Microdosing (A Short Guide)
After three years of carefully observing expert, after expert, after expert, after expert, discuss the benefits of psychedelics, I was convinced I needed to investigate. After months of mentally preparing and starting this project, in the form of microdosing, I can say I am thrilled with the outcome so far, and excited to have this available to me to study my own perception.
To be clear – I do not believe psychedelics are necessary to build sustainable contentment in one’s life. I believe meditation and journaling, for example, to be the foundation upon which self-understanding and wellbeing are possible. That said, I am convinced psychedelics can be a special enhancement on top of (not a replacement for) those things.
1 – What IS Microdosing? Not a Crazy Trip.
“The microdose, if it’s the correct dose, you will not have any psychedelic effects. This is almost how you define it – which is: no visions, no snakes eating you alive, no incredible breakthroughs of repressed, terrible things in your life that you didn’t want to face.”
– Dr. James Fadiman, Harvard/Stanford Psychologist
"To paraphrase the words of Dr. Neal Goldsmith—a frequent lecturer on psychedelics and author of Psychedelic Healing— a macrodose is a shout and a shake, while a microdose could be considered a whisper"
- Paul Austin
The most insane thing to me, in hindsight, is how scary and mythical psychedelics are in pop culture. Like many of you – I was trained at a young age to seriously fear this stuff. Plus they are illegal in many parts of the world – which is understandably hard for people to look past – but it doesn’t mean the law makes sense. I mean yes – these substances DO need to be treated with respect and used thoughtfully. But using them in very small doses is not going to make one hallucinate or go crazy. My personal experience is proof. I have never macrodosed or hallucinated in my life. I started using a very small dose, and slowly increased, and watched the key effects (absorption, being in the moment) get gradually more intense. Then I stopped increasing, and remained at that level for several sessions. It feels as if MOST of the urban lore about psychedelics revolves around people’s crazy macro trips, where they turn into creatures, or talk to elves, or see god, yadda yadda yadda. I spent so much time thinking about how I was going to do this, and where, and who would be my tripsitter, and what happens if things got scary. I was convinced this was the only way – that one had to have this crazy trip to benefit. Now having done many totally pleasant microdoses all on my own – it all seems silly… none of those questions mattered. Nothing against macrodosing – someday I’ll try – but microdosing is so wonderful… I am totally content to appreciate this for now.
2 – Education – Listen To Some Experts
We are lucky to be alive today. The 1960s famously produced a movement of mega psychedelic evangelists (Tim Leary, Terrance McKenna, Richard Alpert, et al) who essentially wanted the entire world to trip, and trip hard. The benefits and motivations were cloudy and often based on magical thinking. Long story short, the U.S. Government slammed the door shut on this. Fast forward 60 years – the door is creaked back open again, except rather than mega evangelists playing with psychedelics, it’s prestigious universities such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Harvard. Terminal cancer patients are accepting their circumstances after a trip. Wow. And yes – note that link ends in a .gov – a sign at least part of the federal government recognizes the value here!
I’ve read or listened to hundreds of pieces of content on psychedelics. Below are my absolute favorites.
Note 1: Some of this content refers to “macrodosing” – intense hallucinogenic trips. Remember that “microdosing” does NOT subject someone to those experiences, nevertheless, it is helpful to understand the entire continuum of experiences and how they affect people.
Note 2: Don’t worry if you start hearing multiple different ideas about microdosing or using psychedelics in very specific ways. Your goal should be to build foundational understanding, so you can stick your toe into the water and carefully tailor the experience (doses strength and frequency, etc) in a way that works for you. More about that later. For now, just soak in some of this material high-level, and don’t worry too much about needing to exactly follow any specifics.
Psychedelic Science – Roland Griffiths and Sam Harris
Psychedelics and the Self – James Fadiman and Sam Harris
The Remarkable Results of Microdosing – James Fadiman
The Psychedelic Mushroom Experience – Matthew Johnson and Lex Fridman
3 – Train Your Attention, Understand Your Mind
Please don’t skip this part.
Prior to touching a psychedelic or even firmly committing my plan to use them, I meditated regularly for nearly a full year. 10-20 minutes per session, usually before bed, about 5 days per week. At the end-of – sometimes during – my meditation sessions – I would write some notes about the big topics floating around in my mind. Nothing crazy – sometimes just a half page of bullet points. Then on Sunday evenings, I would review what was going on over the past week. Man, was this revealing and more powerful than I ever would have guessed. I cannot emphasize this enough. Ever heard a recording of your own voice and say, wow that’s what I sound like? Ever seen a photo of yourself and say, wow that’s what I look like? This is like that – except for the mind.
In addition, a few months after my mediation practiced started, I began writing longer essays about my thoughts, some private, some published on this site. Once again, it was incredibly powerful and freeing to turn feelings into words.
If you are reading this and have never mediated or written about your own feelings, I honestly suggest you don’t take your first dose until you have six months of this under your belt. If psychedelics are the house of awareness, then meditation and journaling are the foundation – and arguably a house in their own respect. I strongly believe based on my own experience, that meditation and journaling had an enormous synergy with my microdoses. I do not believe they would have been as meaningful if I hadn’t had all three.
As the old saying goes, “set and setting” appear to have a major influence on the psychedelic experience. Meditation and journaling then, are all about taking care of the “set”.
Here are the two most special resources I’ve found pertaining to meditation and mindfulness. You can use the app “Waking Up” daily (or at least a few times per week). Start with the 50 intro lessons, and then move to the daily meditation. If you have a big long day off by yourself, do a few lessons throughout the day. Browse some of the talks as bonus. After your meditation practice get’s going, read little parts of “Wherever You Go There you Are”. Maybe a page or two per night. Even if you don’t read the entire book, just getting halfway into it will give you plenty to consider.
4 – Find (Or Grow) Your Source – Prepare Doses
All of my experience is based on cubensis (aka Golden Teacher) mushrooms. If you’re looking for LSD I can’t offer any help. But the internet is a really informational place.
Note: In most places you can legally purchase psychedelic spores in the mail. It may be illegal though, to turn those spores into mushrooms in the privacy of your own home. I obviously have no idea where you live and how laws apply. Nor do I know the risks you are willing to accept while doing what you believe is your right as a human being. Please do your research and understand the law.
I could say a ton more, but it isn’t necessary. Those links are absolute treasure, especially the reddit forums. If it seems complicated, step away from your computer, close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths, and review those links again. Still not clear? Repeat that process. If you are saying to your self, oh man, that’s so much work, and you’re tempted to stop, step away from reading this, close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths and return, understanding this is easy. You got this.
As you wait for your mushrooms, this is a perfect time for the next step…
5 – Write About Your Mind, Intention, and Expectations
Please don’t skip this part either. You should have months of experience meditating by now.
This is the very last step and may be immensely important to you in weeks, months, and years from now. Your assignment is this:
Write one single essay to yourself. It doesn’t have to be more than a couple pages. Address the following questions: Who are you today? What circumstances led you to this? What are you hoping to find out? Do you want to change something about yourself? What promises, if any, do you want to make yourself about using psychedelics so you don’t go off track?
For some of you, these are your final days as a psychedelic virgin. For others, it may be the first time you are using them deliberately to study yourself, as opposed to just for fun. If psychedelics alter your mind, how can you know how you change over time, and trust how your mind works on the other side? It’s time to get very clear in writing.
Please feel free to skim my example.
If you rush into this experience without seriously thinking about these things, how can you know any of this is actually contributing to your wellbeing? This is not just about feeling temporarily happy during a microdose, this is about starting a little fire of contentment that warms you for a life time. It’s about discovering aspects of yourself you might not be seeing right now.
Write the essay – even if it’s only a page or so. Step away. Read it. Edit it. Read it again. Edit it some more. Step away for a week. Read it again, and one last time. Do you know why you are doing this? Good. It’s time.
6 – Begin – Journal – Meditate – Reflect – Rest – Repeat
Set a date. Wake up, no coffee, no food. Take a single 130mg (or .13g) capsule. Open a blank note file or paper journal, note the time, write the things that come to your mind for the next few hours and the time of each thought. Note the times of each entry. Not feeling anything? That is totally fine – you should not expect to nor be disappointed.
Set another date. Increase to 2 capsules (or stay with less). Journal. Meditate. Reflect.
Set another date. Increase to 3 capsules (or stay with less). Journal. Meditate. Reflect.
Set another date. Increase to 4 capsules (or stay with less). Journal. Meditate. Reflect.
And the path goes on… the rest is up to you to find your sweet spot. For me, a few capsules, once or twice per week first thing in the morning, usually on weekends, has been great.
7 – Finding the Sweet Spot – Dose and Schedule
To microdose is simply to take a psychedelic, but not enough to hallucinate. Any more complicated explanation is suspect. Keep it simple – take it from James Fadiman (re-read the quote at the top of this guide) – arguably the world’s leading authority on microdosing, who encourages a very liberal mindset toward it all. Avoid reading deeply into more complex or rigid explanations out there.
Now -what if you’ve never hallucinated before, and have no idea how much is too much? I was exactly in that position – and still have never hallucinated – but I definitely felt something. By starting low and slowly increasing each session, you should eventually feel some subtle mental shifts, such as feeling at-ease, or “in the moment”, or more easily able to recognize the beauty of things where perhaps it was harder to before. Once you detect some of those feelings, and if you are interested in increasing them, try slightly more next time. But most importantly, once you begin to have thoughts or feelings that are interesting to you in some way, that’s probably a good time to stop increasing the strength.
In my experience, 1-2 days of consecutive microdosing, while journaling, followed by meditation later in the evenings, followed by 4-5 days off (with more meditation and journaling) has been a great system. Give yourself time to rest so you can carefully notice the difference between your microdose self and your non microdose self. I suggest picking days you are NOT busy and distracted with other things. Ideally quiet days to yourself, if you have the option.
After you do this for a month or so, you should start to have a good idea of the strength and frequency that works for you, and hopefully some nice insights that help you put life into perspective.
8 – Take a Long Break – Know Your Baseline Self
How do you actually perceive changes in perception? Further, how do you evaluate if those changes are beneficial? It’s easy when changes take place within minutes or hours during a microdose, much much harder over the course of days, weeks, and years.
Obviously, these substances can alter your mind for hours at a time. But do any changes last a few days, or weeks, or longer? If so, why? And even more importantly, are you even aware? Does the “feeling” of taking two capsules feel less obvious than it did several weeks ago? Are you developing a tolerance? Is that good, bad, does it even matter?
As I write this, I am about to spend several weeks away from microdosing. It’s the only possible way I’ll know how this affecting who I am in a longer-term sense, and if it’s something I’d like to keep doing and how often. If I do continue microdosing long term, I will also continue taking breaks.
Yes – I am already taking 4-5 days off per week, but how can I know how my mind has been changing from week to week, and if that change will persist with more distance from these routine chemical interactions in my brain, that again, are not scientifically understood?
We all need to maintain a strong sense of our unadulterated state of mind. These tools help us peek into new rooms in our psychological castle, but the magic occurs in understanding the contrast between “normal” perception and “microdose” perception. Without the healthy balance of both, without understanding what your “normal” perception is very deeply, one might lose track of why this is helpful.
Also just a good general rule in life: everything in moderation. So in support of that rule, taking a break will ensure moderation.
Since this guide is based on my personal experience, I will come back and update this section when I have more insight.
9 – Bonus – Join the Public Conversation
I use internet forums I’m unbelievably grateful they exist. Sometimes though, you find people who say objectively wrong things, or will disagree for no rationale reason, or maybe simply are in VERY different circumstances than you – so it’s difficult or impossible to trade notes. Sometimes you find what seems like excellent information from person A, only to then find person B completely contradicting them. Human discourse is messy. With microdosing specifically, having a major psychological element to it, there are people with legitimate complex psychological challenges trying to use this to help, and it will VERY tough to understand their headspace, or for them to understand yours.
Before I send you off to the forums – I’m sharing this to inoculate you against potential confusion, or comparing your experience too much to others, or taking a single comment you find too literally. Try to find a diversity of opinions before you make any conclusions and unfairly judge your own experience. Most of all, let your own intuition guide your process. Remember, even though there is emerging science on psychedelics, there is effectively zero hard scientific research about microdosing them, so nobody truly is an expert. Unfortunately many people speak as if they are.
That said, with the right frame of mind, it can be very rewarding to share with the world what you found and read what others have to say. There are some great, loving, thoughtful people who will interact and give you feedback. I highly suggest the microdosing subreddit for this reason.
Maybe hold off on this until you are a month, or two, or three into your process. Let your feelings soak in for a while, come to some conclusions, and then interact with the world. Or keep it private! Ultimately if you have brought some wellbeing to your life, that is the goal.
10 – Questions? Was This Helpful? Please Comment!
The reason I made this guide is I was asked by a couple of strangers for advice after sharing my thoughts on a few related topics. Even though I wanted to try psychedelics for a long time, I found the process intimidating and had no idea how I was going to put all the pieces together. Now that I have, I wanted to make it really easy for others to see a holistic path forward.
If you have any questions about the above, please post a comment below I will answer and sincerely appreciate it. Your questions may help others as well. If the question seems too private, feel free to contact me.
I wish you much success on this journey.
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If you have any questions or feedback, please add a comment below or reach out! I am happy to brainstorm and I’d love to hear how your journey goes. If you’d like email alerts when this stack is updated, feel free to subscribe.