Without approvals, control groups, double-blinds, staff or funding
– James Fadiman –
There is an abundance of good news. After forty plus years of research
being denied, what Charles Glob kindly called, “a lull,” psychedelic
science is back. Excellent research results appear in the top peer-reviewed
journals. The popular science press, as well as the general media, favorably
covers the ndings. In fact, it is difcult to nd a thoughtful negative article
about psychedelics anywhere. Governments hover on the edge of funding and
hundreds of graduate students in religious studies, social work, psychology,
biochemistry, neuroscience and psychiatry intend to go into psychedelic
Major research groups in the US and the UK have the same long-term
goal, to make psychedelics available to physicians and others trained in
their use. Then, ordinary individuals can have guided therapeutic sessions,
bracketed by supportive therapy, to deal with otherwise intractable mental
Marijuana is on a fast track worldwide toward total medical acceptance
and expanding legalization. While pharmaceutical companies try to cash
in on extracts or synthetics of the more curative alkaloids, recreational
marijuana is proving incredibly protable to tax, and also adds to the
public good. States in the US where marijuana has become legal report less
drinking, less crime and fewer opioid overdose deaths. Marijuana, no longer
routinely demonized, ultimately will be seen for what it is, good for pleasure
and an amazing number of medical conditions. Right behind it, psychedelics
are increasingly accepted in much of the scientic community as potentially
benecial for a growing cascade of heath conditions, as well as for personal
growth and creativity.
So far so good. If you’re connected to an academic research institution, a
research hospital, are a physician in a clinic or have a solo practice, it is easier
and easier to get government approval to do research. However, it is equally
obvious that 99% of psychedelic users do not sign up for research projects
and are very, very unlikely ever to do so. Therefore, most of what could be
known about the effects of individual psychedelics, be they synthetics, plants
or mushrooms, are not sufciently reported or recorded.
Erowid, Bluelight and other sites house individual trip reports and
commentaries in ever expanding databases. Erowid has had 100,000
reports on over 350 different substances and combinations submitted. It has
published about 25,000 of them. The information is used by rst responders,
emergency rooms, medical personnel and, of course, psychonauts uncertain
whether to take a recent designer drug that has zero medical research or tests
of its contents or purity.
However, as my interest in psychedelics has always been to search out
ways to increase safety and maximize benets, these trip reports are rarely
useful. I’m much more interested in the aftereffects of the experience in
normal life then the chaotic, illuminating, transcendent and just plain weird
moments experienced in what Robert Dickins artfully describes as “other
I spent my rst few years (with government approval) working with
high doses to ensure transcendent and worldview changing sessions. Until
recently, I had almost no interest in less reality-shattering sessions. As for
marijuana, I was sufciently puritanical to be gently disdainful of people
who wanted nothing more then the slightly disorienting, pleasurable social,
sexual and sensory enhancement that, at least in those early days, seemed its
Therefore, when I rst heard about microdosing from Robert Forte,
and that Albert Hoffman had done it for decades, I was more amused than
intrigued. That the same substance which could reveal your immortality and
you being the divinity that created the stars might, in low enough doses, make
you a little more emotionally stable seemed hardly worth noticing.
But the wheel of fortune turns, and, as I’ve learned over the years, many
things I’ve disdained turned out to be enormously valuable.
However, even if I wanted to do research about the effects of microdoses,
I have neither the right credentials (a PhD in psychology, no clinical license),
nor am I part of any institution that could meet even the most generous
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of the new regulations. Furthermore, it was clear, after talking with some
senior researchers and looking at those institutions most favorably disposed
to psychedelic research, microdose studies were unlikely to get approval.
Letting people loose, having dosed them with a Schedule 1 drug, was more
that any IRB could allow.
So here I was, wanting to nd out more about the effects of substances
at dose levels that made even marijuana look like a heavy drug. Treating
microdoses as baby psychedelics put them in the wrong paradigm. They are
more akin to SSRIs and cognitive enhancers, except that you take them far
Spoiled by those initial years working legally, the idea of running a
clandestine research operation dispensing drugs, etc. never occurred to me.
Fortunately, as readers of this publication know, mushrooms, peyote, San
Pedro, morning glory seeds and many other plants have no idea that they
are illegal and just kept growing. Sufcient supplies of microdoses were
available, once I realized that I could ask other people about their experiences.
Western science suffers from an insane obsession for simplicity. The
reigning paradigm is to try to control every possible variable. In pharmacology,
the goal is to isolate a single active molecule from a plant or fungus and
ignore the incredible complex interactive mosaic of other substances that
nature so effortlessly creates. (Trivia note: Mescaline was isolated from the
peyote cactus decades ago and is assumed to be its most important alkaloid.
There are at least 49 other alkaloids in that same cactus, exactly four of which
have undergone any kind of testing in animals, let alone humans.)
As I more fully appreciated that living organisms are always found
enmeshed in an incredibly complex set of relationships with other organisms
within and without, I developed a healthy suspicion that most results
coming out of laboratories were likely to be, at best incomplete, at worst
Bolstered by such realizations, I started asking questions of those few
people I could nd who had microdosed. Albert Hoffman had said of the effects
of these doses that this was the “under-researched area” of psychedelics. Had
Sandoz been more interested, he felt that they might have had a product more
useful and safer than Ritalin or its descendant Adderall.
I became quite excited at the rst reports. For a while, I was convinced
that I was the discoverer of a whole new way of working with psychedelics.
My hubris was knocked out of me, however, when I touted my original and
unique discoveries to an anthropologist friend. He pointed out that indigenous
groups from Mexico throughout South America had worked with psychedelic
plants for hundreds, probably for thousands, of years. Did I imagine they had
not worked with low doses? In case I needed proof, he directed me to a six-
volume work written by a Jesuit priest shortly after the Spanish conquest of
Mexico that included descriptions of low doses with different psychedelics.
As for modern uses, he gave me an example. “Whenever I feel a cold coming
on, I take a low dose of a psilocybin mushroom. I have not had a cold in 15
years.” As it turned out, I was a late arriving guest at a very long running
Chastened, but even more curious, I’ve continued to record and encourage
microdose research without government permission, at almost no cost, and
without any laboratory tests or controls. The reports I’ve accumulated are
based on trust, on the interests of the individuals themselves, and on my
well-founded belief in the generosity and integrity of the members of the
worldwide psychedelic community.
Since I began collecting reports in 2010, I have been rening how best
to get useful data from people. Now, when asked, I send a detailed protocol
of how to do a safe “Self-Study” of the effects of microdosing any chosen
psychedelic. I request that anyone who uses this protocol send a report –
either daily notes over a period of 10 four-day cycles and/or an overview of
what they’ve noticed during that time.
I have answered close at 250 requests to join the self-study and use the
protocol. About half the people have sent in reports. Requests have come
from more than 12 countries and the age range has been from 18 to 73.
Almost everyone who asked to join has had from some, to considerable, prior
Many requests are from people with long-standing depression and
anxiety, most on meds and disappointed with the results and/or the side
effects. Most people microdose with LSD or psilocybin mushrooms. Several
have used 1P-LSD, (legal in the UK till 2016), and a scattering has tried
different designer drugs. I have a few reports from people microdosing either
ayahausca or iboga, usually following full doses taken in ritual or medical
At Breaking Convention III, I described the wide range of conditions
where people reported benets from microdosing. The list below is partial,
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Conditions reported improved while microdosing:
Anxiety: General, social, academic, party
Asperger’s Syndrome: More ease in social situations, especially parties
Bipolar: Mood elevation during depression phase (for some, disturbed
No (Post-) Burning Man crash on returning home (a rst)
Capacity to live in the present (the now)
Creativity (technical): Coding, machine design, other
Decreased/Stopped: Cigarettes, coffee, Adderall, Venlafaxine
Depression: Alleviated – many reports
Ice-pick Headaches (one minute clusters): Ended series
Health Habits: Food choices, exercise, yoga, meditation
Insights: Personal (therapeutic), work related
Learning: Languages, Advanced Maths, more focused attention in class
Menstrual periods: Elimination of pain and cramping.
Migraines: Lessened or eliminated.
Physical skills: Musical instruments, drumming, composition, ying a
Trauma: Deceased triggering
Stuttering: Increased ease and uency in normal speech
Writing: Writer’s block, rst drafts, procrastination
Work (improved): Amount, discrimination, ow, quality, enjoyment
Among the more surprising results were diminished stuttering, and
several women whose previously painful menstrual periods became pain-free
and normal while microdosing for other reasons. One other early nding that
remains consistent was, for most people, the effects last two days, and, for
some people, the second day was better. This has completely upended my
understanding of how long a full dose actually lasts, but that discussion is for
a different essay.
While we do not yet have formal scientic studies to investigate or verify
these reports, it appears that periodic microdosing with sufcient time in
between (every 4th day is what I recommend) improves overall functioning.
However, like anything else, microdosing is not for everyone. Several people
reported uncomfortable sweating on dose day, but continued dosing, and
two people reported increased anxiety. Both stopped microdosing with no
residual ill effects. One person reported more migraines.
Overcoming the limitations, bureaucratic delays and costs of conventional
research, collecting reports has opened a window to this dose level of
psychedelic use that appear to enhance normal daily activities. Perhaps it is
yet one more set of wonders that nature has been waiting for us to uncover.
Here are a few representative quotes from the collected reports:
Psilocybin mushrooms: In general, a tiny dose of psilocybin makes me think
much more deeply in every aspect of life. Instead of having a monkey mind,
creating noise, my mind is still. It is in a mode that it has been in before, but
that was a long time ago. Psilocybin makes me feel exactly how I felt when I
was a kid in school. It is happiness, because you realize that you have all you
need. During my test days, I feel more love for myself, and I can give that
to others. I also have this sense of being the pilot of my body. My cravings
for sugar, smoke and sodas nearly went away. I wanted to give my body the
best fuel, I feel like I attract positive people and happenings in my life. I
got a job offer landing on my lap, without working for it. I can’t prove that
there is some connection, and scientist would deny it, but I feel like there is
something bigger going on.
Ibogaine: Currently experimenting with microdosing of ibogaine (50-
75 mg of a 50/50 mixture of TA and HCL). Wow. There needs to be more
research with this! I have found a very subtle yet very noticeable shift in
my personality. It has removed what I call “automated response syndrome.”
New insights into how I respond to situations. The inner critic has been pretty
much silenced. Less anxiety. More self-condence. More sure of myself.
Less self-conscious. My voice is more condent, easier to talk to people…
very positive effects. Also, my emotional state is more uid. I laugh easier,
cry easier – more gratitude, greater appreciation. More calmness….
LSD: Microdosing has allowed me to unlock my potential and to live fuller,
to be engaged in an individual moment, which has in turn allowed me to
be more focused and happier. I’m much more empathetic and willing to
give people the benet of the doubt now. I just feel lighter all the time, even
on day 3 of the routine. I rarely get angry or stressed anymore. Since I’ve
started microdosing, I’ve been eating much healthier and exercising more.
And it hasn’t been forced. I started doing yoga and meditating daily rather
organically. It all just happened.
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Psilocybin .4 mg every 4th day for 10 doses: The day of and day after Dose
days I felt disconnected when engaging with people. I was drawn to pull back
and not engage as fully as I normally would. Felt a bit out of sorts in relation
to my community and others. The day after a dose day I usually did not feel
good. Some days worse than others. This is normal for me to have days where
I don’t feel good, but these were more frequent (as well as more frequent
migraines). I am more connected to my intuitive self and more trusting of
the information I am receiving. The personal and spiritual growth I have
experienced is signicant. I see and own my personal value and worth like
I have never known it before. I have seen how certain behaviors and belief
systems have contributed to low self-esteem and low self-worth patterns. So
basically, I am more condent in myself, and my abilities to create the life I
am wanting for myself. My setting boundaries and taking care of myself with
others has improved. I have more energy and am more productive. This has
been a fabulous experience of healing for me.