Microdosing is a technique that began in labs for testing, but it has become more popular in recent years. Essentially, microdosing is taking small amounts of psychedelic drugs to experience mental, emotional, or physical benefits.
When someone engages in microdosing, they typically take one-20th to one-tenth of a recreational dose, according to this report.
The general idea is to take a low dose of the drug every few days. The amount of the drug taken is too small to experience the normal high or “trip.” The amount would, however, be enough where the effects can be studied at a cellular level.
Microdosing in the sense of recreational drug use involves mainly psychedelic drugs. You take a little bit of a psychedelic, but not enough to make you think the walls are breathing or the trees are talking to you. A microdose is intended to be just enough so that the user can feel a slight, discernible difference.
Some drugs that are popular to take in microdoses include LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), psilocybin mushrooms, acid, DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine), and MDMA (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine).
People microdose to aid their creative endeavors and improve focus, creativity, productivity, and more. However, microdosing on psychedelics can still lead to recreational use and addiction, leaving a user prone to serious health risks.
The effects of drugs like LSD with problems, like anxiety and depression, have been shown in multiple studies over the years. It has been suggested that they’ve been able to treat eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The biggest qualm about research is that it’s mostly done on rats rather than humans.
More research has been done in recent years, which has also shown that psychedelics can broaden the way our minds think. That means they get the neurons firing off so that we can expand creatively and have improved problem-solving skills.
Of course, most people aren’t exactly into the idea of “tripping” on some of the more popular psychoactive drugs. As many people as there are who describe LSD as some type of spiritual experience, there are just as many anecdotes about bad trips and very uncomfortable experiences.
One bad trip can be enough to turn you off to psychedelics forever. That’s because it can really mess with your head and cause you to see and believe all sorts of horrible things. Most people don’t want to risk feeling that sort of discomfort or terror.
Microdosing is an alternative to just taking these drugs in the normal dosage, and it is much less likely to cause negative responses. That’s why many people might prefer to try certain drugs this way and decrease their risk of having a bad trip.
To some, choosing to microdose on a psychedelic drug, as opposed to taking a larger dose, seems like a practical idea. Psychedelic trips can continue for hours and involve much preparation. Smaller doses, they believe, can be more manageable.
Psychedelic drugs are the most common type of drug to use when microdosing, but there are other types as well. The use of psychedelic drugs is more common because they’re meant to intensify your perception of the world and increase creativity. These include LSD, DMT, ibogaine, and ayahuasca.
Another drug that people microdose are nootropics. Examples of nootropic substances that are microdosed include caffeine, creatine, Panax ginseng, phenotropil, and Ginko Biloba.
Some say this can help strengthen your cognitive function without the risks or dangers of addiction that come with other drugs like nicotine, caffeine, or even cannabis.
Another option is those drugs that are already meant to help you focus, such as Ritalin. When the drug is taken in smaller doses, it is hoped those doses can help your brain function better without the risks of taking a full dose.
Sometimes people try microdosing other drugs for similar reasons. One of those drugs would be MDMA, also known as Molly or ecstasy. This drug is popular at raves or clubs, and people report that it enhances their experience.
Is microdosing MDMA dangerous?
Health experts say it is dangerous because it has methamphetamine or stimulant properties. MDMA is toxic to the body and can seriously damage the heart. In large doses, of course, MDMA can be dangerous or deadly. But even in small doses, as in microdosing, MDMA can damage the heart.
Microdosing on MDMA is generally not even recommended. That’s because many are aware of the risks and dangers associated with it.
Among them is death, according to this report from The Third Wave. A study that tracked 29 people who took ecstasy in high doses more than twice a week reported that 28 percent of them suffered from heart valve defects, which could lead to serious heart problems. However, the report states that the drug can still significantly impact the organ in low doses.
The primary concern with microdosing is that medical professionals don’t understand the long-term physiological or psychological effects of it. There’s not enough clear evidence or research completed yet. While microdosing might be helpful for someone who deals with anxiety or depression, they could discover in the future that such a practice has damaged their body.
While there is scant evidence around the dangers of microdosing, one doctor told Healthline that the practice might not work for people who have anxiety.
Also, there have been some reports that people who have microdosed psilocybin mushrooms have reported abdominal issues.
Still, danger and mystery shroud this practice, and its deleterious effects may not be known for some time.
“The definition of a microdose is that you don’t notice the subjective effect, but that doesn’t mean it’s not having any effect on you. We don’t know what the risks in the long term might be,” James Rucker told the BBC.
Microdosing every day or every few days can be dangerous. Even in minuscule amounts, psychedelics can cause users to build tolerance over time. That tolerance manifests as your body grows used to the effects of the drug and needs more to experience the effects of a previous dose.
When people become dependent on certain drugs, their bodies become used to them. Without their preferred substance, they experience withdrawal symptoms. That dependence can bloom into addiction, where the doses are no longer “micro” but recreational.
Psychedelics or hallucinogens are no different.
Over time, the body requires the drug to function. Psychedelics don’t usually cause a physical addiction the way other drugs do, but they can still cause psychological addiction.
Since microdosing is meant to improve your awareness and creativity, it is easy to become addicted to that sensation and want to continue to experience it. Microdosing most likely shouldn’t be done repeatedly over a long period.
Otherwise, there is a likelihood that those doses can grow larger, leaving you susceptible to a number of short and long-term effects associated with these drugs.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that along with hallucinations, the short-term physical and psychological effects of hallucinogenic substances like LSD, mushrooms, DMT, and peyote include:
Though rare, the long-term effects associated with these drugs can include:
Though microdosing is illegal in many parts of the world, there are still people who are using psychedelic drugs at the microdose level to see if they can experience the benefits.
If you’re microdosing and you’ve found that you want to stop, but can’t, you may need to reach out for help from an addiction specialist. Without knowing the long-term negative effects that can occur, it’s best to stop microdosing and try healthier alternatives.
Healthline. (n.d.). The 14 Best Nootropics and Smart Drugs Reviewed. Retrieved from from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nootropics#section10
Healthline. (n.d.). Microdosing: Benefits and Risks. Retrieved from from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/the-benefits-risks-with-microdosing#8
Magazine, B. D. (2018, May 03). Everything You Need to Know About Microdosing's Micromoment. Retrieved from from https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/microdosing-guide-and-explainer.html
McCracken, D. (2019, February 17). Study of Microdosing Psychedelics Finds Mixed Bag of Effects. Retrieved from from https://psychcentral.com/news/2019/02/16/study-of-microdosing-psychedelics-finds-mixed-bag-of-effects/142983.html
Microdosing reduces depression and mind wandering but increases neuroticism, according to first-of-its-kind study. (2019, February 14). Retrieved from from https://www.psypost.org/2019/02/microdosing-reduces-depression-and-mind-wandering-but-increases-neuroticism-according-to-first-of-its-kind-study-53131
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Hallucinogens. Retrieved from from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hallucinogens
Nye, C. (2017, April 10). Microdosing: The people taking LSD with their breakfast. Retrieved from from https://www.bbc.com/news/health-39516345
Smith, P. (2019, June 10). Why Microdosing MDMA Is A Bad Idea. Retrieved from from https://thethirdwave.co/microdosing-mdma/#_ftn1
Weiss, H. (2019, March 05). A New Chapter in the Science of Psychedelic Microdosing. Retrieved from from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/03/psychedelic-microdosing-depression-anxiety/584119/