The Essential Guide to Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms

Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms

Psilocybin: [3-(2-Dimethylaminoethyl)-1H-indol-4-yl] dihydrogen phosphate

C12H17N2O4P

Disclaimer: Psilocybin is a potentially illegal substance, and we do not encourage or condone the use of this substance where it is against the law. This guide is designed to ensure the safety of those who decide to use the substance legally.

What is Psilocybin Mushroom Microdosing?

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Microdosing is the act of consuming sub-perceptual – unnoticeable – amounts of a psychedelic substance. Many individuals who have integrated microdosing psilocybin mushrooms into their weekly routine report higher levels of creativity, more energy, increased focus, and improved relational skills.

Some enthusiasts also report that microdosing psilocybin helps to heighten spiritual awareness and enhance their senses.

Eminent psychedelic researchers have also found largely positive effects of psilocybin mushrooms on mood disorders and anxiety.

In fact, The Beckley Foundation is spearheading the push for the legalization of psilocybin mushrooms, backed by long-term positive effects found in their research conducted on treatment-resistant depression patients. Recently, Oakland, California decriminalized all plant medicines including psilocybin mushrooms, a move that followed Denver Colorado’s successful referendum to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.

Even addictions, such as smoking, can be overcome with psilocybin. Researchers at Johns Hopkins reported an 80 percent abstinence rate among a group of longtime smokers who took psilocybin as part of their cognitive behavioral therapy.

Aside from psychological issues, mushrooms (and LSD) have been found to be  “comparable to or more efficacious than most conventional medications” in treating cluster headaches. Many people have experienced extended periods of remission after taking them.

With all these encouraging results reported from full doses, there’s reason to believe that microdosing psilocybin could bring about similarly positive life changes.

THE HISTORY OF MICRODOSING

While the modern history of psychedelics reaches back to the 1950s, interest in microdosing saw a major revitalization with the publishing of Dr. James Fadiman’s The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys in 2011.

The book explores microdosing as a subculture of psychedelic use. While a number of indigenous cultures, as well as modern professionals, have used microdosing to unlock a host of benefits, Fadiman’s book formally introduced the term “microdosing” into the psychedelic mainstream.

But the book didn’t just contribute a piece of terminology; it awakened the curiosity and imaginations of millions of people. It also provided practical information for anyone who wanted to give it a try, much of which has been integrated into this guide.

Fadiman’s ongoing research serves as one of the few modern studies into the effects of microdosing specifically (most other research deals with larger doses for specific therapeutic outcomes).

Following the publication of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, the next boost in the public’s awareness of microdosing came from a podcast interview the author gave with Tim Ferriss in March of 2015.

Ferriss, who rose to fame after authoring the bestseller, The 4-Hour Work Week, has an enormous audience of individuals interested in entrepreneurship, “biohacking,” self-experimentation, psychology, spirituality, and other subjects that predispose them to an interest in the benefits of microdosing.

His podcast interview with Fadiman blasted the core messages about microdosing contained in The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide from a soapbox loud enough to increase  awareness of the practice.

Soon after its air date, listeners of Ferriss’ podcast were not only starting to experiment with microdosing; they were discussing it with their own personal networks. Consequently, journalists began writing articles about microdosing, leading to even greater awareness and interest.

Another source of interest in microdosing came from Ayelet Waldman’s 2016 book A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in my Mood, My Marriage, and My Life.

Waldman’s book discusses her 30-day protocol of microdosing with LSD to address a variety of psychological symptoms primarily caused by hormonal changes related to menopause.

Prior to microdosing, Waldman’s mood swings had become severe enough to put her marriage and relationship with her children at risk.

Afterward, in an interview with The Third Wave, she said, “This month changed my life, and I am sad every day that I can’t keep doing it legally.”

Now, tens of thousands of people around the globe are being turned on to microdosing – whether it’s for treating mental health problems, boosting creativity, or giving entrepreneurs new directions.

The Science of Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms

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While psychedelic substances have been illegal and prohibited from study in most countries up until the past few years, many leading experts have picked up on research that started in the 1950s and 60s.

While there has been some recent research on microdosing, we know more about what large doses of psychedelics do to the brain.

Much of what we understand about how psychedelics work involves serotonin, a chemical that is among the brain’s most important neurotransmitters. Serotonin affects nearly everything we do, from how we feel to how we process information. It keeps our brains ticking.

Classic psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin share a similar structure to serotonin, and work along a similar pathway. This is why these substances will have comparable effects when microdosed, too – at least in the most important aspects described in the Benefits and Risks section of this guide. You can read more here about the differences between them.

Many antidepressants (called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs) try to make serotonin more plentiful in the brain to make you feel better.

Psychedelics work more directly, by mimicking serotonin. This means that one of their main effects is to stimulate a serotonin receptor called “5-HT2A” located in the prefrontal cortex.

Stimulating the 5-HT2A receptor leads to two  important results:

  • TThe production of “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor” (BDNF) which is “like Miracle-Gro for your brain. It stimulates growth, connections, and activity.” [1]
  • The increased transmission of “Glutamate,”  the neurotransmitter most responsible for brain functions like cognition, learning, and memory. [2]

Glutamate and BDNF work together in ways we’re still understanding, but it’s become clear that having more of each leads to many of the benefits that microdosers are seeking. [3]

Psychedelics also cause parts of the brain that don’t usually communicate with one another… to communicate with one another! These unique connections are formed by dampening the activity of an often over-used part of our brain called the “Default Mode Network” (DMN). [4]

The DMN is responsible for an array of different mental activities, including day-dreaming, self-reflection, and thinking about the past or the future. Some studies suggest that depression is linked to an overactive DMN. [5] It’s possible that a highly active DMN causes us to ruminate, over-analyze ourselves, and constantly step out of the present moment to question the past and the future.

This helps explain why these substances could be used to combat depression and anxiety, and also lead to insights and creative perspectives that otherwise remain inaccessible to us.

FLOW STATES

All of us, at some point in our lives, have experienced a flow state. The surfer effortlessly riding a big wave, the therapist perfectly in-sync with her client, the salesman elegantly working the room…

Simply put, flow is one of the great experiences of being human.

We have no specific, non-anecdotal evidence to suggest that microdoses of psychedelics can induce flow states – but studies have shown moderate doses  cause brain waves to shift toward alpha oscillations, which is also seen in the transition to a flow state[6].

Psychedelics such as psilocybin imitate the neurotransmitter serotonin when they enter the brain – and we know that serotonin is found in higher levels in flow states. Unlike LSD, however, psilocybin/psilocin appears to interact minimally and only indirectly with dopamine[7] – another neurotransmitter associated with flow states. This interaction may be minimal in the microdose range.[8]

Perhaps most important, psychedelics’ ability to attenuate the DMN can allow our brains to make unique connections between areas that don’t usually communicate. [4] This is crucial for allowing flow states to occur.

Since we know that moderate doses of psychedelics can induce similar effects to a flow state in the brain, it seems likely that a regular microdosing regimen could begin to shift our awareness in the direction of flow.

How Do You Microdose With Psilocybin Mushrooms?

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Ideally, a psilocybin microdose will not cause a substantial change in mood, disposition, or mindset. Instead, its effect will be subtle but present.

Preparing psilocybin mushrooms for microdosing involves more steps than microdosing with LSD, but is still straightforward.

Not only will fresh and dried psilocybin mushrooms contain different quantities of psilocybin, but different strains of mushrooms will have different psilocybin contents. Even different parts of the mushroom contain slightly different amounts of psilocybin!

We recommend drying a batch of mushrooms, grinding them into a powder, and measuring out around 0.1g of powder as your starter microdose. You can then adjust the amount accordingly after your first attempt. When you take an amount that makes you feel some changes (most notably drowsiness, the first effect that comes on in a psilocybin trip), roll back to the dose just under it, and you will have found your mushroom microdose sweet spot.

You can use any kind of psilocybin mushrooms for your microdosing. The most popular ones are Psilocybe cubensis, Psilocybe semilanceata, Psilocybe azurecens, Psilocybe cyanescens, and Panaeolus. Just be aware how much psilocybin content your strain has (for example, the last two are rich in psilocybin), and adjust your microdose accordingly. You can learn about the potency levels of different Psilocybe strains at Erowid.

Read our full guide on preparing Psilocybin Mushrooms for microdosing!

There are several ways to take your mushroom microdose. The most practical one is to measure out your dosages precisely, and fill up some empty capsules with the powder. This will ensure even distribution throughout your regimen, and will mitigate the taste issue that some people have with psilocybin mushrooms.

Another way is to prepare a psilocybin tea. You can dissolve your desired dose of mushroom powder in hot water, and even add some honey. Otherwise, you are free to experiment and mix the powder into any drink you take to start your day.

WHAT SCHEDULE SHOULD I FOLLOW?

James Fadiman recommends taking a microdose once every three days. For most people, morning is the best time because the beneficial effects will last throughout the day, and also because nighttime microdosing could interfere with sleep.

Take a mushroom microdose on Day 1. Then do not take a microdose on Day 2 or Day 3.

Then, take another mushroom microdose on Day 4.

Observe the effects throughout this process by taking daily notes in a journal.

Continue the process of microdosing two times per week for several weeks. Take notes throughout the entire process on both short-term, in-the-moment effects, and long-term changes in your mood, energy, and social behavior.

Follow your usual routine while microdosing. You should not change what you do. The purpose is to enhance your day-to-day existence by integrating microdoses into your routine.

However, when you try microdosing for the first time, take a day off from work and social commitments. It will give you a chance to observe and notice any unusual effects before microdosing in a more public situation.

Be vigilant in observing the effects of microdosing on the two days between doses. Many people perceive increased feelings of flow, creativity, and energy the day after they microdose, as well as the day of microdosing.

Microdosing every day is not recommended.  Psychedelics such as psilocybin produce a tolerance, so you might see diminishing returns after a few days. This is why Fadiman suggests leaving a couple of days between each dose.

Additionally, the fact that positive effects can be felt sometimes many days after a microdose is a good reason to space out your doses.

Concern for your health is another reason to avoid microdosing every day. There is a potential heart risk of taking too many psychedelics over a long period of time. Although we don’t know how this translates when it comes to microdosing, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution, and avoid microdosing too frequently, or for longer than a few months at a time.

Another downside to microdosing every day is normalizing a very potent substance. You can compare it to the use of coffee for productivity purposes. When you drink coffee every day, over time you need to increase the dose to get the same effect. Within a couple of months, one cup turns into two, three, or four cups.

It is best to leverage microdosing as an occasional advantage, rather than a consistent go-to like coffee.

MICRODOSING RETREATS

For people who are new to psychedelics, even microdosing can be a daunting concept. But retreats are an exciting option for those who want to be introduced to psychedelics surrounded by experts in a guided, personalized setting.

The Synthesis retreat in Amsterdam is curated by microdosing experts, and is designed to offer each participant a perfect introduction to psychedelics.

Curated microdosing retreats could be an option for people looking to begin their microdosing journey, and could be the best way to translate the psychedelic experience into lessons for living a better life.

Optimize your microdosing efforts

Do you worry about taking too much, not measuring correctly, or losing control of your experience?

Enroll in our online microdosing course to have a safe, effective, and valuable microdosing experience.

Benefits and Risks

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At the risk of oversimplifying, people microdose for two reasons:

To reduce the frequency and intensity of undesirable states caused by various forms of mental illness including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Mood disorders
  • PTSD
  • Addiction

or,

To increase the frequency and intensity of desirable states/outcomes:

  • Creativity
  • Energy
  • Flow states
  • Productivity/focus
  • Improved relationships/increased empathy
  • Athletic coordination
  • Leadership development

UNDESIRABLE STATES

For those struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, mood disorders and/or addiction (to name a few), microdosing can create a number of positive changes.

Clinical research has shown that larger doses of psychedelics are effective at treating depressionanxiety, and addiction. Anecdotal evidence backs up the idea that a regular microdosing regimen can also have healing benefits for sufferers of various mental health conditions:

“Microdosing doesn’t allow me to be anywhere else but in the present moment. This has helped me tremendously with my anxiety and depression. I am incapable of worrying about what’s going to happen next week, tomorrow, or even five minutes from now. I can function without anxiety for the first time in years. I feel that my attention span is greater, I’m concentrating like never before. When I was suffering with pain I was given a lot of prescription pain pills and was quickly becoming addicted to them. Microdosing instantly helped me stop taking the several pills a day I was taking just so I could get out of bed, and I haven’t touched them since.”

– Third Wave Survey Respondent

“I have fought depression for some 6-7 years since adolescence, microdosing has, so far, consistently helped me get on with my day-to-day, just as much on no MD days as MD days. This also applies to Social & General Anxiety which has been less severe but experienced for the same period.”

– Third Wave Survey Respondent

“I overcame my depression with microdosing because I can consistently be productive and happy with it as a creative booster. It also eliminates any anxiety I get because I never used to raise my hand in class. I smoke a lot of cannabis and it’s unhealthy to overindulge. I found microdosing to make me feel the need to be productive so I smoke much less when I microdose and don’t indulge just to smoke.”

– Third Wave Survey Respondent

DESIRABLE STATES

Many people microdose for personal development. Reports suggest that the practice can improve creativity, productivity, and energy.

The creative benefits of microdosing are linked to the enhancement of flow states. Since microdosing allows you to enter into a flow state with greater ease, you can explore an exciting and rewarding form of consciousness.

Click here to listen to our interview with entrepreneur Janet Chang, and hear how she microdosed to improve creativity and work performance.

Countless people microdose to help them solve work-related problems, create new concepts, or simply to reduce procrastination.

Microdosing can also help you outside of the work environment, by improving your social interaction skills, athletic performance, and spiritual awareness.

“Since microdosing I have come out of my shell. I have become more confident around other people and have formed an intimate relationship with another person where I have had difficulty in the past.”

– Third Wave Survey Respondent

“Microdosing LSD has been a very positive experience – it keeps me very present, focused, creative, and overall induces a deep sense of contentment! I found that taking it before going to my parents place made the family dynamic so much more enjoyable. It also has been great in terms of connecting with my partner.”

– Third Wave Survey Respondent

RISKS

By far, the riskiest thing about microdosing is the law. It’s crucial to check your local laws before microdosing, as the penalties for the possession of psilocybin mushrooms are still harsh in many countries. It’s still possible to microdose psilocybin mushrooms legally, and we never condone illegal activities.

Aside from the legal risks, one can consider microdosing to be a safe, non-threatening introduction to the benefits of psychedelics.

Given the tremendous safety records of psilocybin, combined with the small dose amounts, microdosing appears to be a safe, measureable way to explore the incredible possibilities that psychedelics have to offer.

As you can see, biochemically and socially, psilocybin is one of the safest substances you can find. It’s much safer than alcohol!

That said, psychedelics are powerful substances, and even microdoses have a risk potential.

Emotional turbulence or anxiety is possible while microdosing, largely due to psychedelics’ “amplifying effect.” Psilocybin tends to amplify your current mood, rather than act as a stimulant or numbing agent. For this reason, it is important to assess your mindset before consuming a microdose.

Since psilocybin mushrooms have the potential to amplify your current mind state, we recommend discussing the risks with your physician if you suffer from psychosis, schizophrenia, or severe anxiety, before you decide to begin microdosing. When overdone, microdosing can lead to manic states, which could exacerbate underlying conditions.

Since there is no clinical research on the safety of microdosing, it’s best to avoid microdosing for extended periods of time (longer than a few months). There is a potential heart risk of taking too many large doses of psychedelics over a long period of time – although we don’t know how this translates to microdosing.

How Do You Acquire Psilocybin Mushrooms for Microdosing?

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Psilocybin mushrooms are still illegal to buy, possess and grow in many countries. Make sure you’re aware of your local laws before you decide to microdose.

If you live somewhere that allows the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms for personal use, consider growing your own psilocybin mushrooms.

If you live in Europe, you may have the option of purchasing psilocybin truffles, which are legal in the Netherlands. Remember, these are less potent than psilocybin mushrooms, and an ideal starter dose is 0.5g of dried truffle powder.

Optimize your microdosing efforts

Do you worry about taking too much, not measuring correctly, or losing control of your experience?

Enroll in our online microdosing course to have a safe, effective, and valuable microdosing experience.

FAQ

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Can psilocybin be detected in a drug test?

Psilocybin and its metabolites are not included in most standard drug screens; however they are sometimes included in extended drug screens.

Where can I get psilocybin mushrooms?

See our section on acquiring Psilocybin Mushrooms for microdosing.

Is microdosing illegal?

Microdosing is not necessarily illegal. Several countries allow the cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms, the purchase of psilocybin truffles, or the purchase of LSD analogues. We do not condone microdosing where it is against the law, as penalties can be severe.

Is microdosing safe?

The riskiest thing about microdosing is its potentially illegal nature. Always be aware of your local laws and don’t undertake any illegal activities.

The first ever controlled, double-blind study of microdosing LSD and psilocybin suggests that the practice is more effective than a placebo and that it is safe.

Still unknown, however, are the effects that frequent microdosing could have on the body. This is why we recommend microdosing for no longer than a few months at a time.

One thing is for certain – with microdosing, there is no risk of having a “bad trip” or experiencing intense psychedelic effects. Taking a microdose is the ideal way to be introduced to psychedelics safely and comfortably.

How do I get started with microdosing?

There are lots of things to cover before you get started with microdosing – depending on the reasons you’re interested in the first place!

Sign up to our extensive microdosing course to gain access to curated materials that will help you design the ideal microdosing regimen for your needs. You’ll also gain access to an exclusive community of enthusiastic, helpful microdosers!

 

Footnotes

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[1] Ayelet Waldman (2016) “A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My life

[2] Riedel, Platt & Micheau (2003) doi:10.1016/S0166-4328(02)00272-3

[3] Vollenweider & Kometer (2010) doi:10.1038/nrn2884

[4] Carhart-Harris et al. (2016) doi:10.1073/pnas.1518377113

[5] Sambataro et al. (2014) doi:10.1017/S0033291713002596

[6] Kometer et al. (2013) doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3007-12.2013

[7] Passie et al. (2002) doi:10.1080/1355621021000005937

[8] Sakashita et al. (2015) doi:10.1248/bpb.b14-00315

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Comments

  1. This kind of awareness is very good and would benefit a lot of people in the long run.
    I hope that this will progress and improve people’s lives. Thank you for sharing!

  2. The RISKS for me are way more substantial than you suggest. I want to microdose. I have on hand psilocybin from a reliable source, but I can’t do it. I have chronic severe (daily) migraines for which I take daily Naratriptan. I know there is a high likelihood of adverse reaction to taking both drugs on the same day, but I CANNOT find good information on how long I must wait between drugs, both before and after microdosing. No one seems to be addressing this issue. Any information would be appreciated.

    • Hi Travis,

      The graph presented in this article was not ours but taken from a research study in the UK looking at various drug-related harms and what substance was associated with the instance. The findings of the project illustrate that drug classification is not directly correlated with its harm score.

      We definitely support the responsible use of cannabis and wouldn’t suggest that this graph implies that cannabis should be seen negatively. I hope this helps to clarify!

      – Britt at The Third Wave