You may have heard of people microdosing psychedelics to improve mental health, but what  exactly is microdosing? Why are people doing it, and what else is there to know about microdosing psychedelics? We answer all of these questions below as we take a closer look at how microdosing psychedelics may be the future of psychiatry.

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing is the practice of taking a sub-perceptual dose of a substance, typically psychedelic drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin mushrooms or other entheogens. The purpose of microdosing can be different for everyone.

In a home setting, microdosing is often associated with an effort to improve mood, creativity, and focus. In a clinical setting, microdosing is used in combination with traditional psychotherapy  with the intention to heal trauma and improve mental health.

The effects of a microdose are subtle and often unnoticeable, but that doesn’t mean they’re not powerful. People who have tried microdoses of psychedelics report feeling more productive, happy, and relaxed.

Why Are People Microdosing Psychedelics?

Some people are microdosing psychedelics to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Unlike macrodoses, which can be overwhelming and cause intense hallucinations, microdoses are thought to be more manageable and have fewer adverse side effects.

Additionally, because the effects of a microdose are less noticeable than a macrodose, some people find them easier to integrate into their daily lives. While there is limited scientific research on the efficacy of microdoses for mental health conditions, many people report feeling better after taking them.

In a recent interview with National Geographic, Jaclyn Downs, a 43-year-old nutritionist, and mom living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania shared about her microdosing experience.

“Three years ago Downs began microdosing to prepare for certain situations, such as when she had to stay later at a social event than she might want to. The drug soothed her angst and made her a better conversationalist, she says. Six months ago, she began a more structured routine, taking a tincture of microdose psilocybin every three days. It has made her calmer and more accepting, she says, especially when her six- and nine-year-old daughters argue with one another or push back on her requests.”

“Before I was more reactive—getting angry or irritated—but now I respond more evenly,” Downs says. “The general atmosphere of our home is more positive.”

Erica Zelfland, a naturopathic physician in Portland, Oregon commented about the need for more research on microdosing psychedelics.

Zelfand, “says dozens of her patients currently microdose, mostly in a bid to improve their depression or attention deficit disorder. Zelfand supports their efforts but makes it clear they are lab rats in a grand experiment.”

“I let them know that we don’t have the research yet. And we especially don’t know the long-term risks,” she says. To help build a body of knowledge, she encourages patients to report their experiences on crowdsourced research sites like microdose.me or microdosingsurvey.com.”

What’s the Difference Between a Microdose and a Macrodose?

A typical microdose is one-tenth to one-twentieth of a macrodose. The exact measurements of these dosages can vary from person to person. Macrodoses are usually taken to alter conscious perception and induce hallucinations, which also has therapeutic benefits.

Because microdoses are so small, they’re less likely to cause hallucinations or other intense experiences. Additionally, because the effects are more subtle, some people find them easier to integrate into their lives.

More research is needed to determine the safest and most effective dosage protocol for psychedelic substances like psilocybin. A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics concluded that,

“The current results suggest that dose controlled empirical research on the impacts of microdosing on mental health and attentional capabilities are needed.”

However, anecdotal evidence from people like Jaclyn Downs suggests that microdoses of psychedelics improve mental health. With more clinical research currently in progress, we may soon be discovering that psychedelic medicines could be solutions to the world’s mental health crises.