Microdosing has been shown to improve aspects of mental health including depression and anxiety. We look at how microdosing can have a long-term impact on those currently taking prescription medications. While some need prescriptions to handle their symptoms, others are finding relief through therapy in conjunction with microdosing mushrooms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn't worth living.
More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness and you can't simply "snap out" of it. “
There are many theories on what causes depression from life circumstances to brain chemistry imbalances, from sluggish production of new neurons to nutritional deficiencies to low levels of neurotransmitters. We don’t really know for sure and the common treatments for depression until now have been traditional psychotherapy or psychotropic medications.
Many people who want to avoid taking medications long-term are exploring the ways that microdosing can help them with their depression.
Microdosing refers to the act of taking sub-perceptible dosages of a medicine or a psychedelic substance, most commonly psilocybin mushrooms or LSD. Microdosing mushrooms, in particular, has risen in popularity in recent years with people from all walks of life. You can read more about microdosing’s benefits and so much more in our blog post called “What is Microdosing?”.
A microdose of psilocybin normally ranges between 0.25 to 0.5 gram. A macrodose of psilocybin might start at 6 milligrams and go up from there, depending on how hallucinogenic a user may want their experience to be. Some users may take upwards of 5 or more grams in one sitting, though we don’t recommend that to anyone who is new to psychedelics, as many adverse outcomes may occur if not done in a safe set and setting, with preparation and intention.
In a 2020 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, Davis et al. wanted to know more about the effects of psilocybin on major depressive disorder (MDD). Studying 24 individuals with MDD in a randomized clinical trial, they found that participants who received immediate psilocybin-assisted therapy compared with delayed treatment showed improvement in depression severity both through clinician reporting one month later. They found that psilocybin-assisted therapy was efficacious in producing large, rapid, and sustained antidepressant effects in participants with depression.
In a 2021 follow-up study, the researchers followed the 24 participants for a year, tracking both the efficacy and safety of the use of psilocybin in treatments for MDD. Their findings show that in some patients, there were substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy that may sustain at least through 12 months.
In a 2016 NIH study, Griffiths and his colleagues wanted to know more about cancer patients who experience depression and anxiety and how psilocybin might help them. Overall, in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over trial, they observed that high-dose psilocybin produced large decreases in depressed mood and anxiety, along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety. Six months later, they found that these changes were sustained in about 80% of individuals. Participants agreed that the improvements in attitudes about life/self, mood, relationships, and spirituality that they experienced were due to the high-dose experience, with around 80% of them endorsing moderately or greater increased well-being/life satisfaction.
Since psychedelics have been regulated heavily throughout recent history, much of what we know comes from self-reports. In recent years, laboratory research interest into psychedelics has exploded and started to gain the funding it deserves. The answer to whether or not psychedelics can cure depression is still unknown, but many promising studies are exploring this very question.
Rootman and his colleagues looked at the comparison between those who microdose psychedelics (mainly psilocybin at 85% in their sample) versus those who don’t and the reported levels of anxiety and depression. They explored diverse microdose practices as it relates to dosage, frequency, and the practice of stacking. Their results indicate health and wellness motives and perceived mental health benefits among microdosers, but they also highlight the priority in the field for further research into the mental health consequences of microdosing.
Learn to microdose with our free guide.
1. Set Your Schedule
Choose your protocol (we recommend the Stamets Stack or the Fadiman Protocol). Start your protocol on a weekend (or your day off) to allow yourself the time and space to get acquainted with how microdosing feels, as well as what your unique psilocybin dosage will be.
2. Determine Your Best Dose
A typical microdose can range anywhere from 0.05 grams (50mg) to 0.50 grams (500mg). This highlights the importance of having an accurate digital milligram scale, unless you are using pre-measured microdose products. Metabolism, sensitivity, certain medications, alcohol & cannabis use, and weight are all factors that influence what will make the best dose for you. This can also change over time, as some microdosers find their sensitivity increases after building a relationship with psilocybin and changing some habits that can influence attunement to the mushroom.
3. Start Low, Go Slow
In psychedelic medicine, the popular adage “Start Low, Go Slow” is good to remember. Experts often recommend starting with a low dosage, at a dose of 0.05g or 0.10g, to avoid any unwanted psychedelic effects. You can increase your dosage incrementally until you find your “sweet spot.”
4. Microdose on an Empty Stomach
Many observers recommend taking your microdose on an empty stomach, first thing in the morning. This allows the plant medicine to be fully absorbed without competing with breakfast, enabling your body to absorb the medicine and ensuring you have consistent dosage experience. For those who may be a bit more sensitive to the effects, experimenting with taking the microdose after having a bit of food or smoothie can be helpful. Orange juice can be helpful to further activate the microdose. It is helpful to avoid drinking excess caffeine when you begin your protocol, to decrease any chances of anxiety.
5. Microdose in the Morning
Begin your microdosing routine in the morning, as psilocybin can be stimulating to the nervous system, and therefore you’ll want to mitigate any potential interruptions to sleep. Also, waking hours are when we can notice the effects on our thoughts, emotions, and habits— otherwise, we may miss the opportunity to notice those subtle insights.
6. Set Your Intentions
Rather than just taking the microdose in a handful of other supplements, take a minute or two to sit with the microdose in your hand, thinking of your intentions. This is a way to build a connection with the mushroom, which indigenous cultures believe to have a spirit and intelligence of its own. Maybe you speak your intentions out loud into the microdose or offer it a simple “Thank you.” This practice helps you to cultivate intention with your process and is another reminder to pause and practice mindfulness amidst a busy day.
7. Track Your Mood Daily
Microdose tracking is a powerful way to observe and gather insights during your microdosing journey. Mood tracking allows you to apply data to the process: setting your baseline and visualizing your gradual change. It also serves the dual benefit of helping you stay committed to your microdosing intentions and protocol.
Tracking your mood is helpful in visualizing and monitoring progress, whereas journaling allows for deeper reflection. Journaling can serve a dual benefit of setting goals, providing an outlet to express emotions, feelings, and experiences, and to reflect on your daily and weekly progress.
We believe that mood tracking and journaling are complementary, beneficial processes that together enable you to make the most of your microdosing journey.
At the federal level, psilocybin is listed as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. However, more than two dozen states and numerous localities have proposed bills or studies focused on decriminalizing or legalizing psychedelics, including the cities of Detroit and Ann Arbor, MI. It has also been deprioritized in over a dozen jurisdictions, including Northampton, M.A., Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, C.A.
State Senator Scott Weiner has been pushing to decriminalize the possession and use of small quantities of psychedelics in California, but the bill is currently stalled. Weiner hopes to reintroduce the bill in 2023.
1. Buy From a Trusted Source
If you’re planning on buying psilocybin, always do so from a trusted source. Ask your friends or family members for a referral or recommendation. Join an online community to learn about the best ways to source, dose, and journey on psilocybin. Do not source from Instagram or TikTok sellers. Always get a friend-of-a-friend referral. Ask about the source, strain, and dosage.
Typically, you will find pre-weighed capsules, dried mushrooms, or gummies.
Trust your gut. Mushrooms tend to make people kinder, gentler, and more connected to others and the environment. Many people who grow and facilitate mushrooms want to help others heal. If you’re getting aggressive, weird, or salesy type messages, it’s likely a scam—be mindful of the source, the referral, the communication style, and the energy.
2. See if you can Test Your Magic Mushrooms
Live in a jurisdiction where psilocybin is legal or decriminalized? You may be able to take your mushrooms to a testing center that will test your sample for potency, solvents, pesticides, contaminants, and more.
If allowed by the laws of your local jurisdiction, you may also be able to order psilocybin testing kits online to test the composition and concentration of magic mushrooms. Only 150 mg of magic mushrooms is needed to test the potency of up to 0.1 to 2% psilocybin concentration.
3. Grow Your Own
If you’re planning on microdosing long-term, you may want to grow your own magic mushrooms. This way, you’ll have a steady source of mushrooms for microdosing.
You’ll also know what strains you’re working with and if anything has been added to your shrooms during the grow process — because you’re the one who’s growing them! If you’re able to fit a kit or spores to grow, it can be a very rewarding and enriching experience to grow your own healing medicine.
Patients taking SSRIs or other antidepressants are usually asked to stop taking their medications before engaging in clinical trials with psychedelics.
Microdosing is a popular path for many who are navigating a desire to reduce antidepressants or begin a microdosing regimen while on SSRIs, but it should be done with the utmost care, in partnership with your doctor and/or therapist.
The following list named a few medications and supplements that may interact with psilocybin:
Researchers found that 4% of users reported less than positive experiences with microdosing in their paper “Might Microdosing Psychedelics Be Safe and Beneficial? An Initial Exploration”.
While 4% is a low number, it’s important to normalize that less than positive experiences can happen. Yes, you want to feel great, and you should. That comes with some self care and self work, as well. Just like the benefits can happen on different levels, a side effect can represent a lesson to be learned that’s not as obvious as its physical representation can suggest (like a headache or fatigue). You may be going through challenges physically or emotionally and microdosing can bring a new personal awareness that brings these challenges to the surface. This is all part of the “work” on your journey to self improvement.
Here are some more examples of potential side effects you could experience, though they are rare: Fatigue/Brain fog (This may be attributed to the fact that underlying emotional and/or physical needs are arising); Physiological discomforts, such as temperature dysregulation, digestive and appetite issues, tingling and numbing sensations; Building a tolerance (happens when users require more psilocybin each time to achieve the same effect); Challenges when coming to terms with changes in their consciousness and their perceptions; Uncomfortable emotions, feelings, thoughts, traumas that can come up; Reduced or impaired focus; Worsened or reduced mood; Feelings of disconnection (dissociation) - (can be a result of feeling like your current way of doing certain things isn’t serving you anymore and you’re wanting to re-ground into something more authentic); Excessive energy (restlessness, agitation); Physical risks can include nausea, headaches, or increased anxiety.
The most important consideration when considering whether to microdose is prior consultation with a licensed doctor or other professional expert.
If you suffer from a severe mental illness, or are on antidepressants, you should consult with your doctor before taking psilocybin. For people with a history of psychotic disorders, specifically schizophrenia, microdosing is not recommended. For people with severe anxiety disorders, you may experience worsened anxiety traits, though for many people, microdosing reduces anxiety.
At Retreat, we recommend that you speak to your doctor before engaging in any psychedelic journey, whether macro or micro.
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Learn to microdose with our free guide.
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