Psychedelic drugs have been capturing the attention of doctors and patients alike, for their increasingly proven potential to effect long-lasting improvements in the mental health of people who are suffering from conditions such as treatment-resistant depression.

Microdosing of psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin involves taking a fraction of a regular dose (a subperceptual dose) that is much lower than one would take if one wanted to “trip” or hallucinate on these substances.

Many people share the idea that microdosing with psychedelics enhances one’s mood, creativity, concentration, productivity, and ability to empathize with others. Or could the benefits be an “expectancy effect”? This means that most people who take a daily pill that they fervently expect will help them feel happier and smarter will feel like they are happier and smarter — just from taking the pill, regardless of what’s in it.

What is microdosing?

There isn’t a single, clearly recognized definition of microdosing for any psychedelic drug, and this complicates attempts to perform consistent research. One definition is approximately 1/5 to 1/20 of a recreational dose. (From anecdotal experience this is accurate, as a medium-strength dose of psilocybin is 2 to 3 grams of dried mushrooms, and a microdose is typically around 0.3 grams.)

One obstacle is that the potency of mushrooms can vary greatly, as they are not regulated outside of clinical trials, so this isn’t an exact science. Likewise, LSD is an invisible, tasteless, odorless substance that usually comes either in liquid form or embedded into a piece of paper to be slipped under the tongue.

Given its current illegality and lack of regulation, there is no good way to know what dosage you are taking unless you have an extraordinarily reliable supplier. LSD is an extremely powerful and long-acting drug, and you don’t want to take more of it than intended.

Further, psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD can produce physiological tolerance, which might suggest that, even if microdosing does help, there could be diminishing returns if one stays at the same dosage.

That being said, here are a few possible benefits of microdosing that preliminary studies have found:

  1. Improved mood and focus: A 2023-2024 study of 278 microdosers (who used either mushrooms or LSD) found that 26.6% of participants experienced an improved mood and 14.8% reported increased focus. However, it’s unclear from the study whether these effects were from LSD or psilocybin.
  2. Increased creativity: Another 2023 study found that people who microdose LSD or psilocybin experienced increased creativity and open-mindedness. This may have to do with the fact that psilocybin allows different parts of the brain to communicate in new and different ways.  
  3. Improved mental health: A 2023 study found that some microdosers of LSD or psilocybin experienced decreased levels of depression and stress over a six week period. This may be due to the positive effect that the drugs may have on serotonin  a neurotransmitter that is partially responsible for mood. Psilocybin is a serotonin receptor antagonist, meaning it can help improve the bioavailability of  neurotransmitter like serotonin.

    Additionally, a 2023 study found that people who microdosed psychedelics along with receiving psychological support during and after their experience saw improvements in their PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

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