The psychedelic renaissance is well underway. More than ever, human beings from all walks of life are exploring the ways in which entheogens could make a positive impact on their emotional and physical well-being. The scientific and medical communities are also intrigued, and for the first time since many of these compounds were criminalized in the 1960s, clinical trials are showing that they have the potential to disrupt our mental health paradigm in the next decade. Meanwhile, the microdosing trend has grown exponentially, with people hailing it as a treatment for depression, insomnia, period irregularity, stress, lack of clarity and groundedness, and more. But how do you know if it’s right for you? And if it is, how do you know if you should be microdosing LSD, shrooms or some other substance?
What is Microdosing?
Microdosing psychedelics is the act of consuming a miniscule amount of a drug to reap the benefits while avoiding psychoactivity (i.e. tripping). Microdosing a psychedelic usually means you’re taking around 1/10th of a normal dose. We’ll get into that more later.
The practice of microdosing has grown in popularity over the last several years, and while the majority of attention has been paid to shrooms, microdosing Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) is also gaining steam. This is for a couple reasons. One, because classic psychiatric drugs like SSRIs have simply failed a lot of people and come with side effects. Two, because there are millions of people who don’t necessarily have a diagnosed mental health condition but who are looking for something to help them feel better as they move through their everyday life.
What is LSD? History of LSD
Short for lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD (often referred to simply as acid) is a synthesized version of ergot fungus known for its hallucinatory effects. It was first discovered in 1943 by Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman who hypothesized the compound may boost the function of the respiratory and circulatory systems. He did not expect it would make users “trip,” but after Hoffman accidentally ingested his creation, it was clear that LSD had abilities far beyond what he could have imagined.
After making his profound discovery, Hoffman’s LSD was administered therapeutically to tens of thousands of patients under the pharmaceutical name Delysid. It showed great promise as a treatment for a variety of disorders including anxiety, depression, and alcoholism, but its growing association with the anti-war counterculture led the federal government to ban the substance in 1968.
LSD Microdosing: Dose
Acid doses are measured in grams (μg) and usually come in liquid form. It may also be dropped onto paper (known as a blotter sheet) or added to foods or beverages for easier consumption (sugar cubes, tablets, and gelatin are popular choices). A typical recreational dose of LSD is around 100μg while a microdose would be between 5-20μg—just enough to achieve heightened perception but not enough to cause a psychedelic trip. Microdoses allegedly cause the consciousness-expanding effects of acid while allowing the user to perform their day-to-day activities. As with tripping in general, “start low and go slow” is a good motto. Try 5μgs for at least a couple weeks and, if it doesn’t feel like that’s enough, work your way up—paying close attention to how you feel as you increase the dose.
The Effects of Microdosing LSD
When consuming a full dose, LSD acts on serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain to create pronounced effects, beginning 30 minutes to an hour after the drug is taken, and lasting up to 16 hours (depending on strength). Experiences may include altered consciousness with visual distortions, feeling separated from the body, increased energy, decreased appetite, and a range of emotions, from bliss to fear.
Microdosing LSD, on the other hand, should not be psychedelic. Instead, it should be what’s called “subperceptual,” enhancing the user’s overall state of mind and physical wellness without interrupting their life. Dr. James Fadiman, longtime researcher and microdosing pioneer, often jokes that if the walls are melting, stars are twinkling, or anything else reminiscent of a trip is happening while you’re microdosing…well, you’re not microdosing: you’re just tripping. There are many reports of microdosing LSD helping improve people’s mental health and, even physical health, but it’s not only good for people who have some kind of diagnosed condition—it’s also shown to help “healthy normals” make smarter choices about their diet, sleep routine, and more.
How Often Should I Microdose LSD?
As far as how often to microdose acid, there is no “one size fits all” approach. A routine of one day “on” followed by a few days “off” is recommended by many experienced psychonauts. Dr. Fadiman’s protocol involves one day on, two days off whereas mycologist Paul Stamets recommends five days on and two days off. There’s been no research comparing these protocols, but Fadiman and Stamets are actually friends and hypothesize there’s no difference. There are individuals who prefer to microdose daily, but it may increase the risk of building up a tolerance thereby reducing the effects and/or forcing the need for a larger dose. The most important thing is that whatever protocol you go with, that you stick with it for long enough (four to six weeks) to tell how it’s made a difference in your life. Journaling about how you feel each day is a good way to keep track.
What are the Benefits of Microdosing LSD?
The number of studies on microdosing LSD remains limited but researchers have found the practice may improve mood, increase mental focus, and even aid in chronic pain management. Countless anecdotal reports seemingly confirm the small pool of peer-reviewed studies.
The world took notice when tech professionals in Silicon Valley began evangelizing the psychedelic lifestyle, reporting heightened productivity, creativity, and innovation. Even Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs was a notable proponent, calling his journey with LSD “a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life.”
Another high-profile LSD success story is that of Ayelet Waldman. The author and former public defender, whose struggle with mental illness was not solved with traditional pharmacology and psychiatry, wrote a book saying microdosing LSD “saved her marriage” to fellow novelist Michael Chabon.
Emily Johnson*, a catering company owner from Southern California, decided to try microdosing LSD for career-induced chronic pain and fatigue. The results were a game-changer. For her, 12μg seems to be the magic number, but she will go up to 24μg if needed.
“It’s amazing how well it works. I also suffer from Tourette’s, so I would normally be twitchy along with dealing with lack of sleep and muscle aches,” she told DoubleBlind.
Emily added that in addition to her physical ailments being relieved, she just enjoys her career more thanks to microdosing LSD.
“I’m able to work efficiently and really balance my time and focus on the flow of my events better,” she said. “I am much happier and able to socialize with clients, whereas without it I would be more reclusive and stressed.”
Microdosing Acid vs. Microdosing Shrooms
When first embarking on a microdosing journey, many people want to know whether they should try LSD or shrooms first.
In larger doses for tripping, both substances are known to cause mind expansion—and, sometimes, ego death. While LSD tends to be more extrospective, shrooms usually lead to introspection. Acid is usually associated with frenetic energy, while psilocybin tends to be more grounding. Additionally, the effects of LSD are typically felt for a longer period of time when compared to shrooms, an important factor to consider when taking a “heroic dose.”
The number of studies on microdosing LSD remains limited but researchers have found the practice may improve mood, increase mental focus, and even aid in chronic pain management.
That said, the effects of shrooms and LSD on larger doses doesn’t tell us much about the difference between them while microdosing. Dr. Fadiman has surveyed more than 1500 people in his database on microdosing and has come to the conclusion that there isn’t a difference—they both are said to help with depression, insomnia, lack of focus, and a number of other mental health conditions. If you’re trying to treat one of these conditions, the best thing to do may be to just start with microdosing shrooms or microdosing LSD, sticking with the same dose and the same frequency for at least a month, and taking note of your experiences. If it’s working for you, great! If it’s not or you’d just like to see if the other substance works better, then switch it up.
LSD is also almost always synthesized in a lab so it is always recommended to test LSD prior to consumption to ensure there’s nothing additional (and potentially dangerous) in the batch.
How to Microdose LSD
So, you’ve decided to take the plunge! The most important thing to do is to buy yourself an LSD test kit to make sure that your LSD isn’t adulterated. If you live in Canada, you might consider purchasing a microdosing kit with 1P-LSD, a legal derivative and functional analogue of LSD. Fadiman’s research has found that 1P-LSD, LSD, and shrooms are all equally effective.
If you bought the real deal on the black market, you’ll also want to ask whoever you got the LSD from how many micrograms is on each tab, sugar cube, etc. As mentioned, a true acid microdose should be “subperceptual.” Trust us, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you think you’re microdosing LSD and end up tripping for ten hours or more on a day when you have to work.
If you purchase LSD on a tab, a good way to dose is to soak the tab in 1 oz of vodka or water for 24 hours and then put that liquid into a tincture bottle. Start with one drop, and work your way up.
You’ll also want a journal, to keep track of how you’re feeling, and you’ll want to pick a protocol (one day on, two days off; five days on, two days off…whatever feels good to you) and stick with it for at least a month.
The Risks of Microdosing LSD
Again, it’s important to emphasize that there has been very little research done on microdosing LSD—and there has been no research done on the long-term effects of microdosing. If you’re taking LSD, regardless of the dose, it’s important that you test it using a LSD test kit from a site like Dance Safe to ensure it’s not adulterated. Also, based on Dr. Fadiman’s survey data, he does not recommend people with colorblindness, a history of psychosis or a diagnosis of autism try microdosing.
Read: How LSD is Made
Otherwise, microdosing LSD, in the short-term, appears to be relatively safe and to help with a remarkable number of psychological and physical conditions. One thing to note: Despite a lot of press on the internet, Fadiman’s found reports that microdosing LSD may worsen, rather than help, anxiety. You should read up, too, about microdosing and contraindications if you’re on an SSRI or some other drug. For the most part, there doesn’t seem to be contraindications.
Microdosing LSD — Is It For You?
As we engage in a watershed moment for psychedelic therapies, there’s no better time to evaluate whether microdosing could benefit your life. As a potential treatment for depression and other mental health disorders and as a tool to bolster personal growth, LSD has shown incredible promise. Before beginning a microdosing regimen, identify what you hope to obtain from the practice. Remember to be patient with the process, as it may take time to notice results.
Microdosing LSD may not be for everyone, but for the unknown number of us who have had profoundly positive experiences with it, the arguments in favor far outweigh those against. After all, acid may have indirectly led to the invention of the iPhone—would you really want to deprive the world of your next innovation?
*Last name has been changed