Daily Hallucinogens: The Case for Microdosing
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.”
By now you’ve probably heard of microdosing, the practice of taking sub-perceptual amounts of hallucinogens on a regular basis as a way to improve cognitive function and overall mood. What started as a Silicon Valley trend is steadily gaining in popularity. The benefits are reported to be as wide as beating depression, increasing energy, fine-tuning focus, hormone balancing, and behavioral change.
In her 2017 book A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, Ayelet Waldman zooms in on a typical moment of her experiment in microdosing LSD for 30 days:
“I feel happy. Not giddy or out control, just at ease with myself and the world. When I think about my husband and my children, I feel a gentle sense of love and security. I am not anxious for them or annoyed with them. When I think of my work, I feel optimistic, brimming with ideas, yet not spilling over.”
A microdose is one considered to be sub-perceptual; a dosage too small to be disruptive, it works on the subtle plane, influencing your day without taking it over. In this way, microdoses are similar to nootropics, compounds that enhance brain function and, as supplements, are commanding an increasing part of the biohacking market share.
Technically, a microdose is about one-tenth to one-fifth of a normal dose, 10 – 20 μg of LSD or 0.2 – 0.5 grams of mushrooms; Dr. James Fadiman, author of the Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, recommends taking a microdose once every three days.
If the idea of ingesting trace amounts of a drug on a daily basis seems wild, consider that most of us have a psychoactive drug every morning. Caffeine, though not considered a nootropic, shifts our mood and awareness and falls under the same category of benefits; researchers interested in the effects of microdosing coffee or tea have found that small amounts of caffeine consumed over the course of the day are more beneficial than one grande latte all at once.
The effects of common psychedelics like LSD, mushrooms, and marijuana have been long touted as a quick path to cosmic perspective and even enlightenment. Steve Jobs claimed that LSD was “one of the two or three most important things” he’d experienced. Harvard Professor Richard Alpert, now known as the spiritual teacher Ram Das, embarked on explorations of cosmic consciousness via psychedelic research and experimentation that eventually got him kicked out of Harvard.
Dr. Albert Hofmann, who synthesized LSD and was the first person to ingest and study it, noted the positive effects of the drug throughout his 102-year-long life. He may also have very well have been the forefather of microdosing; in the final two decades of his life he adopted a microdosing practice, reporting more clarity in his thinking.
RESEARCH AND REGULATION
Long before microdosing became hip in Silicon Valley, Dr. James Fadiman, a student of Ram Das while he was at Harvard, was researching the effects of psychedelics, primarily LSD and psilocybin. He was curious about how relatively low doses of psychedelics affected cosmic consciousness, problem solving, and creative thinking. The qualitative results were looking bright—volunteer participants reported that the doses of LSD helped them solve their apparently hopeless problems.
There wasn’t time, however, to dive deeper into the research. Toward the end of a significant experiment, his research group received a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration demanding that they must stop administering LSD immediately, effectively banning the substance for research.
Fadiman didn’t give up. His interest shifted to microdosing. He worked around the ban and continues to learn about the effects of psychedelics by collecting self-reported testimonials following a specific microdosing protocol. To this day, he continues his research with volunteer participants and is instrumental in advocating for more research worldwide. He is curious about how even lower doses of psychedelics can affect people’s lives. “What it seems to do is rebalance people,” Fadiman told The Huffington Post.
Fadiman and his colleagues admit to being in the nascent phase of understanding: “Our best guess is that it creates hyper-metabolism in the cerebral cortex,” Molly Maloof, a Bay Area physician, explained at a talk on psychedelics with Faidman last year. “In other words,” Fadiman added, “we don’t have the faintest idea.”
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