A (Quick) Guide to Microdosing Psychedelics

A (Quick) Guide to Microdosing Psychedelics

By Edan Arnas

"You are your own healer."

"You have everything you need within you."

"You are the only one who knows what's best for you."

You'll hear these statements a lot in the psychedelic space. And while they're true, there is a tremendous emphasis on attending a ceremony with a trained facilitator to receive the benefits of psychedelics. Facilitators provide an energetically safe container, a protocol for emergencies, and the intuitive magic to guide you through your psychedelic journey. They are vital, but if you are your own guru, are facilitators—and the money and time to work with them—always necessary?

Thanks to microdosing, the answer is no. Microdosing psychedelics means taking low doses of psychedelic substances to enact positive internal change, like heightened creativity, emotional healing, or a deeper connection to your True Essence. These small doses, usually 1/10th of a normal dose, are sub-perceptual: they don't induce any hallucinogenic or psychedelic effects.

Microdosing gives you the transformational potential of psychedelics without the intensity of higher doses. A grounded, intentional practice empowers you to journey inwards in a way that works best for you.

Where the field of high-dose psychedelic psychotherapy is growing slow and true like an oak tree, the lower risk profile of microdosing makes it more like a morning glory— quick to bloom and spreads like wildfire. To keep that growth grounded in the earth, however, we need proper education surrounding the practice.

This article is meant to be a primer into microdosing, a short and succinct guide.

What is microdosing? An overview

From an anecdotal perspective, microdosing has provided people with tangible benefits since the sixties, when James Fadiman, Ph.D, author of The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, began collecting questionnaires from people experimenting with small amounts of LSD, or lysergic acid diethylamide. Silicon Valley tech workers brought the practice into the mainstream with their claims of enhanced creativity and flow, and underground proponents of the practice have shared their experiences on public forums like Reddit and Erowid.

But it's only in recent years that the benefits of microdosing have received thorough scientific investigation. Research conducted at prestigious universities around the world, from John Hopkins in Maryland to the Imperial College London in the UK, has found that microdosing enhances positive mood, stimulates the growth of new neurons, and improves work effectiveness.

Most recently, an article published in March of 2021 by the Imperial College London demonstrated that small amounts of LSD do indeed improve people's lives— but so does believing that you took it. This begs the question of whether or not microdosing works because of its pharmacology or placebo.

For psychiatry and psychotherapy, the placebo conundrum is an important direction of research. But for those who have read the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza or Bruce Lipton on the power of belief, this study can be seen as an important reminder of our inner healing intelligence.

While most microdosing studies have been done with LSD, Wake Networks is conducting the first randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind microdosing study with psilocybin mushrooms. This study represents the increasing possibility of microdosing research as legal obstacles fall away.

But as mentioned before, the power of microdosing is not going to wait around for complete legality. People around the world are using two common "stacks," or methods, to microdose on their own. These methods are the Fadiman stack, named after James Fadiman, and the Stamets stack, named after mycologist Paul Stamets.

The Fadiman stack involves taking a small amount of a psychedelic substance—typically LSD—every three days. The Stamets stacks, created for psilocybin, is four days on, three days off: four days straight of microdosing followed by three days of a break. The Stamets stack also involves combining the psilocybin with niacin and Lion's Mane.

How long you microdose for is up to you. Some people do three months on and three months off, others do a month on and then two weeks off. We suggest at least a month on for consistency, and we absolutely recommend breaks in between two weeks or longer—you want your system to adjust to the changes taking place, and you don't want to build a tolerance.

journal pages with a quote and a beautiful mushroom illustration

Microdosing LSD and psilocybin mushrooms

With any psychedelic, the first step in a microdosing regimen is a firm intention. What are you doing this for? How do you want the medicine to guide you? You'll want to ground this intention in some kind of ritual. One example is to light a candle, meditate on the intention, and then slowly ingest the substance.

The ballpark quantity for a microdose is 1/10th of a standard dose. For LSD, this means a range of six to twenty micrograms, and there are two methods of preparation. One involves cutting the blotter paper that LSD is laid in into pieces. This can be an imprecise method, because when a dose of LSD crystal is laid onto the paper, it isn't always distributed evenly, making it possible to ingest a little more or a little less than your intended dose.

The other method, which is more precise, is volumetric dosing. This method involves soaking the LSD, which should be 100 micrograms, in 100 milligrams of distilled water in a tube. After a day of soaking in the tube, you remove the paper. The final result is one microgram of LSD for every milligram of water, making it very easy to take whatever dose you desire.

With psilocybin "magic" mushrooms, the suggested starting dose is 10 milligrams. To ensure the most even distribution of psilocybin, grind your mushrooms in a coffee grinder and then measure them out into 10 milligram capsules. The capsules ensure versatility of consumption— one day you can swallow the medicine with your bulletproof coffee and the next microdosing day you can put the medicine in your tea.

LSD microdoses are typically used for the purposes of enhanced creativity, increased flow and productivity, improved social capacity, and heightened awareness. It is more of a "doing" substance. Psilocybin is more of a "being" substance— psilocybin microdoses encourage deep introspection, emotional processing, and an increased connection to nature, other people, and Spirit.

The distinctions, of course, are mostly anecdotal. However, numerous observational studies in the past three years have shown that both LSD and psilocybin have antidepressant effects, alleviate anxiety, and enhance self-awareness.

Microdosing other psychedelics

LSD and psilocybin are the most popular psychedelic drugs to microdose, but three others that people use are ayahuasca, mescaline, and cannabis. There is little to no scientific research or clinical trials on microdosing these substances, so keep in mind that this information is primarily anecdotal. In terms of a dosing regimen, do what works best for you— we recommend following the Fadiman protocol to start.

Ayahuasca

Microdosing the ayahuasca vine has been controversial. 

It is not recommended to make your own ayahuasca at home as this is an incredibly sacred medicine. Some retreat centers will take the leftover brew from ceremonies, bottle it, and gift or sell it to their retreat participants. It usually comes in the form of a glass bottle and you can spray it in your mouth before you go to bed. 

Alternatively, if you have a strong calling to microdose this medicine and you’ve done proper research, you can purchase B caapi extracts, where you take 1-5 drops on your tongue. Extracts make for an easier and more concise microdosing experience— check out this list from EntheoNation for organic and reliably sourced B. caapi.

The P. viridis leaves contain the psychedelic compound dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and because DMT is illegal in most countries, most people microdose just B. caapi, which is legal and not psychedelic.

Rest assured, microdosing just the B. caapi vine does not make for a less powerful experience. B. caapi is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), which means it procures antidepressant effects, and the vine has been a powerful energetic, spiritual, and psychological asset of indigenous people for millennia. You should really "feel" into every substance that you microdose with, but ayahuasca in particular has a robust lineage that invites a deeper communion and relationship.

Because B. caapi is an MAOI, it's not recommended to microdose with ayahuasca if you are taking other antidepressants. If you decide to microdose with the full brew, avoid 5-MeO-DMT, which has been shown to have contraindications with the harmala alkaloids in ayahuasca.

Mescaline (peyote, San Pedro, and Peruvian Torch)

First and foremost, there are ethical and sustainability considerations with microdosing any of these mescaline-containing cacti.

Peyote and San Pedro have a long line of sacred use by many indigenous peoples, and peyote is currently listed as an endangered species. With the increasing popularity of microdosing, it may be only a matter of time before San Pedro and Peruvian Torch follow suit. We recommend sticking to the other psychedelics, but if you must use mescaline, avoid peyote and only consume the other two cacti.

The preparation process for these cacti involves cutting the spines off, boiling the cacti, mixing it into a paste, drying the paste, and then grinding the paste into a powder so that you can put it in to capsules. The recommended starting dosage is one gram.

The Rarámuri Indians have used tiny amounts of peyote to help them hunt deer without rest, and this points to mescaline's capacity for sharper focus and mental clarity. Otherwise, mescaline primarily activates the 5-HT2A receptor just like LSD and psilocybin, so you can expect similar positive effects of heightened self-awareness and mood enhancement.

Cannabis

Because of its increasing legality and availability, microdosing cannabis is an ideal option for people who don't want to pursue the sometimes tricky or labor-intensive process of acquiring psychedelics.

A recreational dose of cannabis is 10 milligrams, but it is recommended to start with 2.5 milligrams. The most precise method of consumption would be to purchase a low-dose cannabis edible. If you don't have access to legal cannabis, then you can try vaporizing or combusting. However, these methods require experimentation, as exact dosage is hard to measure.

Compared to other psychedelics, microdosing cannabis can be great for those with physical conditions. Many users report alleviation from pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms, and others report a calming effect that mitigates ADHD, acute neuroticism, or severe anxiety.

Quote from Jenalle Dion

Don't microdose MDMA

MDMA works by flooding the synapses of serotonergic neurons with serotonin, and in controlled dosages, this flooding is completely benign and not neurotoxic.

However, microdosing MDMA would continually flood those synapses and overwhelm your brain. MDMA is also a stimulant, which taxes your body differently than a psychedelic substance.

Harm reduction: risks and side effects of microdosing

"Start low and go slow."

This maxim is paramount for ensuring a pleasant and effective microdosing experience, because the most common side effect across all psychedelics is anxiety.

Typically, hyper-arousal and anxiety occur when you take a dose that's too large and thus has too powerful of effects for your everyday life. But anxiety can also occur on a normal dose. If this is the case, the medicine is probably trying to point your attention to something. You can mitigate anxiety by taking a second to meditate on the feeling, hum in your chest, or even taking a walk.

Aside from anxiety, the plant medicines like psilocybin, ayahuasca, and mescaline can sometimes induce nausea. Sleeplessness is also a common side effect across all substances.

If you or someone in your family has schizophrenia, it's best to avoid psychedelics, as they can trigger a psychotic break. If you're struggling with severe mental illness, like treatment-resistant depression, then we recommend working with a therapist, microdosing coach, or integration specialist to mitigate severe mood swings or intense emotions. Third Wave has compiled a directory of vetted, trusted professionals in the psychedelic space that you can check out.

Microdosing as an integration practice

If you've already had a macrodose journey, you’ve picked up a Wakeful Integration Journal or the 6-Week Intention Journal, (or both!) and you're looking for ways to integrate what you learned, microdosing can be an excellent tool.

When you come out of high-dose psychedelic experience, your system is completely different on a biological, psychological, and spiritual level. However, these changes can fade to the background of your awareness if you don't bring them consciously into your life.

Microdosing is a fantastic way to get your entire system into the "frequency" of whatever change you're trying to embody. For example, if ayahuasca helped you release a lot of anger towards your mother, microdosing can assist your body in remembering fully what that release felt like. This kind of somatic memory can allow you to deepen in forgiveness, love, or gratitude.

Wakeful Travel offers a 6-week Microdosing Intention Journal that is meant to help you ground your journey and deepen your awareness of any transformation that transpires. The journal provides an organized framework for you to notice patterns and reflect on any insights you experience. It’s like a microdosing coach in your pocket— something to gently keep you anchored as your entire essence evolves. 


The future of microdosing

The effects of microdosing on not just mental health but on flourishing well-being are accelerating future research at a rapid pace. We have much to learn about the neuroscience and psychopharmacology behind such powerful transformation at such low doses—if you're into research, these are promising times.

Humans have been experimenting with psychoactive substances for thousands of years, but now is a critical moment. People the world over are turning to authoritarianism, disinformation, and scare tactics to manipulate others as a response to growing global unrest. A grounded, well-informed microdosing practice can bring people back to a place of personal empowerment and love.

The psychedelic renaissance is much more than ketamine clinics and expensive ayahuasca retreats. As more and more people try it out and tune into their inner healer, microdosing equips our species with a tool for the kind of internal transformation that we need to weather the times ahead.

Here’s to your next wakeful microdosing journey.

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