What Are The Risks And Side Effects Of Microdosing Psychedelics?

Risks And Side Effects Of Microdosing Psychedelics

Microdosing is the practice of consuming small, non-intoxicating amounts of psychedelic substances like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms, which may lead to subtle enhancements in mood and cognition, but also carries potential risks such as neurosis or unintended psychedelic trips, and is currently illegal in many jurisdictions.

Microdosing: Its Benefits and Its Risks

Venturing into the world of psychedelics, you may have come across a term that’s gaining traction: microdosing. But what exactly is this practice about? And why is it becoming increasingly popular?

Definition of Microdosing

At its core, microdosing involves the administration of psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin mushrooms in sub-perceptual amounts. In simpler terms, it means taking a dose so small that it doesn’t cause any noticeable alterations in consciousness or perception.

Technically speaking, a microdose is often defined as approximately 1% of a standard active dose. This percentage isn’t arbitrary; rather, it’s calculated to ensure that the user experiences no intoxication or significant alteration of consciousness. Yet, the effects are believed to be sufficient to subtly influence cognition and mood.

The purpose of microdosing is not to embark on a hallucinatory journey, as one might assume when considering the use of psychedelics. Instead, it serves as an experiment in fine-tuning one’s mindset and cognitive processes.

Brief Overview of Potential Benefits and Risks

Like anything that alters brain function on any level, microdosing comes with its potential benefits and risks. However, it’s important to note that research on these aspects remains largely inconclusive at present.

Some anecdotal reports suggest that microdosing can boost creativity, enhance mood, improve focus, and alleviate symptoms of certain mental health conditions. However, without robust scientific evidence backing these claims, they remain speculative.

In terms of risks, both short-term and long-term effects are still shrouded in uncertainty due mainly to the lack of extensive research data on humans’ prolonged use of psychedelics in low doses.

Various factors can influence how these substances affect an individual – including age, mental health status, physical health condition and even genetic predisposition. Therefore, what might be a positive experience for one person could turn out to be quite different for another.

While there is growing interest in the practice of microdosing psychedelics for various reasons – from self-improvement to mental health treatment – more comprehensive scientific research is required before we can fully understand its benefits and potential risks.

Understanding Microdosing

In order to grasp the concept of microdosing fully, it’s important to delve into how this practice is typically carried out and what physiological changes it might induce in the brain.

Explanation of How Microdosing Works

Microdosing isn’t a one-time event. Instead, people who engage in this practice ingest a small dose of a psychedelic substance regularly or semi-regularly over an extended period of time. This approach is based on the belief that consistent, low-dose exposure to these substances can lead to subtle yet potentially beneficial changes in cognition and mood.1

There are several dosing regimens or ‘rules’ that are commonly followed within the microdosing community. Some individuals prefer to microdose for two consecutive days, followed by a two-day break. 

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Others opt for a Monday through Friday schedule, taking the weekends off, akin to a typical work week. Yet another group chooses an every-other-day approach. The choice largely depends on personal preference and individual experiences with these substances.

Connection Between Microdosing and Serotonin Activity

But how does consuming such tiny amounts of psychedelics have any effect at all? The answer might lie in our brain’s chemistry, specifically the activity of serotonin – a neurotransmitter often referred to as the ‘happiness chemical’.

Serotonin plays a significant role in regulating mood, engendering feelings of well-being and happiness. But its influence extends beyond mood regulation; it also impacts various bodily functions like sleeping and eating habits, cognition, and even body temperature.

Psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are thought to work by mimicking serotonin and binding to serotonin receptors in the brain.2 This interaction is believed to be responsible for the hallucinatory effects associated with high doses of these substances.

However, when it comes to microdosing, the doses are so small that they don’t cause hallucinations. Instead, they may subtly influence serotonin activity in ways we are just beginning to understand. This under-researched area holds much potential for uncovering new insights into not only the effects of psychedelics but also the intricate workings of our own minds.

Potential Benefits of Microdosing

While the scientific community continues to explore the intricacies of microdosing, anecdotal evidence and preliminary studies hint at some potential benefits. These range from mood improvements and enhanced focus to better sleep quality and stress reduction.

Mood Improvement

One of the most commonly reported benefits of microdosing is an improvement in overall mood. This isn’t solely about feeling happier; it’s about a comprehensive enhancement of emotional well-being.

Individuals who practice microdosing often report experiencing a sense of peace and calm, reduced depressive symptoms, an improved outlook on life, and an increased appreciation for existence itself. Some even mention spiritual and emotional insights that lead to a greater understanding of their own emotions. While these reports are subjective, they suggest a potentially promising avenue for research into the therapeutic applications of psychedelics.

Enhanced Focus and Creativity

Beyond mood enhancement, many microdosers report improvements in cognitive functions like focus, mindfulness, and creativity. Users often describe feeling more engaged with their work or studies, more attentive to details, and more able to concentrate on tasks at hand.

Creativity is another facet that appears to be positively impacted. It’s not uncommon for individuals to report increased energy levels, clarity of thought, and heightened creativity following their microdosing regimen. While this could be partly due to enhanced mood or reduced stress levels, these cognitive enhancements warrant further investigation.

Possible Effects on Sleep Quality

Improved sleep is another potential benefit associated with microdosing. In some reports, respondents claimed to experience better sleep patterns during their period of microdosing.3 Given the importance of good sleep quality for overall health and well-being, this is an area ripe for future research.

Role in Stress Reduction

Lastly, stress reduction is frequently noted as a possible benefit from microdosing psychedelics. In our fast-paced world where stress has become a common denominator across various walks of life, any natural method that could potentially ease stress levels deserves exploration.

These potential benefits paint an intriguing picture of what microdosing might offer us in terms of mental health and well-being enhancements, however, it’s essential to remember that we’re only scratching the surface here. Much more rigorous scientific investigation is needed before we can fully understand how these substances work and whether their use can be safely integrated into mainstream society.

Risks Associated with Microdosing

While the potential benefits of microdosing can seem appealing, it’s just as crucial to understand the possible risks associated with this practice. These include a lack of comprehensive research, potential increase in neurosis, risks for individuals with psychiatric disorders, and the risk of an unintended psychedelic trip.

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Lack of Comprehensive Clinical Research Trials

The world of microdosing is still largely uncharted territory when it comes to scientific study. The potential risks associated with this practice are not fully understood due to a lack of comprehensive clinical research trials on humans.

Most information available today is based on self-reported experiences rather than controlled studies, which can lead to inconsistent data and biased results. Furthermore, we know little about the effects of long-term microdosing on the brain and overall health. Without more rigorous investigation, it’s impossible to fully understand or predict all the potential risks associated with this practice.

Possible Increase in Neurosis

One concerning finding from some studies is that continued microdosing over several weeks or months may be associated with increased neurosis.4 Neurosis refers to a class of mental disorders involving chronic distress but not significant alterations in thought or reality testing. More research is needed to confirm these findings and determine their implications for long-term mental health.

Risks for Individuals with Psychiatric Disorders Like Bipolar or Schizophrenia

People with pre-existing psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia may face heightened risks when microdosing psychedelics.5 These substances can be stimulating and may exacerbate symptoms or induce episodes in susceptible individuals.

Microdosing may be too stimulating for individuals already battling these disorders, potentially leading to negative outcomes. Therefore, anyone considering microdosing who has a history of such conditions should proceed with extreme caution and preferably under medical supervision.

Risk of an Unwanted Psychedelic Trip

Another risk associated with microdosing is taking too much and unintentionally launching oneself into a full-blown psychedelic “trip”. While some people seek out this kind of experience, others – particularly those new to psychedelics – might find it overwhelming or distressing.

Understanding accurate dosages is essential when it comes to any drug use, including microdosing. Without appropriate knowledge and guidance, there’s always a risk of crossing that fine line between a sub-perceptual dose and an intoxicating one.

Side Effects of Microdosing

While the potential benefits of microdosing are often highlighted, it’s equally important to understand possible side effects. These can range from physiological discomforts and cognitive impairment to increased anxiety and mood swings.6

Physiological Discomforts

Microdosing can potentially lead to various physiological discomforts. Some users report impaired focus, increased anxiety, reduced mood, feelings of disconnection, and even cognitive impairment.

More physically-oriented side effects can include migraines, fluctuations in energy levels – from excessive energy to feeling drained – and tolerance build-up over time. Tolerance build-up means that more of the substance is needed over time to achieve the same effect, which could increase the risk of negative outcomes.

Impaired Focus and Cognitive Impairment

Despite some people reporting enhanced focus as a benefit of microdosing, others experience the opposite effect. Disrupted senses, temperature dysregulation, numbing or tingling sensations, insomnia, gastrointestinal distress, reduced appetite, and an increase in migraines or headaches are all reported side effects associated with microdosing.

It’s important to note that these side effects can have indirect impacts on other areas of life too. For instance, sleep disturbances might affect mood and cognitive functioning during waking hours, while gastrointestinal discomfort could affect appetite and nutrition.

Increased Anxiety and Mood Swings

While some users report improved mood as a result of microdosing psychedelics, others experience an increase in anxiety levels – including general anxiety, social anxiety, and existential anxiety. This highlights the variable nature of individual responses to microdosing.

Mood swings have also been reported by some individuals who microdose psychedelics. This could manifest as rapid shifts between positive moods (such as happiness or euphoria) and negative moods (like sadness or irritability).

Questions to Ask Before Starting Microdosing

As with any new health practice or routine, it’s essential to ask the right questions before starting microdosing. This involves discussing with your healthcare provider, understanding potential interference with other medications, and comprehending personal risks associated with microdosage use.

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Discussing Microdosing with Your Healthcare Provider

Before embarking on a microdosing regimen, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider. They can offer professional advice based on your individual health situation and provide guidance on how to proceed safely.

Some important questions to ask include whether microdosing is right for you, if it might interfere with any medications you’re currently taking, what the potential benefits and risks are, if it could worsen an existing medical condition, and whether there’s a risk of building up a tolerance to psychedelic drugs.

Remember, every individual is unique, and what works well for one person might not be suitable for another.

Potential Interference with Other Medications

Psychedelics can potentially interact negatively with other medications. It’s therefore essential to discuss this aspect thoroughly with your healthcare provider before starting.

For instance, SSRIs (commonly used in the treatment of depression and anxiety) and psychedelics both affect serotonin levels in the brain. Combining them could potentially lead to serotonin syndrome – a serious condition caused by an excess of serotonin.

Understanding Personal Risks Associated with Microdosing

Lastly, it’s important to understand the personal risks associated with microdosing. These will vary depending on factors like your overall health status, any pre-existing mental or physical conditions, genetic factors, lifestyle habits, and current medication use.

Being fully aware of potential risks helps ensure that you make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with microdosing. As always in matters related to health and well-being, informed choices are the best choices.

Legality Issues Surrounding Microdosage Use

As we delve deeper into the world of microdosing, it’s crucial to tackle the legality issues surrounding this practice. It’s also important to understand how these legal constraints impact research opportunities and quality.

Legal Status of Substances Used in Microdosing

The legality of microdosing largely depends on the substance being consumed. Psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin mushrooms are classified as Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act. This makes them illegal to consume in any quantity in the United States and most parts of the world.

Schedule I drugs are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”. Other hallucinogens like peyote also fall into this category. It’s crucial to understand these legal boundaries before considering microdosing, as penalties for possession or use can be severe.

Effects of Legality on Research Opportunities

The legal status of psychedelics significantly impacts research opportunities and overall study quality. The illegality of these substances limits researchers’ ability to perform comprehensive studies, resulting in a scarcity of reliable, scientifically validated information about their effects – both beneficial and adverse.

Moreover, people who choose to consume these substances despite their illegal status often do not have access to a controlled, safe supply. This adds an additional layer of risk as purity and dosage can be uncertain.

Among respondents in one study who reported microdosing with LSD or psilocybin, many highlighted the challenges associated with sourcing these substances safely and reliably due to their legal status. This poses both risks for individuals who choose to microdose, as well as significant obstacles for scientific research aimed at better understanding this practice.

Closing Thoughts and Importance of Consulting Healthcare Providers

As we wrap up our examination of microdosing, it’s necessary to reiterate an important message: the need to consult healthcare providers before starting due to unknown short-term and long-term effects.

While microdosing has been subject to increasing interest for its potential to enhance cognitive and emotional well-being, it’s essential to remember that we are still in the early stages of understanding this practice. The scientific community has yet to fully investigate and validate these claims.

The potential benefits, while appealing, need to be weighed against the unknowns. The short-term effects of microdosing might seem beneficial for some individuals, but the long-term impact remains largely unclear. Furthermore, given that everyone’s physiological makeup is unique, what works well for one person could potentially have adverse effects on another.

Healthcare providers can offer individualized advice based on your health history and current situation. They can help you understand your personal risks and guide you through a safe approach if you decide to proceed with microdosing.

Ultimately, while the world of microdosing might appear intriguing, it is not without its complexities and unknowns. As with any health-related decision, it should be approached with a spirit of informed consent – understanding all potential benefits and risks before proceeding. Above all else, consultation with a trusted healthcare provider should always be your first step.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924977X20309111
  2. https://news.weill.cornell.edu/news/2022/10/psychedelic-drugs-flatten-the-brain%E2%80%99s-dynamic-landscape
  3. https://microdosinginstitute.com/health/microdosing-improve-sleep-insomnia/
  4. https://www.psypost.org/2019/02/microdosing-reduces-depression-and-mind-wandering-but-increases-neuroticism-according-to-first-of-its-kind-study-53131
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-popularity-of-microdosing-of-psychedelics-what-does-the-science-say-202209192819
  6. https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-019-0308-4 

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