A Guide On How to Microdose
Microdosing is when a person takes a small amount of a hallucinogenic substance seeking a positive effect on the mind without a psychedelic experience. Although experts vary in what constitutes a microdose, most believe it is ten to twenty percent of the dose that delivers a psychoactive response. In general terms, a microdose is a fraction of a psychedelic substance so small that it does not significantly alter consciousness.
For centuries, people have experimented with microdoses of psilocybin (“magic” mushroom) and peyote to relieve physical ailments and enhance feelings of well-being. Microdosing expanded in the 1960s to include LSD as people sought to improve cognitive functions and creativity. Today, microdosing also includes MDMA, the prescription drug Ritalin, cannabis, and ketamine, which are all potentially hallucinogenic in higher doses but do not deliver a psychedelic response in microdoses.
However, the majority of hallucinogenic substances are illegal for personal use. Exceptions include marijuana (cannabis) and ketamine. In most states, individuals can legally purchase marijuana for medical use, and several states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Ketamine is legal in the U.S. when administered or prescribed by a licensed clinician.
Psychedelic Effects versus Microdosing
The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides the following short-term general effects of hallucinogens at a psychoactive dose:
- Hallucinations, including seeing, hearing, touching, or smelling things in a distorted way or perceiving things that are not real.
- Intensified feelings and sensory experiences, including brighter colors and sharper sounds.
- Mixed senses, as the person “sees” sounds or “hears” colors.
- Changes in time perception, where people report that time moves very slowly.
- Increased energy and heart rate.
Long-term effects can include persistent hallucinations and psychosis. Although these effects are more common in those with a preexisting mental disorder, they can occur in anyone, even after their first time using a hallucinogen.
A psychedelic high's effects can be intense, frightening, and even deadly. Terrifying flashbacks, nightmares, extreme anxiety, paranoia, and medical emergencies like seizures, comas, or heart attacks can occur.
Effects of Microdosing Hallucinogenic Substances
Most experts consider microdosing to be safe, with few, if any, adverse side effects. Some individuals may be more sensitive to the substance than others and experience fatigue, mild discomfort, and increased anxiety.
Beneficial effects of microdosing may include:
- Heightened focus, creativity, productivity, and energy.
- Decreased anxiety, depression, or stress.
- Less social anxiety.
- Reduced menstrual pain.
- Emotional openness.
- Increased spiritual awareness.
- Reduced cravings for addictive substances.
Doctors may advise against microdosing for people with the following:
- Autism (see note below)
- Colorblindness - some colorblind people dropped out of a study due to uncomfortable “visual effects"
- Past trauma – while psychedelic doses may trigger or worsen PTSD or other anxiety disorders, studies evaluating microdosing to heal past trauma are encouraging
- Physical illness
- Children in their care
- History of psychotic disorders like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
While some doctors advise those on the autism spectrum not to microdose, several studies and surveys of autistic adults found the practice can be beneficial. A pilot trial published in Psychopharmacology demonstrated “rapid and durable improvement in social anxiety symptoms in autistic adults following MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.”
Although studies have found microdosing, especially with ketamine, to deliver positive results for most people with anxiety disorders, some may experience worsening symptoms.
Your Guide to Microdosing
As mentioned above, an average microdose is 10 to 20 percent of a full or recreational dose. Dr. James Fadiman is perhaps the most recognized authority on microdosing, and his guide – the Fadiman protocol – is one of the most widely used, especially for beginners. Dr. Fadiman worked extensively with LSD and magic mushrooms, so much of his research is based on those substances, but his protocol is appropriate for other psychedelics.
Before you commit to microdosing, it's essential to do your research and make some decisions. Questions to ask and answer include:
- Why do you want to microdose?
- Why have you chosen a specific substance?
- What do you hope to gain from the experience?
- Is the substance you’ve chosen legal for personal or medically supervised use in your state? If not, do you understand the potential legal ramifications?
- Have you discussed the benefits and risks of microdosing with a health professional?
- Do you plan to microdose on your own or under the supervision of a health professional?
A microdosing protocol lays out your plan for taking the substance, including how much to take and when and how often to take it. Experts recommend you carefully track the process. Note the specifics of how much and when you took the dose, any food, drinks, or other substances you consumed with it, any side effects, and the physical and mental sensations you experienced.
The Fadiman protocol:
Step 1. Obtain the substance you wish to microdose. Ketamine is legal if you work with a certified health professional. Medicinal marijuana is legal in most states with a prescription, and recreational marijuana is legal in some states. Some shops may carry legal microdose supplements.
Step 2. Take the first dose. The Fadiman protocol urges beginners to start the protocol on a day with no significant obligations scheduled and no children who need your supervision. Dr. Fadiman considers a standard microdose to be one/tenth (10 micrograms) of a full dose. If you're working with a microdosing specialist, they will help you determine your best starting dose.
Step 3. Relax and observe the experience. Pay attention to how you feel physically and emotionally – are the feelings meeting your expectations? Start a journal to track your microdosing experience, noting as much detail as possible and how long the effects last. These details will be vital in identifying the optimal dose that meets your goal. The results may vary according to the substance used.
Step 4. Adjust the dose if necessary. If the first microdosing experience gave you the desired results, that might be the best dose. If the results fall short or you experience unwanted side effects, you will want to adjust the amount up or down. Again, if you're working with a microdosing professional, they will help you determine the best dose for your next experience.
Step 5. Once you determine the dose that fits your needs, proceed with regular use. To avoid building up a tolerance to your dose, which decreases effectiveness, Dr. Fadiman recommends a regimen of one day on and two days off. This approach means you take a dose on day 1, no dose on day 2, but note if you are experiencing after-effects from the previous day, no dose on day 3, then a dose on day 4.
The Fadiman protocol suggests continuing the cycle of one day on, two days off for four to ten weeks, then abstaining from the drug for two to four weeks before resuming the process, especially for high-dose psychedelic experimentation. Although he recommends this cycle for high-dose and microdosing, Fadiman believes it is safe to microdose every day without taking regular breaks.
There are many other microdosing protocols. Your microdosing professional will help you find the best one for you, or you can experiment independently.
If you opt to experiment, Dr. Fadiman offers the following guidelines, noted in his book The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys, suggesting you microdose:
- Daily for general cognitive enhancement.
- Every other day for psychological management of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
- Every weekday, abstaining on weekends for business and professional work-life enhancement.
Results vary for each individual. Feedback gathered from Dr. Fadiman and others suggests that thousands of people believe microdosing has transformed their lives by relieving anxiety, depression, and other mood or trauma-related disorders, enabling them to move forward in a positive, productive manner.
Tips for Microdosing
- Use an accurate scale if you don’t have a pre-measured dose.
- Take your first dose on an average, non-work day when you feel physically and mentally well.
- Ensure your environment is calm and safe, with few, if any, demands on your time.
- Stick to your chosen protocol for at least four to eight or ten weeks.
- Start with a minimal dose for a few days. If needed, adjust the amount up or down for another few days. Keep tweaking the dose as needed until you achieve the desired results.
- Microdose in the morning, as taking a dose later may disrupt regular sleep patterns.
- Don’t take alcohol or other mind-altering drugs concurrently, at least initially. Some people find CBD – a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana – to help with the experience.
- As mentioned, maintain a microdosing journal including details on your diet, activities, other alcohol or drug use, and OTC medications, along with specifics on the dose, time taken, results, and any concerns.
- Don’t rush the process. Give your protocol and dose time to work.
Why Choose Joyous?
Joyous specializes in very low-dose ketamine therapy to quickly improve mental health. Our microdosing protocol is proven to deliver outstanding patient outcomes.