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A Dissertation on Microdosing

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Microdosing has become one the the hottest topics in the psychedelic space. From Silicon Valley CEO's, to artists, to people seeking to enrich their lives, the idea of microdosing psychedelics has spread like wildfire. However, I find that many people are beginning microdosing protocols with a relatively low level of education on how to utilize these substances effectively. In this article I will cover the different styles of microdosing, the various reasons you may want to consider starting a microdose protocol, some of the potential downsides that aren't often spoken about, and some general thoughts on how to make a protocol most effective.


As always, psychedelics may be illegal in your area. I am not recommending or encouraging you to pursue illegal activities. Additionally, I am not a doctor. This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice.


Since this is bound to be quite a long article, there is a handy table of contents right here, so you can skip to the sections relevant for you!


Table of Contents

-- Frequency (How often should I take a microdose?)

-- Dosage (How much should each microdose contain?)


Microdosing Definition

I think it's helpful if we actually start with a definition of microdosing. In the context of psychedelics, taking a microdose is traditionally considered to be taking a small, nearly sub-perceptual dose of a psychedelic compound. The goal is to consume a tiny dosage of the compound and avoiding the classic visual/auditory/olfactory/tactile hallucinations while still providing some of the benefits of the compound.


As the popularity of microdosing has increased, the above definition is often expanded to include small dosages of a compound which DO create some sensory hallucinatory effect, but are at a level which is manageable to still complete the desired tasks. For example, an artist may take a 0.5g dose of psilocybin to enhance their art, where as a tech CEO might only take a 0.1g dose to navigate their day in the corporate world.


Microdosing Protocols

So, what are the different styles of microdosing? There are three main variables in a microdosing protocol; psychedelic choice, frequency, and dosage. For the purposes of this article I am going to focus primarily on psilocybin (magic mushrooms) microdosing, as it is within my direct area of expertise. Psychedelics like LSD have their own distinct benefits and are worth a look if you don't find success microdosing mushrooms. We will talk in depth about both frequency and dosages below.


Frequency

The first variable to consider is frequency. There are two broadly popular frequency schedules: the Fadiman Protocol and the Stamets Stack. The former, named after renowned psychedelic writer and researcher James Fadiman, has a participant consuming one microdose every 72 hours. The latter, named after famed mycologist Paul Stamets, has a participant consuming microdoses for 4 days consecutively, and then taking 3 days off. In the Stamets Stack, he also has the participant consuming other brain-boosting supplements like Lion's Mane mushrooms and Niacin.


So what are the pros and cons of each frequency schedule?


The Fadiman Protocol is where I start most beginners. On average, psilocybin completely clears your system within 72 hours, so for most people this is a sustainable way to microdose indefinitely. It is also the more cost-effective of the two strategies, in an average month you'd consume 10 - 12 doses, vs 16+ doses following the Stamets Stack. Additionally, the Fadiman protocol leaves lots of room for adjustments, if you need to take a dose a day early once, or take a dose a day late, it doesn't throw off the entire rhythm of the schedule. The one major con of this protocol is the inconsistent days of consuming the doses. For example, the first week may have you dosing on Monday, Thursday, Sunday, but then the following week would be Wednesday, Saturday, Tuesday. For some people this moving cycle is no big deal, but others will love the consistency of the Stamets Stack detailed below.


The Stamets Stack seems to be the better protocol for those with brain injuries due to the additional supplements like Lion's Mane and Niacin. It may also be a better protocol for those coming off of anti-depressants due to the higher frequency of dosing allowing for more days "on" with the microdoses. Additionally, this protocol is super consistent, your dosing days will be the same every week. There are a few cons to the Stamets Stack. First, because on each of the 4 consecutive dosing days you are building a subtle tolerance to the psychedelic, there is no room for skipping a day, or for taking a dose on one of your off days. Second, many people will find they will build a tolerance throughout the month of microdosing, requiring an extended hiatus (usually 1 full week) around once per month. Finally, some people are more sensitive to Niacin than others, and may not enjoy the flush that comes with that supplement in particular.


Dosage

Dosage is the tricky bit when it comes to microdosing psilocybin. There are now endless strains of mushrooms with varying potency, which can make getting the correct dose tricky. (Personally, I prefer the strain known as Golden Teachers for consistency of strength.) Compounding the problem of different strains is the fact that every person has a unique biochemistry which causes psilocybin to interact with them differently.


So how can we work with psilocybin safely and choose a good dosage for us?


There are a couple key strategies to employ. First, is to have a trusted manufacturer of microdoses. If you are purchasing from a consistent source, this will ensure a relatively consistent product. Second, is to test out the smallest possible microdose first. For most people that should be a dose of 0.125g. At that dosage, there are very few strains which will cause a full on "trip".

Remember: You can always increase the dosage next time, but you can never decrease the dosage after taking too much! Third, if you are making your own microdoses, use a coffee grinder to powderize the mushrooms. The potency of different parts of the mushroom can vary widely, so when we take it into powder form we make the dosages consistent across the batch.


Now let's talk generally about the different dosages and what you might use them for.


0.125g - 0.2g

For most people the sweet spot for a true traditional microdose is going to be between 0.125g and 0.2g per dose. This range of dose is amazing for everyday tasks like going to work, working out, meditating, and anything else you would do in a normal day. Barring extremely potent mushrooms or a high sensitivity, you should be able to do just about anything you would do sober while on a microdose of this size.


0.2g - 0.5g

This is what I would deem a perceptual dose. While not a traditional microdose, this dose range is great for creative works, deep dive meditations, long journaling or self-work sessions, or taking with a partner to talk through emotions. For most people this dose will be at least slightly impairing, i.e. you may experience some visuals and will almost certainly feel a bit 'high'. As such, it is not an ideal dose for activities that require complete sobriety such as driving, corporate work environments, or rote detail oriented tasks.


0.5g+

We have now firmly left the realm of what can be considered a microdose. While I won't cover these types of doses in depth here, keep your eyes peeled for future articles on navigating 'ceremonial' dosages.


Reasons to Microdose

The list of reasons to try microdosing is LONG. I'll cover a few of the more commonly known reasons as well as a few of my personal favs.


Microdosing is great for; mood enhancement, creativity, self-discovery, increasing presence, improved meditations, changing habits, art, writing, understanding feelings, clarity, mental sharpness, neural malleability, feeling more open, smoking cessation, and being generally more kind.


That may seem like a hell of a list, and it is. While we are still coming to understand the main mechanisms of action for some of these phenomena, I believe most of the positive effects stem from the core roots of increased presence and increased ability to understand our feelings. The more present we are, typically the happier we are, the clearer we are, and the more creativity we have access to. The more we understand what we are feeling, the more we can navigate uncomfortable emotions like depression, anxiety, and anger, as well as more easily being kind to others.


Effective Strategies for Microdosing

There are a lot of different ways to approach microdosing, so first and foremost you should be considering what YOU are looking for from a microdosing protocol and seeing what fits your objectives. That being said, these are some of the things I find to be the most effective broadly.


- Consume microdoses first thing in the morning.

- Set an overarching intention for each month you microdose. Then, each time you consume a microdose, bring your intention to mind and focus on it for a few seconds.

- Take up a habit of journaling, even if only for 5 minutes per day. It's massively useful in conjunction with microdosing for self-discovery.

- Take your first microdose on a day where you don't have a lot going on, just in case you are highly sensitive to psychedelics.

- Pick a microdose schedule and stick to it. Microdosing is best done as a preemptive plan, and not as a reaction to uncomfortable emotions.

- Give yourself space each day to practice feeling more deeply. This could be through meditation, or simply sitting with your coffee in the morning.


Risks & Downsides to Microdosing

On the whole, microdosing is exceedingly safe as a practice, however there are a few risks to be aware of. Please note that I am speaking here about risks specific to microdosing, and not risks for 'ceremonial' dosages.


First, if you suffer from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, or other related mental illness, you will want to be very careful in considering a microdosing protocol. Consult a trusted mental health professional, and discontinue microdose protocol immediately if you notice any worsening of symptoms or difficulty discerning what is reality. Similarly if you are currently on anti-depressants, you want to be very careful engaging with microdosing. The most common side effect is simply that the SSRI will block the effectiveness of the microdose, but at higher dosages serotonin syndrome is a consideration to be made.


Next is something which is generally a positive attribute of microdosing, but in certain circumstances can be a negative- amplification of emotional awareness. Typically, it is a huge win to be more aware of your emotions, boundaries, and thoughts. In some specific circumstances however, this can actually be unhelpful. For example, if you are working a job with a boss you hate, but you can't leave the job yet because you need to support your family, it probably won't do you a ton of good to be even MORE aware that you are unhappy with this job.


In similarity to the last point, it can also be a risk that old, unprocessed traumas come up to the surface to be sorted through. While this is typically a feature of the higher dose experience, it can certainly happen in moments of deep thoughtfulness with microdoses. While, again, this is typically a huge positive, there can be some circumstances in which this is undesirable. As another example, perhaps you just started a brand new job and are the busiest you've ever been. Probably not a great time for that deeply traumatic memory to surface...you just don't have the space to process it.


One last risk, is the chance of nausea. While this will happen to exceedingly few people who are taking true microdoses, it is still a possibility. I personally add in organic ginger powder to all of my microdosing kits to help combat any nausea.


Of course I can't list every possible medication interaction here. It's important that you claim your own responsibility and do your OWN research on any possible contraindications. Searching into google terms like 'Psilocybin SSRI Contraindications' or 'Psilocybin SSRI Safety' will usually turn up good results with a little digging.


Alex's Personal Recommendations

When someone comes to me seeking a microdosing plan, (book a free consultation HERE) there are a few questions I find to be of primary importance before giving any recommendations;


- What do you want to accomplish by microdosing?

- What is your plan, aside from just the microdoses, to accomplish this goal?

- Is there anything you can think of that will be a barrier to your success in your goal? If so, what could you do to hedge against this barrier?


Most people who "fail" at microdosing seem to have the similarity of not creating an action plan of how to accomplish their goals. They treat microdosing as a 'magic bullet' panacea which they can simply take and things improve on their own. While I agree that it would be nice if things worked that way...that's not how anything good in our lives is accomplished. The questions above are intended to clarify your intention and action plan.


Once you've got your objective clearly in mind, then we can start on the recommendations.


For MOST people, the best way to start will be using the Fadiman Protocol at a dosage of 0.125g. Take your first dose on a day when you are not busy, and notice how you feel. If you feel a subtle boost in mood, some increased awareness of emotions, like the world is a little 'brighter' or more colorful, those are all signs that you nailed the correct dose. If you feel none of that after 3 attempts microdosing at 0.125g, escalate the dose to 0.2g. Consume the dosages first thing in the morning, before breakfast, and take 2-5 minutes to bring your intention to mind as you take the dose. Continue the protocol for 1 full month, and then stop usage for 1 week. During the 'off' week, determine if you accomplished what you wanted, if there is a next thing you would like to accomplish, and if you would like to continue microdosing.


From here, you can microdose on the Fadiman protocol indefinitely with no breaks. I know people who have been happily microdosing for years without interruption, and also people who do 1 or 2 cycles of microdosing per year to work on specific objectives. There is no general right or wrong, just right or wrong for you.


Two potential things to keep in mind.


First, the reason for the strictness of microdosing schedules is to keep microdosing from becoming your new coping behavior. It is NOT ideal long-term to take a microdose every time you feel a little depressed or anxious, as this will simply teach your brain to avoid the emotions through external substances.


Second, it's good to remember, at a high level, that mushrooms and microdosing are just a key to a door within yourself. All of the phenomena accomplished during a microdose protocol are things you can accomplish completely sober. The microdoses are just a beautiful skeleton key to that door instead of you having to manually pick the lock every time. It's an important thing to remember, because you don't ever NEED to be reliant on this as a crutch, rather it can be used as a TOOL in your self-actualization arsenal.


Closing Thoughts

Microdosing has been a huge ally in my life. The increased emotional awareness, boosted mood, and ability to process what I want in life has been a cornerstone of my progress. If you take it seriously, give the medicine the proper respect, and wholeheartedly dive in I have no doubts that you will feel similar shifts in your life. Keep in mind that YOU are the medicine to your own woes. The mushrooms are simply an adjunct therapy to help you return to the TRUEST YOU. Microdosing can increase awareness, mood, creativity, and inspire action...but it cannot move your arm for you write, or force you to lift that weight at the gym. Ultimately, microdosing (and mushrooms in general) are a medicine of AWARENESS. When we are aware of our issues, we can generate solutions to them. However, keep in mind that awareness divorced from action equates to suffering.


Much love everyone, thanks for reading, and happy microdosing!

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