Many consumers believe that microdosing psychedelics can enhance creativity and potentially improve brain function. But, how often should you do it? Is microdosing every day safe? What about microdosing every other day? There are few large-scale studies that examine whether or not the hype rings true. Right now, the most popular microdosing protocols are based on early qualitative research and anecdotal evidence from over one-thousand completed surveys, collected in online user reports.
What is a Microdosing Protocol?
A microdosing protocol is a strategy that lays out best practices around microdosing, including how much of a psychedelic substance to take, when to take it, and what to consume alongside your dose. Simply stated, a microdosing protocol is a regimen for consuming tiny, sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics—but why?
Many consumers believe that microdosing psychedelics can enhance creativity and potentially improve brain function. But, so far, there are few large-scale studies that examine whether or not the hype rings true. Right now, the most popular microdosing protocols are based on early qualitative research and users’ anecdotal evidence, collected in online user reports.
The two best-known microdosing protocols are named after psychedelics writer and advocate, James Fadiman, Ph.D. and renowned mycologist Paul Stamets. (See below for more explanation on the Fadiman and Stamets protocols.) Many new microdosers choose one of these two established protocols, while others work with a guide or practitioner for an individualized strategy. Some practitioners have developed their own set of recommendations which may involve dosing every other day, or another pattern entirely.
What To Use in a Microdosing Protocol
Psilocybin microdosing protocols and LSD microdosing protocols are the two most common regimens, though there has also been a recent uptick in conversation around microdosing ibogaine, ayahuasca, mescaline, ketamine, DMT, LSD analogs, and MDMA. (MDMA is not a classic psychedelic, but an amphetamine, and thus does not behave in the same way as others in this category.) A microdose is one-twentieth to one-tenth of a full therapeutic or “recreational” dose (also known as a macrodose).
For common psilocybin-containing mushrooms, that usually falls within a range from .05 grams to .5 grams of dried mushrooms, while an LSD microdose is 5-10µ (micrograms). Since many variations exist across different strains of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, and because there may be somewhat of a cannabis-like “entourage effect” to shrooms, consumers may want to experiment with a few different strains to find their preferred variety.
Microdosing Every Day
No matter what substance you choose, microdosing every day isn’t recommended. Daily use, even at small doses, can build your tolerance and decrease benefits. Both LSD and psilocybin affect the brain’s serotonin receptors, and research into LSD has shown that these receptors essentially downregulate after repeated exposure—yielding a lowered response to the drug. And because the two substances bind to the same brain receptors, alternating between LSD and psilocybin is unlikely to reduce tolerance from everyday use, either.
There are, of course, those who choose to microdose “365 days a year, no off times,” says Michele Ross, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, author, and founder of Infused Health. “I discourage that,” she tells Double Blind, “because we know you can build a tolerance to any drug, natural or not, if used daily.” Dr. Ross elaborates that, much like the way muscles grow stronger in between exercise sessions, “the magic of microdosing is as much in the pruning of neural connections that aren’t working for us as in the building of new neural connections.”
There’s also a risk of damage to the heart from daily use of certain psychedelics. According to Julie Freeman, registered dietician, functional and mind-body medicine expert, and founder of Mindful Wellness, psilocybin “impacts the 5HT-2B receptors… [which] is known in some individuals to cause cardio-pulmonary valve issues,” if taken frequently.
How To Pick The Right Microdosing Protocol
“The benefits of using protocols like the Fadiman or Stamets protocols is that thousands of people have used them safely,” says Dr. Ross, adding that simply “winging” it may not lead to the kinds of benefits you seek.
Freeman agrees that, “the protocols are guidelines to begin the process safely and to gather data to observe what feels right individually.” To that end, you could choose to begin microdosing with one of the protocols discussed below while keeping detailed notes on your dose, timing, and effects in order to better gauge your experience.
Swathi Varanasi, PharmD, an integrative pharmacist, speaker, and educator, tells DoubleBlind that a patient might benefit from an individualized microdosing plan: “Depending on a person’s desired result, physiological composition, genetic factors, and daily prescriptions and supplements, dosing plants and fungi can be complex.” Dr. Varanasi suggests that, particularly for new microdosers, using the Fadiman or Stamets protocols as a “starting point” can be helpful, though she and other clinicians interviewed for this article emphasized that, depending on your previous psychedelic experience and needs, working with a psychedelics-knowledgeable practitioner—even for microdosing—may be a supportive choice.
The Fadiman Microdosing Protocol
While Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist who first synthesized LSD, is credited with the idea of microdosing, it was James Fadiman, Ph.D., psychedelics advocate, and writer who popularized the method. Although indigenous peoples may have known about the practice long before. Fadiman has collected reports and questionnaires from thousands of microdosers worldwide, who report benefits like decreased social and academic anxiety; lowered addictive behaviors; headache relief; menstrual pain relief; increased sense of “flow” and creativity; decreased trauma-based triggering; and improved relationship skills.
The Fadiman protocol involves microdosing every fourth day on a simple schedule: On day one, you microdose, and on days two and three, you refrain. That pattern is considered a “cycle” which can then be repeated with another microdose starting the following day (day four). Fadiman recommends this pattern because he has found that many microdosers feel a two-day “window” of effects, sometimes described as an “afterglow” in which the benefits linger into the next day.
Day three in the protocol is a “reset” that allows you to return to your ordinary state of consciousness in order to observe and appreciate the effects of microdosing. Most people who participate in Fadiman’s qualitative research process consume .1 grams to .4 grams of psilocybin or five to 10µ of LSD. It takes about a month to complete ten cycles of the Fadiman protocol, at which point Fadiman recommends pausing to evaluate whether continued microdosing feels correct in your body.
The Paul Stamets Protocol
Paul Stamets, who has studied and worked with medicinal mushrooms for over 30 years, developed another microdosing protocol, now called the Stamets Stack. Stamets touts that this protocol is intended to promote neurogenesis (the growth of new connections in the brain and peripheral nervous system). The Stack involves microdosing with three components—psilocybin, the legal mushroom Lion’s Mane, and the B vitamin niacin—in a repeating pattern of four days on followed by three days off. Microdosers who follow the Stamets protocol report many of the same benefits to mood, cognition, and performance as those who utilize the Fadiman protocol, though some people believe that the Lion’s Mane and niacin, as additional components of the stack, boost psilocybin’s neuro-generative properties.
Some people who follow the Stamets protocol consume a true microdose of psilocybin (anywhere between .05 grams to .5 grams of dried mushrooms), and others experiment within the range of a low-dose (.5 gram to one gram of dried mushrooms). If you’re new to mushrooms, start low and go slow, and keep good notes until you find your microdosing sweet spot. You can find dosages and discussion on the other two components of the Stamets Stack here.
Microdosing Every Other Day
Unfortunately, microdosers seeking clear answers about microdosing protocols may be met with disappointment. At this point in time, there is little information available about the risks of microdosing every day, every other day, or following any particular protocol. A small Norwegian microdosing study found that many experienced microdosers choose to do so cyclically for a period of weeks or months, as needed, to support their cognition and mental health. Some longtime microdosers prefer an every-other-day schedule for microdosing maintenance—which may confer the two-day window of benefits Fadiman has observed while preventing tolerance buildup. Although, without firm research, it’s ultimately up to each individual in the end.
Customizing Your Microdosing Protocol
It should be noted that we don’t yet have research on the long-term effects of microdosing, though the clinicians interviewed for this article stated that it’s an area in which continued research—and further development of the protocols—is called for. “Currently, we have a lot of real-world evidence… that should be fueling the research,” says Sherri Tutkus, RN, a cannabis and psychedelics nurse, and founder of the Green Nurse.
Regardless of the microdosing protocol you try, Dr. Ross emphasizes the importance of listening to your body and taking periodic breaks. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to psychedelics,” she says, “and if you keep notes on what works for you, and find better results deviating from the traditional protocols, go for it. Just make sure you pencil in off days and off weeks!” Likewise, Freeman emphasizes that, once you’re familiar with the effects of microdosing, you can bring your intuition into the process to help you determine when, what, and how frequently to microdose.
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Ultimately, says Tutkus, “the best protocol is the one that works.”
Microdosing Protocol Tips
There’s still a lot to learn about microdosing. Yet, advocates tout a few simple practices that may be helpful for navigating the experience, including:
- Utilize a sensitive scale to carefully measure your dosage of psilocybin
- Microdose for the first time on a non-work day to gauge your body’s response
- Microdose in the morning because later-in-the-day doses could interfere with sleep
- Refrain from mixing substances; instead, stick to one microdosed substance at a time to better understand its benefits and any potential downsides; likewise save alcohol or THC consumption for a moment when you aren’t under the influence of the microdose
- Cannabis and psychedelics nurse, Sherri Tutkus, suggests that adding CBD to your routine when microdosing may be helpful; this non-intoxicating cannabinoid may ease discomforts you might experience from the microdose
- Remember that set and setting may affect your microdosing experience; be mindful of your surroundings and mood
The information presented in this article is intended for educational purposes. It should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment.