What is Microdosing?
Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of taking 1/10th to 1/20th of a full “journey” dose of mushrooms, LSD, San Pedro, or another entheogenic substance. The phrase was coined in 2011 by longtime psychedelic researcher James Fadiman, PhD, in his book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, and has since become a cultural phenomenon.
Microdosing Mushrooms Experience: What Does Microdosing Mushrooms Feel Like?
Unlike a full dose of psychedelics, a microdose is meant to be “sub-perceptual,” or barely noticeable. And so, the aim of a microdose isn’t to achieve a transcendental state or to see your life from a whole new perspective, as is common with higher doses of shrooms. Nor are visuals distortions like patterning or trails part of the microdose experience. It’s really more about a slight opening or enhancement of the senses, which translates for many folks into an increased sense of presence in their everyday activities.
“I feel more aware while microdosing, not only externally—colors are more vivid, plants and nature fascinate me even more, I feel like I can see more details—but internally as well [I’m] aware of my thought processes, my emotions, really feeling all the feels!” a 31-year-old woman who typically microdoses 0.1 grams of Golden Teachers tells DoubleBlind. “My mood overall is improved, although I do find that more uncomfortable emotions, [like] sadness, frustration, nervousness, et cetera, still very much exist and are felt deeply. [But] they are easier to move through.”
Why Do People Microdose Shrooms? Benefits of Microdosing Mushrooms
The reasons people microdose are as varied as the individuals themselves, but there are some overall trends. Many of the 83 people who filled out a survey I created reported microdosing for some kind of mental health reason, like depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, ADD/ADHD, addiction, and even pain management.
Another common reason folks microdose is for enhanced creativity and focus. For example, a lot of people find they make new connections on microdose days that they wouldn’t normally make. Similarly, many people report that microdosing helps them quiet their mental chatter and focus more deeply on a task at hand, or possibly even enter a “flow state” where they’re so engrossed in an activity they lose track of time.
Finding a flow state is one of the main reasons microdosing is gaining popularity among artists, musicians, writers, programmers, and even athletes who find that the practice helps them get out of their heads and become more embodied in their workouts.
When I learned about athletes who microdose, I also found out that there’s a growing number of folks who have suffered concussions and other types of traumatic brain injury who are looking to microdosing psychedelics for its potential to stimulate neuroplasticity and overall brain health. Although there isn’t much research on microdosing psilocybin to stimulate neuroplasticity, there was a recent study on low doses of LSD’s ability to promote BDNF blood plasma levels, a key component of plastic changes between neurons.
Plus, a 2018 study on rat models found that higher doses of psilocybin promote structural and functional neural plasticity, which the authors theorize could be part of how psychedelic-assisted therapy works for depression and related disorders.
A handful of folks also reported microdosing out of curiosity and for fun. While researching my book, Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion, I learned microdoses of shrooms are becoming a popular social lubricant and alcohol replacement, especially in the form of “Scooby snacks,” which is typically a 0.25 gram capsule of psilocybin mushrooms mixed with bee pollen and other natural supplements.
Dose: How Much is a Microdose of Mushrooms?
Microdoses of mushrooms are tiny, so 0.1 grams (or 100 milligrams) can make a big difference between a sub-perceptual microdose and beginning to trip slightly. When I first heard about microdosing mushrooms and learned that it was about 1/10thof a full dose, I tried 0.35 grams and it was too much for me—too distracting for a work day, anyway. That’s because the threshold between a microdose and a low dose is thin, and the exact number for when it’s crossed is different for every individual.
But how do you find that threshold? First of all, it’s important to mention that different strains, species, and even batches of mushrooms vary in strength, so even though I’m about to lay out some number ranges, it’s always best to start low and find your personal threshold when testing out a new batch. Secondly, everyone’s biology is slightly different, so what might be a microdose for one person might be way too strong of an experience for another and vice versa. Lastly, different levels of microdoses can produce different effects, which can be better or worse for specific types of activities or obligations.
“I feel more aware while microdosing, not only externally—colors are more vivid, plants and nature fascinate me even more, I feel like I can see more details—but internally as well [I’m] aware of my thought processes, my emotions, really feeling all the feels!”
However, in general, microdoses of mushrooms are somewhere in the range of 0.05 to 0.5 grams of dried mushrooms. For microdosing dried Psilocybe cubensis, like the strain Golden Teachers, many folks find benefit in the 0.1 to 0.25 gram range. What I’ve found personally and what I’ve heard from a lot of my survey participants is that a microdose over 0.25 grams is noticeable, especially the first two hours or so when I experience a “come-up” that resembles a full dose of mushrooms. For me personally, it feels like my heart starts to beat a bit faster, I get butterflies in my stomach, and sometimes that turns into nausea and anxiety, especially if I have a lot of work to get done, because now in that slightly altered state it seems impossible to stare at a computer screen and focus.
Yet, if I let go to that “come up” feeling and don’t have a lot of obligations, it passes eventually and I start to feel more open and creative. So I like microdoses in the 0.25 to 0.3 gram range for a day off from work when I can go to the local park with my dogs and come up with new story ideas.
Generally though, it seems many folks are microdosing around 0.1 grams (100 milligrams) to avoid that come-up feeling and any other distracting effects. In fact, in this dose range, many of the survey participants reported their concentration being increased rather than impaired, comparing the feeling to a strong cup of coffee.
Of course, not everyone looks to microdosing as a productivity hack, and not everyone is as sensitive to the come-up as I am and the handful of my survey participants who reported a similar sensation. What I’ve heard from folks seeking depression relief is that they benefit from doses in the 0.2 to 0.3 gram range without any noticeable alterations or distractions to their day-to-day—but again, this is very subjective to the individual, so it’s always best to start low and figure out your own personal, optimal microdose.
How Long Does a Microdose Last?
Generally, microdosing lasts nearly the same amount of time as a full dose of mushrooms, so somewhere between four and six hours. Interestingly, in the survey I created about microdosing mushrooms, many folks didn’t report a specific length of hours when I asked them how long a microdosed lasted, but instead reported they felt the effects for the entire day.
Plus, there’s a pretty common trend among microdosers, who say they continue to feel positive effects into the following day. James Fadiman also reports this in his and Sophia Korb’s research, and Ayelet Waldman also described this experience in her book on microdosing LSD, A Really Good Day.
Best Mushroom Strain for Microdosing?
As more research on the effects of different magic mushroom strains and species emerge, we’ll likely have more info on strains that are better or worse for microdosing. However, as of now, the most popular species for microdosing (and shrooming in general) is Psilocybe cubensis, with the majority of my survey participants reporting to use the strain Golden Teachers.
The P. cubensis strains B+, Treasure Coast, Thai, A+, Burma, Blue Burmese, Malabar, Amazonia, Ecuadorian, Golden Emperor, and Penis Envy were also reported as popular options for microdosing. It’s important to note, Penis Envy can be much stronger than other strains of P. cubensis, so you might need an even smaller microdose than other strains.
Other species mentioned were Liberty Caps (Psilocybe semilanceata) and Atlantis truffles (the sclerotia of Psilocybe atlantis). Interestingly, some of the more advanced microdosers reported that they’ve found that some strains and species make them more tired than others, but it can be subjective to the individual and dose-dependent.
How Does Microdosing Psilocybin Work?
At the moment, the clinical research on microdosing mushrooms and other psychedelics is severely lacking. While there are exciting double blind studies on full doses of psilocybin that are starting to show how psychedelics work in the brain and their effectiveness in treating psychological conditions like depression, at the time of writing this article, only self-reported anecdotal research on microdosing has been published.
Yet, the anecdotal research is showing some really interesting effects of microdosing, such as how microdosers score higher on tests of divergent and convergent thinking, both indicators of creativity. A 2019 study also found that microdosers report lower levels of “mind wandering,” which perhaps explains their increased focus and concentration. And even more recently, a 2020 study speculated on the possibility of microdoses increasing “cognitive flexibility,” which could lead to decreased rumination and an improvement in depression symptoms.
In a panel I moderated on microdosing at the virtual conference, Prohibition PartnersLIVE, David Erritzoe, PhD, shared some of the preliminary findings of the first placebo-controlled, self-blinded microdose study that he’s working on with Imperial College London and the Beckley Foundation for psychedelic research. In a nutshell, the findings are looking a lot like the benefits of microdosing depend quite a lot on what folks are expecting it to do.
During the panel, Erritzoe explained that in their recent self-blinded study, what participants thought they were getting was “10 times more predictive of outcomes than what they actually took.” Meaning, if they thought they took a microdose, they scored well on tests of cognitive performance and psychological states, even if they were given a placebo that day, and if they were given a microdose but they thought it was a placebo, they “didn’t do well” on those same tests. “It’s not extremely promising for the potential of microdosing without saying that it doesn’t work at all,” Erritzoe said.
Yet, at the same time, there does seem to be some effect on the brain and cognition. As another panelist, David Luke,PhD, and co-founder of Breaking Conventions, found in a recent study he co-authored, microdosers’ sense of time is measurably affected, indicating that microdoses are able to affect people’s cognition in some capacity more than the placebo effect.
Overall, more placebo-controlled, double blind research is needed on microdosing mushrooms to really know for certain how it’s affecting people. But I’d also like to add, even though this seems like bad news for microdosers, it’s actually kind of fascinating how the intentional use of a tiny amount of a sacred substance can help us achieve and embody the changes we want to see in our own lives.
Are There Microdosing Disadvantages? Microdosing Mushrooms Side Effects
As mentioned in the dose section above, one of the most common microdose side effects or disadvantages is when folks accidentally take a little too much. So for some that can mean tripping slightly, like seeing some patterning and swaying visually when you rest your eyes, but for others it can be less about seeing visuals and more about feeling a little too altered to focus on tasks at hand or go about your daily business.
Other common side effects reported in the survey include nausea, anxiety, and jitteriness, especially during the first hour or two when the microdose kicks in. Some participants also reported a little trouble winding down for bed and sleeping, especially if they took the microdose in the late afternoon.
A 2019 study found microdosers to score higher on tests of “neuroticism,” meaning participants were experiencing more negative emotions after microdosing. However, the researchers postulate that perhaps this just reflects an overall increase in intensity of emotions—both positive and negative—while microdosing. “It may be that as participants become less distracted (i.e., experience reduced mind wandering) and more absorbed in their immediate experience, they are more able to identify and process negative emotions,” Polito et al. write.
This is in line with what some of my survey participants reported as well, that microdosing helps them be more present with their feelings, both positive and negative: “I’m able to actually cry and ‘let it out’ when I microdose. I rarely can do this because of how shut off I am from my emotions when I’m sober. I microdose to help me know what I need to work on and work toward,” a 20-year old woman told DoubleBlind. “I also experience a more full range of emotions.”
Similarly, Danielle Simone Brand, author of Weed Mom (Ulysses Press, 2020), explains that microdoses of mushrooms make her feel “amplified,” and so her focus is increased, but so is everything else. For her, it can be good for honing in on a project, but she also finds thoughts and feelings are intensified, which can translate into impatience with her family.
In my book’s chapter on microdosing mushrooms, I compare it to cannabis: It affects everyone a little differently. For example, for some, it’s a lifesaver for anxiety, for others, weed can be a panic attack in a plant—it depends on the person and their environment, and microdosing mushrooms is no different.
Long Term Effects of Microdosing: Is It Safe to be Microdosing Every Day?
For a recent article I wrote about athletes who microdose, psychedelic researcher at Johns Hopkins University, Matthew Johnson, PhD, told me there could potentially be long term effects of microdoses, but scientists still haven’t worked it out yet. However, what he could tell me is that part of how psilocybin mushrooms work is by stimulating the serotonin 2B receptor. In the late 1990’s, a different medication that stimulated the 2B receptor, fen-phen, was taken off the market because when it was available to large numbers of people, a small fraction of them began developing heart valve problems, and some even died due to that 2B agonist activity. And so, that same heart valve issue may also be a risk of long-term chronic microdosing, but scientists still need to figure it out.
What’s more, although there are folks who filled out the survey who microdose mushrooms every day without apparent problems, experts like James Fadiman and Paul Stamets recommend taking a few days off a week from microdosing to prevent a tolerance build up (we’ll get to their exact protocols below). In my reporting on microdosing, I’ve heard a common pattern from sources: They microdose every three or four days for about six weeks and then intuitively take a few months off before starting another cycle.
How to Microdose Mushrooms?
Although microdosing is fairly straightforward compared to taking higher doses of mushrooms, where prepping your set and setting is critical to having a safe trip, there still are some things you can do to maximize benefits. For one, after reviewing the survey responses, it seems like intentions play a large role in how individuals’ experience microdosing. And so I would recommend making time to set an intention or goal for your microdose day or routine.
Even though many folks microdose and go about their regular routine, in my book, Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion, I still recommend you experiment for the first time or the first time with a new dose or new batch of mushrooms on a day when you don’t have a ton of responsibilities in order to get a feel for how microdosing affects you.
Read: How to Take Shrooms
Lastly, it’s important to check to make sure you’re not on any medications or supplements that could interact with psilocybin (check out Fadiman and Korb’s research on this here), and to always weigh your mushrooms on an accurate scale (no eyeballing!). I’d also recommend taking your microdose in the early part of the day, and be extra cautious with caffeine and cannabis intake because for some folks, they tend to exasperate any rushy or anxious feelings.
Microdosing Protocols: The Fadiman Protocol or the Stamets Protocol?
A couple of experts have formulated their own protocols to help folks avoid tolerance build up when microdosing mushrooms and other types of psychedelics. The Fadiman Protocol, suggested by James Fadiman, calls for microdosing every fourth day for about six weeks, and so your routine would look something like this:
Day One: Microdose
Day Two: Off day (when a lot of folks still report positive effects)
Day Three: Off day (to get it totally out of your system)
Day Four: Microdose again
Mushroom expert, Paul Stamets, also has developed his own protocol specifically for microdosing Psilocybe cubensis mushrooms. He recommends folks microdose for five days in a row then take two days off. He also recommends combining microdoses of psilocybin containing mushrooms with the supplements Niacin (a form of Vitamin B3) and Lion’s Mane (a non-psychedelic medicinal mushroom).
It’s not totally necessary to follow either of these protocols too strictly, but they do seem to help some folks get out of ruts and improve their mood. Many of of the microdosers I interviewed for my book and surveyed for this story started out trying one of these two protocols, but ended up microdosing less frequently as needed.
Whatever you decide to do, it can really help to keep a microdose journal that keeps track of your dose, other substance intake (including caffeine and cannabis), mood, sleep, energy levels and any sort of effects you feel from the microdose. This can help you figure out your own best protocol and dose and to decide if microdosing is the right tool for you.