What is the heroic dose

What is the Heroic Dose?

Coined by American ethnobotanist Terrence McKenna, a heroic dose is considered to be 5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms, specifically Psilocybe cubensis, taken in silent darkness.

Why Is It Called A Heroic Dose?

It’s considered heroic because this experience is VERY intense, and not recommended for beginner psychonauts. In fact, even experienced psychonauts may find this trip to be a challenge, hence the word “heroic”. Though psilocybin mushrooms are considered physiologically safe and non-addictive, and it may be considered a rite of passage in the psychedelic community, it should be noted that this experience does not come without the possibility of psychological risks. However, with proper preparation and adherence to set and setting, these risks can be minimized.

Why Silent Darkness?

The idea behind taking this dose in silence and in the dark is to allow the experience to be directed inwards. By removing external stimuli and music, the changes to perception and closed eye visuals are thought to be internal representations of your inner landscape, your thoughts, emotions, and perhaps even your brain’s organization. It’s for this reason that many therapeutic centers and trials investigating psychedelics as an adjunct for psychotherapy use blindfolds during the sessions. If the experience of silence is too overwhelming, do not feel any shame or judgement for feeling the need to put on some music.

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5 Grams or Committed Dose?

What is the heroic dose - golden teachers
Dried Psilocybe cubensis (specifically Golden Teacher subspecies)

Though Terrence Mckenna recommends 5 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms, this could be lower or higher depending on an individual’s tolerance levels or experience. On other occasions, Mckenna used the term “committed dose”, which is one that invokes respect for the journey you are about to embark on. The heroic dose is meant to humble you, and instill a certain sense of courageousness in the user for plunging into the waters of the unknown.

For beginner psychonauts, a heroic dose may be 3 grams, it is important to listen to your inner voice and not push yourself to do anything you don’t feel safe doing. Though these heroic dose experiences are intended to push you out of your comfort zone and into new realms of inner insight, careless use can have its consequences.

No Tripsitter Whatsoever?

The heroic dose is also intended to be a personal journey, one where the user can gain deeper insights about themselves, their spirituality, and the nature of the mind. Though, it is advised to have someone supervising the experience, even if not directly interacting with you. A tripsitter is someone sober who has experience with this dose of psilocybin mushrooms. They could be, ideally, a trained therapist, shaman, or retreat facilitator, though a close friend or romantic partner is better than no one at all. While you may take this journey alone, it is helpful to have someone nearby in case things go south or get too overwhelming as to protect your physical safety or psychological health.


Set and setting is a practice emphasized by psychedelic researchers, therapists, and advocates to ensure maximum benefits are reaped from your experience. Since the setting is likely going to be a dark room, in a comfortable place such as your house or a retreat, it is important to mentally prepare for a trip of this caliber.


Of course, everyone’s encounter with the heroic dose is going to be different depending on their level of experience with psilocybin mushrooms, intentions for taking the journey, beliefs, personality, etc. This is what American psychologist and “LSD guru” Timothy Leary coined the “long-term” set (short for mindset). However, this dosage is very likely to elicit a mystical experience, which produces some of the following effects to consciousness:

  • Feelings of interconnectedness or unity with all
  • Ego dissolution
  • Entity or spirit encounter
  • Ineffability (being unable to accurately describe the experience)
  • Time dilation, such as moments of eternity

The Heroic Dose And Ego Dissolution

This is the phenomenon where an individual feels a subjective loss of the self. It also ties in with feelings of interconnectedness or unity as those who have experienced ego dissolution feel that once their perception of who they are fades, they are merged with everything, and can examine their lives from a seemingly outside perspective. Some even describe the event of ego dissolution as being “realer than real”, viewing a more objective state of reality not clouded by any self projections. Ego dissolution can be related to the Buddist concept of Anattā, which refers to the doctrine of “no-self”. This doctrine states that no unchanging, permanent self or essence can be found in any phenomenon, and the ego or your identity is merely an illusion. Research into ego dissolution has highlighted activity of the Default Mode Network (DMN), a network that is active when engaged in self-referential thought processes among others. Under psychedelic states, this network seems to experience alterations. However, the DMN hypothesis of ego dissolution is criticized for being an over-blown narrative in psychedelic research, which calls for researchers to investigate just what is happening in the brain during these fantastical moments where the self no longer seems to exist.


What is the heroic does

Because the heroic dose is likely to result in such a profound alteration of consciousness, where one may confront fears, traumas, or experience other-worldly phenomenon, integrating the experience is vital to ensure that you can process and work through what may have arisen. A psychedelic integration therapist can help you come to a deeper understanding, clarify any confusion, and develop any insights that brought themselves to light. Other practices that can aid in integrating the trip include mindfulness meditation, journaling, and body or energy work.

The above article is for informational purposes only.  It should be noted that Frshminds does not advocate for the consumption of any illegal substances.   Please discuss any mental wellness therapies with a duly qualified and regulated health professional.

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About the Author

Passionate about studying the psychedelic/mystical experience from a neuropsychological lens, Emily is a member of MAPS Canada Research Committee and graduated with an Honours BSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology from York University.  She currently leads a team of RAS with a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial investigating microdosing psilocybin for persistent depressive disorder.

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