According to experts, microdosing involves taking a small percentage (usually 5% to 10%) of a full dose of a psychedelic drug like LSD or psilocybin, in order to receive the purported mental health benefits of the drug without experiencing the hallucinogenic effects.
For example, in a clinical setting, a man who weighs 155 pounds might take 20 milligrams of psilocybin for a full psychedelic experience. But for a microdose, he would only take one to two milligrams. When taken several times a week at this level, some individuals claim that these drugs enhance their mood, creativity, and the overall vibrancy of the world around them, almost like seeing the world in high-definition.
“It’s like stepping outside and suddenly seeing the sun shining,” explained Erin Royal, a 30-year-old bartender in Seattle who microdoses with mushrooms she forages from nearby forests one or two times a week. “It reminds you that you are capable of feeling positive emotions and noticing the beauty around you.”
Only about a third of people who microdose carefully measure the amount of the psychedelic they take. Most take just enough to feel some effects, which typically begin after an hour and last four to six hours. This requires some trial and error, especially when consuming mushrooms, which can vary in psilocybin concentration.
Accidentally taking too much is the most commonly reported negative side effect of microdosing, which is not dangerous but can be inconvenient in a work setting. Researchers caution that frequent and repeated doses of a psychedelic could theoretically stress the heart.
Research on the mental health benefits of full doses of psychedelics is promising, with one early-phase study suggesting that psilocybin, at high doses, may be as effective as selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors in treating depression. Full doses of psychedelics encourage the brain to form new cellular connections through a process called neuroplasticity, and there is some indication that microdoses produce similar changes.
Many of the scientists who were at the forefront of research into full doses of psychedelics are now investigating the potential benefits of microdosing. However, the evidence remains limited and experts are divided on whether microdosing actually helps people or not.
Initial research on microdosing has mainly consisted of anecdotal reports from users who claim to have experienced enhanced cognition, attention, well-being, and relief from anxiety and depression. While laboratory studies on microdoses of psilocybin and LSD have supported these claims, showing improvements in mood, attention, and creativity, these studies have been relatively small and have not compared microdoses to a placebo.