To microdose a psychedelic drug means to take a dose small enough to provide no intoxication or significant alteration of consciousness. Microdosing has been growing in popularity and visibility in recent years, and has received substantial media coverage. However, it has not been described in academic literature. The study I conducted and published in Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs therefore sought to make an early foray into psychedelic microdosing by interviewing 21 respondents about their experiences.
Most respondents dosed LSD or mushrooms containing psilocybin at about one-tenth of a full dose. The most common practice was to microdose two or three times a week over a period of one to two months, and then take a few months off. More frequent use sometimes led to headaches and loss of positive effects.
The effect from microdosing psychedelics was often described as a small boost in everyday functioning. Some respondents suffered from conditions such as anxiety and depression, and found that microdosing had a positive effect on these conditions. Others did not suffer from any medical ailment, but found that microdosing improved their mood and energy level. A few did not experience any effect at all.
Challenges and side effects
None of the respondents observed any significant negative consequences of microdosing, but some reported challenges and side effects. Respondents sometimes found that it was difficult to dose correctly, especially with LSD, which is active in microgram doses. Some accidentally overdosed, which in this context meant taking up to one-fourth of a full dose, and this was problematic in terms, for instance, of going to work. A few respondents also noted that certain negative states, such as a hangover from alcohol use, could get worse with microdosing. The most common side effect with psychedelic microdosing was difficulty with sleeping if one dosed late in the day.
This qualitative study explored microdosing experiences among participants at Internet discussion fora. People frequenting such fora are, for the most part, positive towards the use of psychedelics, and the findings of the study should be interpreted accordingly. Many respondents reported therapeutic effect from microdosing on conditions such as depression and anxiety, which indicates that it might be profitable to study these effects medically. More generally, it is interesting to note that there are people who use drugs like LSD and psilocybin in a way that gives no intoxication effect, but which is experienced to have therapeutic value or to provide a small boost in everyday functioning.
Petter Grahl Johnstad has a Masters degrees in Comparative Politics and Religious Studies from the University of Bergen.
Petter Grahl Johnstad
First Published February 15, 2018