benefits of full-blown psychedelic therapy. Instead of hours of hallucinations or ego death, the promise is change can happen with small regular doses of psychedelics.

The feeling of microdosing is compared to drinking a coffee or taking a supplement – you might notice slight differences, but can still perform your usual tasks, ideally at an optimized level. So should you try it?

What Are The Benefits of Microdosing?

As Frshminds is looking to provide an unbiased perspective in its guide to microdosing, it is important to note that most of the microdose conversation is still anecdotal and limited to fringe communities as psychedelic research is struggling to keep pace with microdosing culture. Restrictive drug scheduling makes running large-scale clinical trials needed to confirm data difficult. But that hasn’t stopped many bright minds from making microdosing sound like a performance-enhancing drug of the mind or, in some cases suggesting a potential treatment for mental health disorders.

Performance Enhancement and Wellness

Microdoses are often used for their perceived productivity edge. Some of the more common benefits claimed include:

  • Creativity
  • Focus
  • Mindfulness
  • General sense of wellbeing
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Connection with nature
  • Access to flow states

Mental and Physical Health

A reason you may be reading Frshmind’s guild to microdosing is because of the increasing optimism you’ve heard associated with treating mental health conditions like depression, but it’s important to note researchers are still skeptical about microdosing. Anyone self-experimenting with psychedelic drugs and a serious mental health condition is doing so at their own risk.

Nonetheless, an inspiring microdosing story emerged when writer Ayelet Waldman’s New York Times Article and book “A Really Good Day” documents her transformation through microdosing LSD to combat depression and mood swings that threatened her marriage.

Reports made online communities like the Reddit r/microdosing are abundant, with some people claiming to be managing a growing list of conditions like:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • PTSD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Addictions
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Pain Management

Microdosing Benefits Backed by Science

Many proposed microdosing benefits build off studies of full-dose psychedelic treatments showing potential enhancement of creativity or treating depression. Yet, exactly how microdoses without the trip work aren’t clear, and the topic remains one of the least researched in the psychedelic sciences.
Leading microdosing research for some years has been the Beckley Foundation in the UK. They have found evidence of increased pain tolerance when microdosing LSD, and another study showed brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the bloodstream. BDNF is associated with new nerve growth, thought to be beneficial for treating PTSD and depression.

A recent large-scale survey published in Nature suggested microdosing psilocybin or LSD could contribute to lower levels of depression and anxiety when compared to their peers who did not microdose. Other surveys see the potential for enhanced creativity and emotional experience building on research and ideas first published by James Fadiman in The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

Could Microdosing Be a Placebo?

At Frshminds, we felt it was important that our guide to microdosing be as objective as possible and that means acknowledging the possibility that microdosing could be a placebo. Psychedelic research is a new field, and scientists are careful not to make bold claims. Saying microdosing is safe and effective based on surveys sourced from Reddit isn’t going to get the FDA approval that a large portion of the psychedelic community is focused on.

Science is slow, and many researchers are still hesitant to endorse microdosing. An influential microdosing study that just dropped, the biggest double-blinded psychedelic study to date, has strongly suggested microdosing is based on psychological expectations – yes, the placebo effect.

The study authors noted that while microdosers did improve their mood and wellbeing, the placebo control group was almost as high. Microdosers had a slight edge but were not enough to be statistically significant- meaning in the eyes of science, whatever study participants believed was the result they achieved.

However, the momentum behind microdosing has not been dampened, with new research being funded, profitable businesses already established, and the existing community is remaining enthusiastic.

How Does Microdosing Work?

On a recent podcast, Stanford Neurobiologist Dr. Huberman conversed with Dr. Matthew Johnson of the Johns Hopkins psychedelic research program on a recent podcast. Both expressed skepticism towards microdosing, yet Dr. Johnson still speculated it “wasn’t crazy” to assume microdosing did have effects because of how psychedelics work in our brains.

Serotonin, Glutamate, and Neuroplasticity

If you’ve read other articles on our website beyond our guide to microdosing, you’ll already know that psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD, MDMA, DMT, and others are known as serotonergic; they work by attaching to a serotonin receptor known as 5-HT2A. This receptor is associated, among other things, with the production of glutamate.
Glutamate is linked to neuroplasticity, a much-sought effect for treating mental health conditions, roughly described as rewiring our brains. Glutamate production is also associated with learning, memory, and cognition.

These effects are part of the theory of how large doses or “macrodoses” of psychedelics work. Dr. Huberman explains that “directed plasticity is the goal” in the aforementioned podcast. This is why therapeutic support and intentions are a big part of psychedelics. Even if a significant portion of microdosing effects are the placebo, there is speculation that neuroplasticity combined with intentional habit building, meditation, therapy, etc, could be effective.

History of Microdosing

While taking psychedelics could predate language and is a widespread cultural practice, finding evidence of how ancient cultures used psychedelics is difficult. However, it has been documented that Mazatec tradition in Mexico did take small amounts of psilocybin mushrooms to treat many conditions of the mind.

Before psychedelic prohibition of the past 50 years, microdosing was studied in the 50s and 60s. Albert Hoffman, the first to synthesize and accidentally take LSD in a laboratory, mentioned he thought it had potential and may have taken microdoses himself.

A European therapy model existed where low doses of LSD were given to patients for talk therapy. Stan Grof, a psychedelic therapist, would give patients light doses (100ug, not exactly a typical microdose) during sessions to help them open up to a greater range of emotion.

James Fadiman, who has been called the “Father of Microdosing”, is credited with helping microdosing re-emerged into the western mindset after appearing on the Tim Ferris podcast. In 2015, their conversation led to the explosion of microdosing as a creativity and optimization hack we are experiencing today.

Microdose Protocols – How to Microdose

So let’s all admit it, this is the real reason you are reading this guide to microdosing…..to learn how to do it! Microdosing is not just as simple as taking psychedelics every day. Serotogenic psychedelics are renowned for their rapid tolerance build-up, making tripping every day difficult. This effect makes psychedelic abuse difficult but creates a problem for those wanting to extend the benefits. Thankfully, a couple of psychedelic pioneers in the field have developed protocols to work around this.

James Fadiman

In his book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, James Fadiman outlined his microdose protocol. The concept is simple – take a microdose every fourth day for a six-week period.

The time off in between allows the body to metabolize the psychedelics and free up serotonin receptors. Fadiman also outlines that the effects of a microdose can have an “afterglow,” being felt for days after a dose, with benefits being still felt on days off.

Paul Stamets Stack

Paul Stamets is a legendary mycologist and psychedelic advocate who has created a protocol designed for microdosing mushrooms focusing on neurogensis.

Stamets’s now patented approach is to create a “stack” by combing psilocybin with niacin and a mushroom known as lion’s mane, which is also documented to encourage nerve growth. Stamets too addresses tolerance by recommending to dose 4 or 5 days in a row, with remaining days off for rest and reflection.

What Is A Stack?

The concept of combining substances is a popular one in the biohacker community, taking “nootropics” or “smart drugs” together in a stack theoretically creating a synergy like an entourage effect hypothesized with cannabis.

Stacks are an ancient concept. For example, the Aztec took their mushrooms with cacao, which has many health benefits and is a mild stimulant. Chocolate mushroom microdoses are quickly becoming a common method for microdosing.

How to Microdose

Making your own microdoses is a doable DIY project. A microdose is typically about 10-20% of a recreational dose of your chosen substance. Mushrooms and LSD are the most popular choices, although many other substances have been used.

Where to get Psychedelics for Microdosing

Obviously, psychedelics are not legal everywhere in the world. However, there are many online suppliers in Canada and in some states. Sourcing psilocybin mushrooms and LSD analogs (like lp-LSD, which works like LSD but is legal) is becoming easier every day.

Capsules, chocolates, candies are all possible to find premade. However, when these are not available in your area, purchasing mushroom spores to grow your own psilocybin mushrooms is legal in some US states and in Canada. Growing is a rewarding skill to develop, and the internet has a vast array of free and paid resources to master the art and science of mycology.

How to Make Mushroom Microdose Capsules

No guide to microdosing would be complete without teaching you how to make microdose capsules. Making capsules of psilocybin mushrooms is a straightforward process. Check out this list before you grind up all your shrooms.

Microdose Supplies

Psilocybin mushrooms

  • Must be dry to be ground. If fresh, use a food dehydrator
  • Be aware of and understand what strain you use as there is a range of potency

Scale

  • Needs to be able to measure tenths of a gram
  • A super important step. Trust me, eyeballing doses is not a real system!

Gel Capsules

  • Find them online or at the local health food store

Capsule Filling Tray

  • Filling capsules one by one by hand is really slow, but trays or a machine speed this up

Coffee Grinder

  • Clean it out unless you want caffeine in your dose

Filler for Capsules

  • Rice flour, cacao, superfoods, herbs, other mushrooms
  • Keep in mind flooding your system with new substances can make it difficult to know if your microdose is working
  • Do your research about interactions if you’re going to add other substances!

How to Make Your Own Mushroom Microdose

  • In the coffee grinder, grind your dry mushrooms
  • A fine grind will mix different parts of the mushroom with variable potency
  • Weigh out each dose. Make sure your scale is calibrated. For psilocybin, this is usually 0.1 gram
  • Insert individual mushroom doses into capsules. A capsule filling tray makes the process much easier. Otherwise, steady hands and patience are required
  • If you are adding other substances, now is the time
  • Store the capsules in a cool, dry place

Get the Most Out of Your Microdosing Experience

If reading Frshminds’ Guide To Microdosing is your first step towards getting the most out of your microdosing experience, undertaking these next few items are the next step. While taking the pills on schedule should work on your system, there are a few things you can consciously do to improve the microdosing experience and even measure its results.

Find Your Dose

As mentioned earlier, a microdose is 1/10th to 1/20th of a recreational or therapeutic dose. The dose can depend on weight, experience level, or simply how indivduals react to different substances.

When finding your dose make sure you don’t have any important meetings or need to drive someplace. Depending on how careful you were preparing your microdoses or how your body chemistry works, results can be unpredictable the first few times. The basics are straightforward – if you can feel the microdose, you took too much.

Intentions, Journaling, and Communities

A key to psychedelics is intentions. This doesn’t need to be about aligning your chakras; it can simply be asking why I am doing this? A clear goal like being more focused or creative microdosing makes outcomes more likely, particularly when considering the theory of neuroplasticity being a mechanism of microdoses.

Writing down an intention in a journal can be helpful as a reminder of why your doing what you are, tracking how you feel, recording any ideas or breakthroughs, or keeping yourself motivated. Keeping track of what you ate, if you drank coffee or smoked weed, and how it made you feel can be helpful too.

Also beneficial to the process is a community of people experimenting with you. Reddit’s r/microdosing has thousands of helpful and experienced people sharing inspiring stories, questions, answers, and weird experiences.

Is Microdosing Safe?

While psychedelics are quite safe in comparison to many pharmaceutical drugs on the market, there are risks. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks.

Working with our mental health is something to take seriously. Many people mention microdosing can cause emotional outbursts, anxiety, or other unwelcome and unexpected feelings. This can be particularly strong when combined with other substances, with caffeine and cannabis often mentioned.

Reddit or this guide isn’t a substitute for a professional. Microdosing is generally accepted as safe, but we are still messing around with our brain chemistry. If serious issues arise or when making big changes hiring a microdosing coach or even a psychedelic integration therapist is the best option.

Psychedelics can interact with prescription drugs. Being on anti-depressants, diet drugs, or really anything is something you need to talk to a professional about before microdosing.

What is The Future of Microdosing?

Psychedelic research is just getting started. Using them has proven to be such an intrinsic part of human cultures that even prohibition did little to stem the tide of those who wish to experiment with their consciousness.

Microdosing is already a part of psychedelics, and moving backward from the established use seems unlikely at this point. Entire books have been published about the subject and the drugs aren’t even legal yet.

Even in light of studies claiming a placebo effect, those who have experienced genuine benefits will likely continue.

If the path microdosing takes will be part of therapy, a supplement, or a fringe biohack is unclear. Still, the appeal of rewiring neural architecture, overcoming mental health challenges nothing else worked for, or finding a creativity-enhancing substance are prospects human beings likely cannot be held back from exploring.

Patrick McConnell

About the Author

Patrick is a freelance writer and blogger at AdjustableNormal. Since his youth, he has been fascinated with psychedelics and altered states, experimenting with them on and off the page. His drive to explore consciousness has brought him around the world and down many rabbit holes to yogis, plant nerds, and alternative communities. Originally Canadian, he lives in the Peruvian Andes with his wife and cat.

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