So, you are probably wondering, "can microdosing psychedelics regularly benefit my mental health?" More and more people are ingesting tiny amounts of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, and ayahuasca to combat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Here's what the top experts and latest studies are suggesting:
What is microdosing?
Microdosing psychedelic drugs is the practice of consuming very low, sub-hallucinogenic doses of a psychedelic substance, such as psilocybin-rich mushrooms or lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Individuals qualified to speak on the matter report that, when a person microdoses correctly, they actually won't hallucinate at all. Instead, it's all about the sub-perceptual effects. (5)
Mental health and microdosing in a post-pandemic landscape
According to WHO, just in the first year of the pandemic, there was a massive 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression on a worldwide scale. And the pandemic disproportionately impacts the mental health of both young people and women. All of whom are more likely than men to develop symptoms of mental disorders. (13)
Interestingly enough, experts say surveys suggest that more people have begun microdosing on psychedelics to experiment with possible benefits to overall wellbeing during the pandemic. One 2021 survey even found that around half of the respondents who both microdosed and took psychiatric drugs, reported reducing or completely stopping their prescribed medications, although it’s critical to note that such a decision should be under the supervision of a physician (3)
The growing phenomenon of microdosing
Over the past few years, psychedelic drugs have gone from a taboo topic to one gaining widespread acceptance in mainstream society. In fact, psychedelics are heading toward being approved for general medical use and it's already designated psychedelics such as psilocybin, MDMA, and LSD as "breakthrough therapy" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (10)
Though many people are intrigued by the possible benefits that psychedelics hold for mental health – more people are a bit deterred from taking too strong of a dose that may provoke an hours-long journey and/or render them severely impaired to go about any typical day to day activities.
That's why more and more people are looking at microdosing.
How many people are microdosing?
No one knows for sure just how many adults have dipped their toes into the pool of microdosing, but the popularity is undoubtedly growing. In a Subreddit analysis of a discussion group on microdosing, subscriptions jumped from 27,000 subscribers in 2018 to 183,000 earlier this year (2022). (7)
Who is microdosing?
When microdosing first came on the 'scene' over a decade ago, microdosing was mostly limited to niche groups, with even fewer physicians and healthcare workers getting behind the research. Now, things have changed.
Proponents of microdosing do not suggest the practice to experience an intense trip, but instead opt for a small amount that creates a subtle effect, giving an overall feeling of presence, peacefulness, and grounding according to anecdotal reports. Some people may choose to imagine it as a healthy way to stay tuned in.
It is similar to a lifestyle choice like trying to cut out meat or eating a raw diet – and many do not consider microdosing as 'doing drugs.' Instead, individuals experimenting with microdosing often report it as part of an effort to achieve a higher standard of wellness, and safely.
Pursuing better mental health with microdosing
In a study published in Psychopharmacology, scientists asked participants their reasons for microdosing; 21% of the individuals responded that they used microdosing for depression therapy, and 7% said it helps alleviate anxiety symptoms. Another 9% of respondents said they used microdosing to help with other mental health disorders. (8)
Researchers found that microdosing DMT helped the animal subjects overcome fears and anxieties in a test commonly used to examine PTSD and generalized anxiety disorders in one animal study. (2)
Although it’s far too early to draw conclusions, another notable study compared the effect of microdosing to more conventional treatments for depression and anxiety found that respondents felt microdosing was more effective than other forms of therapy they tried – though less effective than higher doses of psychedelics. (4)
What drugs can be microdosed?
The most popular psychedelics to microdose include LSD (or Acid) and magic mushrooms, as we mentioned earlier, though other substances are often suggested in microdosing communities, such as: (11)
- Cannabis (Weed)
- N, N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT)
- Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDMA)
It is the 'classic' hallucinogens, like magic mushrooms and LSD, which are considered the most common and well-studied substances for microdosing. With that said, conclusive medical research on the safety and/or efficacy of practices associated with ‘microdosing’ is still extremely limited and in its infancy. Significant caution should be assumed when evaluating reports on microdosing. (11)
How much to microdose?
What is a typical microdose amount?A study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology states that the technical definition of a microdose is a dose of a psychedelic drug that is only 1% of the active dose, although this is not an agreed upon (nor established conclusively as safe) figure. (6)
However, a more broad take on microdosing suggested from lay people on the subject is taking 5-10% of what is considered one standard recreational dose. This 5-10% amount anecdotally is purported for more enhanced feelings of well-being, more productive work hours, diminished anxiety, and less feelings of depression. (5)
How long do people microdose for?
When microdosing, you often take 5-10% of an average recreational dose of a given hallucinogenic for a few months. People who have taken psychedelics for several months report increased mental stamina, empathy, creativity, and spiritual awareness. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that people tend to take small doses regularly or semi-regularly for an extended period and that the duration of use varies with each individual. (11)
How should you microdose? | With matcha, of course!
You can add a small amount of the psychedelic of your choice to your morning matcha (sprinkled on top or added in liquid form), sprinkle it on top of a fresh batch of cookies, or even steep it with bagged tea. Mushroom tea is easy to make.
What are the possible benefits of microdosing?
A limited number of studies have directly looked at microdosing and health, although most health properties on the matter stem only from individuals’ experiences, and are unproven at this point in time until further medical research is conducted. Most beliefs include the possibility for improved mental health and general well-being.
If you asked the average microdoser, you’d likely hear that taking a small amount of a psychedelic helps them with work productivity, keeping their attention in the present, stopping their inner monologue, and boosting their ability to collaborate and think creatively. According to a study in the Harm Reduction Journal, several benefits are reported by microdosers: (1)
- Generally improved sense of well-being
- Reduced symptoms of stress
- Better attention span
- Boosts mood, optimism, and overall appreciation for life
- Better body functionality
- Alleviated anxiety
- More motivation and self-confidence
- Combats depression
The available research is inconclusive about the prevalence of positive outcomes though, and does not answer or guarantee them whatsoever.
What are the risks of microdosing?
As far as the experts say, there are not too many well-studied risks associated with microdosing.
Though if/when microdosing does prove to be safe and effective, some experts worry that recreational use of psychedelics could render them useless later in life. In other words, if people are using it regularly, experts fear they will become tolerant after frequent use and underscore the impact of their therapeutic effect when someone really needs it. (1)
And even if microdosing doesn't trigger hallucinations in images and racing thoughts like high doses do, some microdosers have reported some levels of discomfort and impairment, and long-term side effects, both physically and psychologically, from routine use are also totally unknown.
The lack of research is also because microdosing, as people do it in their day-to-day lives, is quite challenging to replicate in a study. This presents quite the dilemma for both researchers and microdosers. (1) (5) (9)
The challenges of studying microdosing psychedelics
Because psychedelics are illegal, U.S. law technically prohibits scientists from giving study participants a set schedule for ingesting the drugs. Instead, the researchers can only provide the drug under approved studies (5)
Who should microdose?
There are very few qualified healthcare providers who can recommend microdosing, most can only help you navigate the risk. Every single person should demonstrate extreme care in evaluating risks, legalities, and possible outcomes when learning about microdosing of psychedelic drugs. It is widely agreed though, that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid microdosing, as well as any individual suffering from any kind of psychological disorder, as there are significantly more complicating risks for these populations. (5) (1)
Everyone should always ask their healthcare provider before moving forward with any psychedelics.
The bottom line – microdosing is a new frontier of wellness.
Despite psilocybin and other psychedelics being illegal in most instances, the growing reports of people turning to these products is hard to ignore. In particular, at least one consensus of interest surrounds possible future therapies for depression, anxiety, and improving overall sense of wellbeing.
If you are considering microdosing, we suggest talking with a trusted healthcare provider with expertise on the subject matter and who also knows your medical history..
If you are looking to combat symptoms of depression and anxiety, drinking matcha daily may also help too! Do not discount the beneficial properties of healthy natural products like tea, and well-rounded diet. There have been a robust amount of studies done on the healthful benefits of matcha green tea powder -- a rich source of antioxidants, l-theanine, chlorophyll, and more.
There are lot's of different ways you can prepare matcha and ingredients you can add to find the flavor profile that appeals to you. One of our favorites is a mango and strawberry matcha latte made by @Norachan.
You may enjoy our articles on combating depression with matcha and just how matcha naturally lowers anxiety within minutes.
- Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Christopher, A., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Dinh-Williams, L. A., Hui, K., & Hapke, E. (2019). Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook. Harm Reduction Journal, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-019-0308-4
- Cameron, L. P., Benson, C. J., DeFelice, B. C., Fiehn, O., & Olson, D. E. (2019). Chronic, Intermittent Microdoses of the Psychedelic N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) Produce Positive Effects on Mood and Anxiety in Rodents. ACS Chemical Neuroscience, 10(7), 3261–3270. https://doi.org/10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00692
- Global Drug Survey. (2022, March 2). Global Drug Survey 2022 [Press release]. https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/2022WowReport_ExecSummary.pdf
- Hutten, N. R. P. W., Mason, N. L., Dolder, P. C., & Kuypers, K. P. C. (2019). Self-Rated Effectiveness of Microdosing With Psychedelics for Mental and Physical Health Problems Among Microdosers. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00672
- Kuypers, K. P. (2020). The therapeutic potential of microdosing psychedelics in depression. Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, 10, 204512532095056. https://doi.org/10.1177/2045125320950567
- Kuypers, K. P., Ng, L., Erritzoe, D., Knudsen, G. M., Nichols, C. D., Nichols, D. E., Pani, L., Soula, A., & Nutt, D. (2019). Microdosing psychedelics: More questions than answers? An overview and suggestions for future research. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 33(9), 1039–1057. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881119857204
- Lea, T., Amada, N., & Jungaberle, H. (2019). Psychedelic Microdosing: A Subreddit Analysis. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 52(2), 101–112. https://doi.org/10.1080/02791072.2019.1683260
- Lea, T., Amada, N., Jungaberle, H., Schecke, H., Scherbaum, N., & Klein, M. (2020). Perceived outcomes of psychedelic microdosing as self-managed therapies for mental and substance use disorders. Psychopharmacology, 237(5), 1521–1532. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05477-0
- López-Giménez, J. F., & González-Maeso, J. (2017). Hallucinogens and Serotonin 5-HT2A Receptor-Mediated Signaling Pathways. Behavioral Neurobiology of Psychedelic Drugs, 45–73. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2017_478
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. (2017, August 26). FDA Grants Breakthrough Therapy Designation for MDMA-Assisted Therapy for PTSD, Agrees on Special Protocol Assessment for Phase 3 Trials [Press release]. https://maps.org/news/media/press-release-fda-grants-breakthrough-therapy-designation-for-mdma-assisted-psychotherapy-for-ptsd-agrees-on-special-protocol-assessment-for-phase-3-trials/
- Polito, V., & Stevenson, R. J. (2019). A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics. PLOS ONE, 14(2), e0211023. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0211023
- Rootman, J. M., Kryskow, P., Harvey, K., Stamets, P., Santos-Brault, E., Kuypers, K. P. C., Polito, V., Bourzat, F., & Walsh, Z. (2021). Adults who microdose psychedelics report health related motivations and lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-microdosers. Scientific Reports, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01811-4
- World Health Organization (WHO). (2022, March 2). COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide [Press release]. https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide