Microdosing for ADHD can be beneficial for people whose symptoms are not well managed by conventional ADHD medication. Microdosing ADHD regimens vary, but mushrooms are popular. Safely microdosing for mental health can be done with the right knowledge. We explore the impact of magic mushrooms on adult ADHD symptoms.
Living with ADHD before the internet was hard. Living with it in our technology-saturated world is … complicated. Never before have so many algorithms and entities been competing for our brain space, and the “economy of attention” can feel particularly burdensome for those with ADHD and other mental health challenges. Focusing on what you want to focus on seems to involve jumping over more hurdles than ever.
On the other hand, some with ADHD see their fast, nontraditional thinking patterns as an asset in the modern world. Comedian Deborah Frances-White has described her ADHD as a “superpower” she was reluctant to “treat” with chemical compounds. Conventional treatments like stimulant medications can lead to dependence, side effects, and discomfort. As psychedelics continue their slow but steady rise in the mental health sphere, microdosing for ADHD could be a breakthrough.
Though many types of psychedelics could be used by microdosing ADHD sufferers, psilocybin mushrooms are a good place to start for a beginner. “Magic” mushrooms remain federally illegal in the United States, but regulations governing psilocybin mushrooms and other plant medicines are evolving at a state and local level in real-time. This is a result of rapidly changing public perception, the mental health crisis, and numerous scientific studies validating the mental health benefits of psilocybin mushrooms in a therapeutic setting.
What Does Microdosing for Mental Health Look Like?
While you might associate mushrooms with hippies hallucinating colorful flowers in camper vans, microdosing for adhd won’t take you to a different plane of time and space. Microdosing is the practice of taking about one-tenth of a recreational dose (i.e. a dose that would have you seeing stars, and colors, and meeting God, or a unicorn). For psilocybin mushrooms, that dose would be about 0.1-0.5 grams. At these minuscule levels, most people can go about their usual daily activities.
It’s not necessary to take a dose every day. One of the most common microdosing schedules revolves around a three-day cycle, dosing on the first day, observing lingering effects on the second day, and observing your baseline on the third day. This is known as the Fadiman Protocol, and you can learn more here. While microdosing for mental health, you should keep a journal of your dosages and the effects you’re noticing. Because psychedelic medicine is still controversial and legally prohibited in most areas, it’s often challenging to find support and resources. That’s why we’ve pulled together free resources like our articles, a free microdosing guide, and 1:1 coaching.
Proponents of microdosing for ADHD say these small doses hit the sweet spot, improving focus, mood, and even time perception without the need to have a radical psychedelic experience. During the past few decades of psychedelic research, studies usually focused on participants’ reactions to larger psychedelic doses given in controlled settings. This is due largely to fear of psychedelics, and the tight restrictions put on their use—even in a medical context— during the 1970s. The effects of larger doses are understood better by science than microdosing because of these logistical issues, but such an intense experience is a high bar of entry for those seeking treatment.
Losing your ‘superpower’?
“A friend had phoned me and told me that she had taken a trip to the desert and done ayahuasca,” Deborah Frances-White wrote about first becoming interested in psychedelic therapy. “She said it had healed so many of her traumatized wounds with visionary reconciliations and not slowed down her speedy, creative brain at all.”
Frances-White was diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood – “first in the green room by other comedians, then by a doctor,” she joked. She observes that many of her colleagues in comedy have ADHD and the idea of “rewiring” her brain to help deal with the downsides of the disorder worried her. Would she lose her edge?
“I am sure there are many people with ADHD who have trained themselves to be great in office environments, but I suspect it’s too late for me, so I need to hold on to that talk-fast-and-mind-map skill,” she said. “That is why at music festivals I always said no to anything that might change my brain chemistry.”
Frances-White chose to experience a larger dose of magic truffles, which still contain psilocybin and psilocin but are less tightly regulated than mushrooms, especially outside of the United States. At a retreat in Amsterdam, Frances-White had a productive experience.
“It didn’t feel scary at all – it was like I had gone back to the ground and become part of the energy of the world,” Frances-White said. “Still alive, but rested, without the constant demands of email.”
Learn to microdose with our free guide.
A 2022 study of people who self-medicated with a psychedelic substance found that microdosing did ease psychological symptoms, but was perhaps not as helpful as a full-tilt psychedelic “trip.”
The effectiveness of microdosing “to alleviate symptoms of a range of mental or physiological diagnoses is higher compared to conventionally offered treatment options, and lower than regular (‘full’) psychedelic doses,” the authors wrote.
This finding doesn’t necessarily mean that microdosing for ADHD isn’t the best option for some.
“It can be said with more certainty that (microdosing) could be beneficial and of therapeutic value for individuals diagnosed with ADHD or having severe ADHD complaints, even in addition to first-line pharmacological interventions,” the authors said.
Many participants in the study also had other diagnoses and sought to treat broader psychological concerns. ADHD in adulthood is estimated to have “a high lifetime comorbidity rate of 60-80%” the authors said, noting a high prevalence of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders in people with ADHD. People who suffer from anxiety or have had a difficult relationship with substances in the past might understandably be turned off from the idea of “tripping.”
Though psychedelic experiences have been shown to treat those conditions in clinical settings, accessibility to safe, comforting places to trip such as clinics and retreats are out of reach for most people. Though you might need to do some digging on where to buy microdosing mushrooms in your area, starting with a small dose as an inexperienced, self-guided -psychedelic user is less intimidating than embarking on a mind-bending journey you’re not sure about.
Microdosing supporters report a wide range of benefits from microdosing. Anecdotes are backed up by the early clinical research done on microdosing in just the past few years. Effects vary, but people treating their ADHD through microdosing consistently reported these benefits:
The authors of this study noted that improved focus was reported by only 27% of participants, less than they had expected. However, only 8% of participants said microdosing reduced their focus.
The study was also interested in the importance of intention when microdosing. Psychedelic research pioneer Timothy Leary stressed the tenets of “set and setting” when ingesting psychedelics. The authors wondered if microdosing adhered to the same principles Leary applied to full trips, and hypothesized that people who were microdosing with intense purpose and expectation would see better results. They surprisingly found that intention did not seem to correlate with higher success in treating ADHD symptoms. The takeaway here is that microdosing could in the future be prescribed and used like a conventional medication, with less of a need for the facilitators and controlled settings that larger psychedelic doses for mental health have required in the past.
In a separate survey of microdosers, authors concluded that participants who were using conventional ADHD medication alongside microdosing saw the same benefits as those who weren’t. People with other psychological diagnoses also saw the same rates of success as those who didn’t.
Overall, research so far indicates that microdosing has a host of potential benefits depending on the individual, with very few risks to physical and psychological health.
Conventional pharmacological treatments like stimulants methylphenidate and amphetamine have been proven to work effectively at easing ADHD symptoms, but high rates of disuse by people who have prescriptions for these and non-stimulant ADHD treatments indicate that the side effects aren’t worth it for many.
The authors of a 2022 survey of people who had tried microdosing to treat their ADHD noted that approximately 20% of ADHD patients discontinue their prescribed medication after six to nine months. 30% of patients discontinue after one year, and after two years, half of them will stop taking medication.
Among the study’s 159 participants, 53% had used conventional medication to treat their ADHD in the past but had stopped. One-third of the participants used conventional medication during the study, and 14% had never used it. The most common reason participants cited for discontinuing medication was physical and psychological side effects. Many participants specifically said that “feeling little emotions” was one of the most unpleasant effects they experienced with medication.
In stark contrast to these numbers, participants in a 2020 study reported very few side effects from psychedelic microdosing ADHD regimens.
“Counter to our prediction, the most common challenge participants associated with microdosing was ‘None,’” the authors wrote.
The next top three challenges reported by participants using magic mushrooms were physiological discomfort, impaired focus, and impaired energy. Less than 10% of participants using mushrooms said they experienced these issues, however.
Can I Get Similar Benefits From Mushrooms like Lion’s Mane?
The shaggy lion’s mane mushroom has been circling around the internet as another alternative to ADHD medications. It has a long history of use in traditional East Asian medicine and is available in supplement form at most natural foods stores. Various studies have proven some validity to claims that lion’s mane can protect the body from nerve damage and promote a healthy stomach lining. However, its use as a brain-boosting supplement is not yet well-supported by scientific research.
“No research shows that it impacts the production or transmission of dopamine, the primary neurotransmitter involved in ADHD,” Ari Tuckman and Stephanie Starks wrote in ADDitude Magazine. “Instead, the product’s marketers cite research done on animals or in test tubes that suggest the potential for general cognitive or health benefits and propose that it could benefit ADHD — without citing any clinical studies on humans for support.”
What About Mega-Doses of Caffeine?
You’re probably already aware of caffeine’s general cognitive benefits. The widely popular drug boosts alertness and focus in the short-term, and has also been shown to improve learning and complex problem-solving. Trying to use larger doses of caffeine to replace the effects of a prescription stimulant might seem logical, but is unlikely to achieve the desired results.
Taking a large dose of caffeine at the beginning of the day will cause the caffeine levels in your blood to rise quickly … probably too quickly. With a six-hour half-life, caffeine stays in your system for a decent amount of the day and if you’ve taken more than your system can tolerate you’re likely to experience side effects such as irritability, jitteriness, headaches, anxiety, and insomnia.
Aside from the high likelihood of overdosage, caffeine is a bad substitute for prescription stimulants because it doesn’t have the same chemistry. Conventional ADHD treatments activate the part of the brain that improves executive functioning, which caffeine does not target.
So, you want to try microdosing because it sounds like something you might want to try, but you’re not sure where to start. In most of the world, your biggest hurdle to trying this treatment is probably knowing where to buy microdosing mushrooms, and how strict the laws of your location are about their possession and use of psychedelics.
In the United States, psychedelic substances are still largely illegal in most places. Laws can change fast, though, and your location will make all the difference. Magic mushrooms have been seeing a bit of a renaissance in public opinion lately, and they’ve been decriminalized in parts of California, Colorado, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Washington State. Oregon has legalized mushrooms for therapeutic use and decriminalized them statewide. Internationally, magic mushrooms are legal in Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Brazil. Psilocybin truffles are legal in The Netherlands.
Political efforts around the world continue for the legalization of magic mushrooms and other psychedelics, and the evolving scientific literature on microdosing for ADHD will be an important part of understanding this new frontier of mental health.
Learn to microdose with our free guide.
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