Microdosing 101

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing is a new health trend that is helping people improve performance, reduce anxiety, enhance creativity, and find joy.

Min read
Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT
February 5, 2023

Microdosing  is all over the media, from the attention received by Moms on Mushrooms to the Netflix release of “How To Change Your Mind”, created from the book by Michael Pollan with the same name. It seems like everyone is talking about microdosing.

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. It seems like there’s no limit to who is exploring the ways that psilocybin can improve their quality of life.

And with good reasons! Microdosing psychedelics, such as psilocybin, has been shown by studies like this one from Johns Hopkins University and this one from Scientific Reports to help reduce the symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and stress. In this article, we will explore what microdosing can do for you, the current research to support these claims, benefits and side effects of microdosing, and some tips and tricks for anyone wanting to explore microdosing. For more information, you can download our Free Microdosing Guide.

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing refers to the act of taking sub-perceptible dosages of a medicine or a psychedelic substance, commonly psilocybin mushrooms or LSD. At Retreat, we specialize in microdosing mushrooms, so this article focuses on psilocybin.

It’s important to note a few things. You should never feel the psychedelic effects of the substance you’re microdosing (such as visuals), which is what is meant by the term “sub-perceptual”. In that sense, microdosing is considered safe to engage in throughout your daily life. If you are microdosing correctly, you can drive a car, work normally, and  engage with society. The benefit of this way of using psychedelics is that you can experience the benefits over time without having to do a heavy dose. Please consult with a medical professional before starting a microdosing protocol.

What are the Benefits of Microdosing? 

There are many benefits reported from Microdosers. Here is a list of just some of these benefits and research to accompany these claims! When you download our Free Microdosing Guide or join our Microdosing Program you will explore these benefits in greater depth. 

Mental benefits may include:

- Clearer Awareness; Improved productivity;

- Increase in concentration and focus;

- Better decision making, attributed to increased clarity of purpose and resulting in an increased overall sense of well-being;

- Taking responsibility for your actions and perspectives;

- Decreased depression, tension, stress, and anxiety;

- Decreased procrastination;

- Greater awareness and presence;

- Increased optimism; and

- Reduction of depressive symptoms.

This study from 2019 explored the experience of 278 microdosers (mushrooms or LSD were used) and found that 26.6% of participants experienced an improved mood and 14.8% reported increased focus. This study from 2019 found that some microdosers using LSD or psilocybin reported decreased levels of depression and stress over a six week period. What’s more, this 2019 study found that people who sought psychological support during and after microdosing psychedelics experienced improvements in their symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Emotional benefits may include:

- A greater sense of clarity on who you are and your purpose;

- Ability for self-reflection and honesty; Increased connection to yourself, your community, and your world;

- Ability to release patterns, thoughts, habits and/or people that no longer serve you;

- Strengthened ability to identify and sit with uncomfortable emotions; and

- A deeper connection to the different parts of yourself and to your environment.

Physical benefits may include:

- Better, more sustained sleep;

- More physical energy; Less physical pain, including reduced PMS symptoms;

- More connection and awareness to the physical body; and

- Can support you in quitting negative physical habits and addictions.

There’s more to understand about how microdosing can help users quit addictions, but for now, one study found that 84 percent of participants significantly reduced their drinking to more manageable levels after taking a psychedelic (the majority of them experienced alcoholism).

Spiritual Benefits include: Cultivating compassion, curiosity, humility, openness & courage; Increased optimism, confidence, openness, gratitude, grace, creativity; Increased child-like curiosity; Increased sense of community; Greater presence and awareness, including emotional awareness; Greater sense of purpose in life.

This study from 2019 concluded that microdosers of LSD and psilocybin reported increased creativity and open-mindedness, and may have to do with what researchers found in a 2014 study: that psilocybin encourages different parts of the brain to communicate in novel ways.

Is Microdosing Legal?

The regulatory landscape of psychedelics is complex. 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.

Oregon passed two measures with historic implications in November of 2020: The Psilocybin Service Initiative (PSI 2020) and the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act (DATRA)

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.

Is Microdosing Safe?

Microdosing is considered relatively safe when done properly and with professional guidance. That being said, it’s definitely not for everyone. 

Psilocybin mushrooms are non-toxic, in that it is impossible to overdose. They are grown in nature—and unlike nearly all other drugs, as well as sugar—psilocybin is not toxic, lethal, or addictive. So, if you are handfuls of  mushrooms (we do not recommend), you would be on a mental journey, but phsycially you would not overdose. Similarly, they are not addictive, in that you will not have the urge or need to use them regularly.

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Microdosing Side Effects

There are some minor side effects to consider when microdosing. Though most people (96%) experience no side effects, it’s worth mentioning potential side effects.

Remember, when microdosing, you will only consume a sub-perceptible dosage, which means that you will not feel any psychedelic or hallucinogenic effects from the medicine.  However, microdosing is not appropriate for everyone, especially if the person is extremely sensitive to the effects of psychedelic compounds.

Possible Side Effects

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.

Who Shouldn't Microdose?

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. We offer a guided 8-week microdosing program, where you will go through full medical screenings and speak with a psychedelic coach before microdosing.

What about Microdosing Interactions with Certain Medications?

Patients taking SSRIs or other antidepressants are usually asked to stop taking their medications before engaging in clinical trials with psychedelics. At Retreat, we are well aware of the health challenges presented by antidepressants and SSRIs. Because of the interaction of both psilocybin and antidepressants, we are happy to work with you and your doctor to recommend the best course of action. 

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:

  • Apomorphine
  • Benzocaine
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Cannabidiol
  • Clonazepam
  • Fluticasone
  • Ketamine
  • Lithium carbonate
  • Lorazepam
  • ​​Oxycodone
  • St. John's Wort

Will I Hallucinate When Microdosing? (No)

When executed properly and as directed by a professional, you shouldn’t hallucinate or feel the psychedelic effects of psilocybin. The intention is to be sub-perceptual. However, please contact a medical professional if you experience any reaction not anticipated before microdosing. 

However, if you get the dosage wrong, it is possible you would feel minor hallucenogenic effects, such as brighter colors, mild euphoria, enhanced joy, or alterations in perception.

In order to avoid this, experts recommend starting with 0.25 G and building from there. Again, as the adage says: “Start low, go slow.” It’s also a good idea to start your microdosing protocol on a weekend.  Learn tips like these and more in our Free Microdosing Guide, or our full Microdosing Program. 

And, let’s not forget, your body is a network of hormones and chemicals. Stress, anxiety, menstrual cycles, and the foods we eat can interact with psilocybin. Every body is different, and we want you to microdose as safely as possible.

Talk to your doctor before microdosing any substances to rule out any health conditions that may be exacerbated by psychedelics. 

What is Considered a Microdose?

To reap the benefits of a psychedelic without feeling any of the hallucinogenic effects, you’ll likely be recommended to take 1/10 to 1/20 of a normal dose, or 0.1 to 0.5 grams. This amount, in most circumstances, is sub-perceptual, meaning you should not experience hallucinations or mind-altering effects. For a full breakdown of dosage, please read our Microdosing Dosage 101 companion article.

What is a Microdosing Protocol?

 A microdosing protocol is a structured schedule for which days to microdose and which days not to microdose. Typically, you won’t take a microdose each day of the week.

There are two well-knownmicrodosing protocols: The Fadiman Protocol and the Stamets Stack. It’s important to find one that works for you. To learn more, please download our Free Microdosing Guide or join our Microdosing Concierge Program. 

What to Consider Before Microdosing

But microdosing isn’t for everyone and it carries some risks. We want you to feel good if you decide to microdose, so we’ve created a list of “for your considerations” to ponder before you decide to take the plunge.

Psilocybin is Non-Toxic

According to David Nutt, a neuropsychopharmacologist who specializes in researching the effect drugs have on the brain and the connection between those drugs and addiction, anxiety, and sleep disorders, stated in his book Drugs - Without the Hot Air that psilocybin mushrooms are the least harmful drug and, “It’s virtually impossible to die from an overdose of them; they cause no physical harm; and if anything they are anti-addictive, as they cause a sudden tolerance which means that if you immediately take another dose it will probably have very little effect.” For more information, read the David McNutt harm study.

Microdosing Research is Somewhat Limited

Right now, most psilocybin and LSD studies are focusing more on the effects of macrodosing (or taking a larger dose of psychedelics to treat mental health conditions). 

These clinical trials have produced promising results. Researchers have discovered that psilocybin is effective at treating mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and drug and alcohol addiction and dependency. 

These macrodosing trials suggest that even microdosed amounts of psilocybin may help reduce the symptoms of mood disorders. 

What is Set & Setting in Microdosing?

Set and setting are important concepts in the use of psychedelic substances. Set refers to the mindset or mental state of the person who is taking the psychedelic, while setting refers to the environment in which the psychedelic is taken.

The "set" includes the individual's emotional state, beliefs, expectations, and past experiences. The individual's set can greatly influence their experience while under the influence of the psychedelic substance. For example, if a person is anxious or fearful, they may have a negative experience while under the influence of the psychedelic, while if they are relaxed and open-minded, they may have a more positive experience.

The "setting" includes the physical environment in which the psychedelic is taken, as well as the people who are present. The setting can also have a significant impact on the individual's experience. For example, if a person takes a psychedelic in a quiet, peaceful setting with people they trust, they may have a more positive experience than if they were in a chaotic or unfamiliar environment.

It is important to carefully consider both set and setting when using psychedelics, as they can greatly influence the outcome of the experience. Creating a supportive and safe environment and having a positive mindset can help to maximize the potential benefits of psychedelic use while minimizing the risk of negative side effects.

Retreat's Top 5 Tips for Microdosing

If you are ready to try microdosing, we want to support you throughout your entire journey. Here are five tips for microdosing to help get you started.

  1. Be Gentle & Positive With Your Expectations

Microdosing is by no means a “quick fix” or a “magic pill”. You will be changing as you microdose and you will want to take certain steps to improve your outcomes (we talk all about that in our Microdosing course). Your mind is the most powerful tool you possess. A recent experimental study suggested that the reported benefits of microdosing can be attributed to users’ expectations (also known as a placebo effect). This suggests that your expectations matter! Have positive expectations about your outcomes but know that you must also be willing to do the work. Be patient with yourself.

  1. Source your Psychedelic Medicine Safely

Not all psilocybin is grown equally, and it’s important to find a reputable source who uses organic methods, whenever possible, and has a knowledge of the various strains offered. They should be open to you asking questions and to recommending specific strains based on your needs. We explore safe sourcing in our Microdosing course.

Though a fairly newer concept, drug testing sites, where you can get your medicine tested for a fee, can help you determine your dosage, possible contaminants, and psilocybin mushroom strains.  

  1. Keep an Integration Journal

You will receive a journal when you sign up for our Microdosing Concierge Program, as well as many journal prompts and various ideas for your journaling practice. Journaling is a tangible way to show up for yourself in the here-and-now and can be very grounding. You can pair it with other soothing self-care rituals as well, like using essential oils or doing a quick meditation or breathing exercise to get calm and centered before going inward.

  1. Download Our Free Microdosing Guide & Join our Microdosing Program

We have a free guide to help ease you into the world of microdosing and a new course to help you navigate the world of microdosing! In the guide, we cover all of the basics when it comes to microdosing. In the course, we go more in depth on all things microdosing. Get your questions answered, discover microdosing resources, and connect with others who are starting their microdosing journeys.

  1. Join a Microdosing Retreat

We help you find retreats that will guide you through your first few microdosing sessions. Learn how to dose psilocybin and find out how your body responds to microdosing under the careful watch of psilocybin guides and therapists.

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About the Author

Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT

Rima is a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, & psychedelic integration specialist from Los Angeles but has been living in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica for close to a decade. From her home where the jungle meets the ocean, Rima has a virtual Psychotherapy practice, she hosts the “The Rima the Jungle Girl Podcast” and she leads plant medicine retreats. When Rima is not fulfilling her dreams through her work and service, she is probably surfing/somewhere under a waterfall, playing guitar/singing and/or laughing about something. Learn more at www.rimathejunglegirl.com.

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