Illustration by Flora Bai


A reader’s guide to microdosing

How to use small doses of psychedelics to lift your mood, enhance your focus, and fire your creativity

by Tunde Aideyan + BIO

Illustration by Flora Bai

Psychedelics are resurging in the 21st century. The movement is frequently described as a psychedelic renaissance; Michael Pollan, author, journalist and psychedelics advocate, writes that ‘There has never been a more exciting – or bewildering – time in the world of psychedelics.’ Spanning numerous domains and branches of modern society – including medicine, psychotherapy, pharmaceutical drug development, self-improvement and spiritual transformation – individuals and communities worldwide are evolving with psychedelics as the conduit.

The loudest declaration to date of the psychedelics comeback may have been the Psychedelic Science 2023 conference in Denver, Colorado, hosted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in June, attended by some 12,000 people. Conference-goers heard talks about psychedelics from a diversity of perspectives, from Rick Doblin, the founder of MAPS and a decades-long champion of psychedelics, to Rick Perry, who introduced himself as ‘the dark, knuckle-dragging, Right-wing, Republican former governor of the state of Texas’.

Despite unrestrained hype and valid criticisms of the psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy model (MAPS had to rectify fallout after revelations of sexual misconduct by research therapists were publicised in 2021 and 2022), psychedelics are increasingly accepted and endorsed among both the populace and institutions. In 2021, 8 per cent of young adults in the US reported using hallucinogens in the past year, compared with just 3 per cent in 2011. Federal governments and industry, including venture capital firms, are investing billions to research and develop psychedelic treatments and pharmaceuticals. A US National Institutes of Health grant is currently supporting research into psilocybin treatments, for instance, while other governments have opened up access to the drugs. In 2023, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Association gave psychiatrists approval to prescribe MDMA and psilocybin for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, and a Special Access Program in Canada, though still heavily bureaucratic and mired in red tape, similarly opens a pathway to treat serious medical conditions with psychedelics.

Meanwhile, another vibrant subculture based on microdosing – consuming small amounts of psychedelic substances semi-regularly over a period of time – has emerged in the psychedelic landscape. The practice has been tantalising but fraught. Indeed, while studies supported by government and industry focus mainly on generating clinical trial evidence for standard doses to treat mental health problems, most research into microdosing falls on the lower end of the scientific rigour pyramid, often exploratory and observational in nature. In that sense, rather ironically, it resembles the experience of psychonauts taking full and heroic doses to seek enlightenment.

Of course, microdosers are more interested in enhancing cognitive and intellectual performance or filling gaps in a hobbled mental healthcare infrastructure than plumbing the depths of their psyches. Research surveys of adults who microdose regularly find that the most common motivations for microdosing relate to strengthening or mending the psyche – improving mood, decreasing anxiety, or boosting focus and creativity. Some have compared its impact with stimulants for ADHD or SSRIs for depression. Even US Marines are looking to microdosing to increase productivity, creativity, problem-solving and flow.

Are these positive cognitive and psychological benefits real? From a strictly evidence-based perspective, the science is young and undetermined. A sizeable slice of the microdosing scientific literature debates whether the impact comes from the placebo effect, in which expectation influences outcome. But placebo effect or not, qualitative accounts have been so positive and persuasive that scientists feel compelled to understand the practice further.

Microdosing in the psychedelic world has a meaning unto itself – and is a bit different than the use of the term in pharmacology overall. A 2019 commentary in the Journal of Psychopharmacology summarised guidelines from a handful of drug and medicine regulatory agencies, and reported that a microdose is ‘1 per cent of the pharmacologically active dose [of any drug], up to a maximum of 100 µg [micrograms]’. A microdose is a tiny dose of a pharmacological agent that is likely not pharmacologically active, but is useful for studying safety, side-effects and other properties of the substance.

The informal shared definition in psychedelic microdosing communities, on the other hand, is 5-10 per cent of a standard or ‘trippy’ dose of a psychedelic. Given that many consider 2-5 grams of magic mushrooms or 100-200 micrograms of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) the dosing amounts to consume for a proper psychedelic trip, microdosing of these substances comes out to be about 0.2-0.5 grams of magic mushrooms and 5-20 micrograms of LSD. (Note that most controlled research studies use psilocybin, the psychoactive molecule in magic mushrooms. Therefore, a standard dose of 25 milligrams of psilocybin equates to about 1-2 milligrams per microdose. However, pure psilocybin is not typically accessible to the general public. Pretty much the only legal way to obtain psilocybin in the US is in highly regulated clinical research studies. Therefore, it is more practical to consider microdosing psilocybin in the context of magic mushrooms. And since the psilocybin potency of magic mushrooms can be highly variable, these dose calculations are no more than broad estimates.)

Many believe microdosing can yield benefits equal to a full-dose psychedelic trip

Given all this, the commonly accepted phrase ‘microdosing’ when it comes to psychedelics is a bit of a misnomer; the actual amounts consumed are more analogous to a ‘low dose’ or ‘very low dose’ of the psychedelic itself. Though these semantic details may seem tedious, it is important to understand that microdosing is not simply a product of subcultures in psychedelia; it is a method of studying and understanding the effects of pharmacologically active substances overall.

It is also important to understand that much of what is discussed among the general public and in online communities about microdosing is implicit and inferred, with standardised definitions, crucial for moving the enterprise forward, still to come. Semantics aside, microdosing psychedelics means merely consuming very small amounts of the substance, usually 5-10 per cent of the standard hallucinatory dose.

There’s another way to look at microdosing psychedelics that may be a bit more helpful. Microdosing refers to consuming very small amounts of psychedelics so that psychoactive effects are sub-perceptual. The aim of microdosing is to obtain whatever psychological and neurological benefits the psychedelic may bestow, but at a level that is perceptually unnoticeable to the consumer. This flies in the face of what is widely understood to be why humans use psychedelics – to hallucinate, undergo a deeply psychologically transformative experience, and expand consciousness. Psychonauts are wholly uninterested in anything sub-perceptual; rather, they seek to completely alter how they perceive the physical, mental and spiritual realms. Nonetheless, despite limited controlled research evidence, many believe that microdosing can yield benefits equal to what one may gain from a full-dose psychedelic trip.

This is especially true if the microdosing occurs on a regular schedule over a period of several weeks to several months. Somewhat like taking a traditional antidepressant, microdosing psychedelics requires adhering to a predetermined dosing regimen, and remaining persistent with it even if benefits are not immediately noticeable. Microdosing psychedelics, however, does not occur daily but once every couple of days, or perhaps once a week or even every couple of weeks.

The reported effects of microdosing vary just as much as the reported effects of traditional consciousness-bending doses of psychedelics. Let’s consider some scientifically derived conclusions before delving into some of the more glowing anecdotal reports.

A comprehensive systematic review of microdosing, published in 2022 in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, may be the best peer-reviewed empirical summary of the effects. The most striking finding from this review is that numerous studies have shown that psychedelic microdoses frequently cause mild noticeable perceptual effects, including perceptual distortions, altered mental states, somaesthesia, feelings of bliss, increased vigilance, and experiences of unity. These perceptual effects of course pale in comparison with a full-blown psychedelic trip but diverge from the assumption that microdoses are sub-perceptual. It may be that the customary 5-10 per cent of a standard dose is far more than what is necessary for an effective microdose, or, as the authors highlight, that mild alterations in perception may indeed be a ‘prerequisite for the beneficial effects of microdosing’. This is a quandary of microdosing that will benefit from more experimental research.

Other key findings of the review are summarised as follows:

  • Microdosing is regularly associated with improvements in depression in uncontrolled observational studies, though a handful of controlled lab studies have shown no changes in depression after microdosing.
  • The relationship between microdosing and anxiety is unclear – more studies have shown mixed or negative results on measures of anxiety than studies showing positive results.
  • Several studies have shown improvements in areas such as wellbeing, self-fulfilment, self-efficacy, wisdom and physical health, though none of these studies were controlled laboratory experiments.
  • Several studies have shown increases in creativity following ingestion of psychedelic microdoses. Other studies have shown mixed positive and negative effects of microdosing on other cognitive functions, including psychomotor vigilance, attention, mindfulness, ability to focus, and cognitive control.

Another systematic review of microdosing published in January 2024 looked at the effects on mental health. The authors found favourable correlations between microdosing and several variables of psychological health including emotionality, mood and mental wellbeing. Several studies in this review also found adverse associations such as increased anxiety and substance use. The article’s Table 4 adroitly depicts these mercurial findings across all studies reviewed. The more important finding from this study is probably the overall quality assessment of the research (see Table 3); each study received an average quality score of 1 or less on a quality assessment scale ranging from 0-2.

The sum of the research literature so far suggests microdosing may provide a useful boost in some cognitive functions, a moderate reprieve from depression though foiled by an increase in anxiety, and a mild enhancement of general wellbeing and daily functioning. And these benefits may just be marginal, although it’s impossible to know for sure. The studies done so far look at small sample sizes of healthy, demographically homogeneous research participants, making it difficult to generalise the results, especially for people diagnosed with longstanding mental disorders.

Neither faction in the microdosing coterie can prove positive effects are more than placebo

Yet reports of microdosing in the media and online are often glowing and remarkable. In Silicon Valley, workers have turned to microdosing to aid with intensive daily cognitive tasks as a healthier alternative to ADD medications such as Adderall, according to an article in Wired in 2016. In these circles, which are driven by productivity hacks and technical prowess, microdosing can alleviate a ‘bevy of disorders, including depression, migraines and chronic-fatigue syndrome, while increasing outside-the-box thinking’, according to a report in Rolling Stone in 2015. (If that is true, we all should be microdosing!) Some claim that microdosing has helped them become better parents, and mothers are turning to microdosing to counter post-partum depression. The toolkit for treating trauma-related cognitive impairment suffered by combat veterans is increasingly incorporating psychedelics, and microdosing may become a component. A qualitative analysis of YouTube self-reports of microdosing experiences includes claims of solving Rubik’s Cubes faster and performing 20 per cent better in sales and marketing tasks. The author Ayelet Waldman states in the subtitle of one of her books that microdosing made a ‘mega difference’ in her mood, marriage and life. In a conference talk in 2018, Waldman said that, upon microdosing for the first time, ‘in that instant, I went from being suicidally depressed and unable to experience joy, to looking out the window and finding myself exhilarated by beauty.’

The benefits of microdosing tallied in the peer-reviewed literature are significantly tamer than the anecdotal declarations, of course. Modern societies rely on science to sift through facts and falsities, but some of the most profound human experiences cannot (at least for now) be directly measured with empirical tools: narratives and personal accounts are a valuable source of understanding them. Microdosing has become inexorably lodged between these two paradigms, and we are still in the earliest of days.

Whether you side with the middling empirical findings or the exuberant anecdotes of believers, neither faction in the microdosing coterie can prove its positive effects are anything more than placebo. Scientists haven’t found an explanation for the reported effects, suggesting a placebo response. And anecdotal accounts must be qualified because many who claim benefits from microdosing may actually be taking small doses that produce some perceptual changes, rather than true microdoses below the perceptual threshold.

Nonetheless, we live in a society where small advantages mean a lot – we maintain a ceaseless drive for minuscule gains in work, hobbies and relationships. The cultural milieu makes microdosing attractive, and the reality is that many have microdosed, and many more will do so as acceptance of psychedelics enters the mainstream. If you would like to try it yourself, we suggest you proceed with an abundance of caution, using this Aeonic guide.


For initiating a sensible microdosing programme, follow the steps below:

1. Complete a physical and mental health assessment

As with any psychotropic substance taken as medication, recreationally or otherwise, the benefits and risks to one’s personal wellbeing should be evaluated and balanced appropriately. Though consumed at very low, presumably sub-perceptual doses, psychedelic microdoses are not without potential harms. Some scientists are warning of potential cardiovascular effects associated with repeated consumption of the classic psychedelics, which affect neurotransmission pathways that involve serotonin. Other research has shown that microdosing LSD may elevate anxiety. Until larger, more robust and rigorous experimental trials of microdosing are completed, it is nearly impossible to determine how microdosing may influence any individual person.

One’s personal experience during a psychedelic experience can be blissful and enlightening or terrifying and dark – the outcome is largely a factor of the psychonaut’s a priori physical and psychological characteristics. That said, anyone considering microdosing should assess their physical and mental wellbeing before entering a microdosing cycle. If possible, completing a checkup with a primary care physician can help you evaluate your physical health and uncover any risk factors that psychedelics may exacerbate. Consulting with a mental health professional can help you evaluate your transient and persistent mental states and any cognitive, emotional and behavioural risk factors susceptible to psychedelic microdosing. If medical and mental health services are not accessible to you, an online self-assessment tool can be helpful.

They are amusing and pleasant for some but may be shocking and scary for others

Expectedly, microdosers living in regions and territories where psychedelics are still illegal may choose to refrain from disclosing drug use to physicians and therapists. Consulting with clinical providers about specific healthcare questions without disclosing microdosing intent or behaviour is a more discreet tactic. There are two major attributes of microdosing to consider when assessing for physiological and psychological risk factors: hallucinogenic effects and prolonged repeated exposure to psychedelics.

Hallucinogenic effects: psychedelics, especially high doses of the so-called ‘classic psychedelics’, can stimulate dramatic alterations to perception, causing hallucinatory visions, voices, and other sensory distortions. They are amusing and pleasant for some but may be shocking and scary for others. It’s all a part of the trip, some would say, and a necessary feature of consciousness-expansion. However, the hallucinatory effects of psychedelics can provoke a more dangerous break from reality, such as psychosis or mania. Consequently, clinical trials of psychedelic therapies stringently screen out individuals with personal or family histories of psychotic or manic-depressive disorders. The adverse effect of even a single psychotic or manic episode triggered by a psychedelic outweighs any potential gains.

Fortunately, a 2022 review article affirmed that ‘no psychotic episodes have been documented in modern clinical trials’, suggesting that the risk for such events is low for those without psychotic or manic psychiatric predispositions, and when psychedelics are used in controlled, safe settings.

Prolonged and repeated exposure: the risk of mania and psychosis pertain to single, high-dose consumption of psychedelics. Studies and reviews of microdosing have not associated it with the onset of severe mental impairment. However, common sense suggests that repeated exposure to hallucinogens, even in low doses, poses some risk to psychological health. Indeed, in a 2020 systematic review, upwards of 10 per cent of microdosers self-report negative mental health side-effects such as insomnia, anxiety and worsening depression.

Potential cardiovascular side-effects of microdosing are a growing concern in medical discourse. Though clinical investigators are cognizant of cardiovascular effects of single, high-dose psychedelics (eg, increased heart rate and blood pressure), associated risks of significant, adverse events are generally low.

Some, however, are not convinced the same can be said of microdosing psychedelics. Given the neurochemical mechanism whereby psychedelics mimic serotonin and trigger various receptors in the brain, the effect of repeated dosing is an important question.

Furthermore, because serotonin can constrict blood vessels and increase blood pressure, the effects of repeated dosing on the cardiovascular system require scrutiny and additional research, at the very least. Over the past few years, researchers have theorised that chronic microdosers may be at risk of developing valvular heart disease (VHD). Since psychedelics have a high affinity for 5-HT2B receptors, found in the peripheral and central nervous system, the theory goes, and since medications with similar neurotransmitter activity have been linked to VHD, microdosing could be a culprit as well. A 2023 article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology analysed in vitro, animal, and clinical studies evaluating the risk of psychedelic-induced VHD. Though the analysis did not control for microdosing schedules, the authors concluded that repeated exposure to full doses of MDMA could cause VHD (they did not find such risk associated with four other psychedelics, but this was mostly due to a lack of relevant research). Though microdosing is, obviously, done at lower doses and at non-daily schedules, caution is still warranted until more clinical and laboratory evidence is generated.

To summarise, a physical and mental health assessment in preparation for microdosing should, at the very least, consider risk for psychiatric and cardiovascular adverse events. As with most drugs, side-effects and problems are not limited to just two arenas. Other, less dramatic side-effects, from nausea to changes in body temperature to panic and more, are summarised in the Journal of Psychopharmacology; you should refer to the aforementioned 2022 article for a more comprehensive review of risk factors and adverse effects.

2. Select a substance for microdosing

The most commonly microdosed psychedelics are LSD and magic mushrooms (psilocybin). A 2019 study that tracked the practices and experiences of microdosers over six weeks found that a little under half of participants microdosed either LSD or psilocybin; the aforementioned 2020 systematic review of 17 quantitative and qualitative studies reported that ‘drugs most frequently used in this research were LSD and psilocybin’; the majority of placebo-controlled, experimental studies of psychedelic microdoses have administered either LSD or psilocybin to research participants. Many other psychedelics are microdosed, albeit much less commonly, including MDMA, mescaline, ketamine, ibogaine, and dimethyltryptamine (DMT).

Prudence suggests that the safest and most effective options for microdosers are LSD or magic mushrooms. The safety profile and ubiquity of these substances imply that healthy individuals will fare best when microdosing either of these, as opposed to other psychedelic drugs. Furthermore, microdosers who select LSD or magic mushrooms can review dozens of research articles to explore how these substances may affect them, and connect with online communities where most members are likely microdosing these substances – the aforementioned 2022 systematic review is a good place to start. The more thoroughly documented effects of standard doses of psychedelics in general are also informative – the book Psyched (2022) by the journalist Amanda Siebert covers seven different psychedelics in detail.

3. Determine how much to microdose

After choosing a psychedelic, you will want to determine how much of it to microdose. If you aspire for a truly sub-perceptual experience because you’re interested to see if microdosing can enhance your mental processes, then your microdoses should be less than the 5-10 per cent standard, perhaps 1-2 per cent. You can experiment and work your way up from there (of course, people who are very sensitive to psychedelics may feel substantial perceptual effects at 1-2 per cent). If you want to mildly shift your mental states and experiment with different levels of perception without going on a full-blown trip, the 5-10 per cent standard is a good place to start. At 15-20 per cent, chances are you will be flirting with a light but very real psychedelic trip that stimulates an elevation of consciousness. Previous experience with full doses of psychedelics will be helpful for this step. Reflect on how much of a psychedelic was necessary for you to have a good trip, and go from there.

4. Procuring your psychedelics

Regarding legal access to psychedelics, these substances are entering the exceptionally grey regulatory area already inhabited by cannabis. In the US, at the federal level, most psychedelics are classified as Schedule I substances and considered to have ‘no currently accepted medical use and high potential for abuse’, meaning that possessing or procuring psychedelics is a criminal offence. However, many states and municipalities have moved to decriminalise some psychedelics.

In 2020, Oregon became the first state in the US to decriminalise possession of most drugs, including many psychedelics, and is establishing a system for residents to receive psilocybin services. At the same time, it’s worth noting that microdosing was a contentious part of these reforms and remains legal only under supervision, just like higher doses of psychedelics. Colorado passed a similar measure in 2022 to initiate a regulatory framework for residents to procure and use psilocybin at licensed healing centres. Many other cities and towns across the US have passed measures to decriminalise psychedelics, most often those naturally occurring such as mushrooms and cacti, and develop systems to launch psychedelic-assisted mental health services. A recent preprint underscores that none of these laws have specifically addressed microdosing and, therefore, its legal status may be uncertain in any particular jurisdiction.

The vast majority of consumers of psychedelics are likely procuring them via underground methods

Outright buying psychedelics for recreational purposes is still prohibited in the US and much of the world. Even in Portugal, where personal possession of all drugs has been decriminalised since 2001, the manufacturing and selling of drugs remains illegal. All of this is to say that, by and large, procuring psychedelics is still an underground endeavour.

I do not endorse any specific underground method for obtaining psychedelics for microdosing. Ideally, they should be obtained legally and used in accordance with federal and local laws. That said, the reality is that more and more people are using psychedelics for microdosing or otherwise, and the vast majority of consumers of psychedelics are likely procuring them via underground methods. Readers should use reasonable and sensible judgment in their attempts to acquire psychedelics, and rely on their personal network and known connections to source them rather than on social media or shadowy delivery services. (If psychedelic mushrooms are decriminalised in your city or state, you may consider growing them yourself.)

5. Testing your psychedelics

Microdosers should opt to test their psychedelics before consuming them as they would any other drug, at least any substances sold in powder, pill or liquid form. (A 2020 survey in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that most microdosers do not test the substances they use.) Unfortunately, recreational drugs such as cocaine and MDMA are regularly laced with adulterants such as fentanyl and xylazine, and these laced drugs are contributing to an intensifying overdose crisis in the US.

Fungi and plants (eg, cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms) are not likely to be contaminated with fentanyl. However, powder, pills and liquids can be laced with a potentially fatal adulterant. Ensuring the safety of your drugs can be tricky given the various levels of drug-testing measures. Fentanyl test strips are relatively easy to access and use, and are a quick-and-dirty way to detect fentanyl in street drugs, but they cannot measure the potency of the fentanyl or confirm that the drug you have acquired is actually what it was advertised as.

Drug-specific testing is an option as well, but is more expensive than fentanyl test strips which are often freely available in the US. sells testing kits to detect specific drugs such as MDMA and LSD, though these kits range from $20 to $120. DrugsData, an independent drug-testing laboratory based in Sacramento, California ‘tests all psychoactive drugs including ecstasy tablets, powders, research chemicals, novel psychoactive substances, and other drugs through [their] DEA-licensed laboratory’. This drug-testing option is likely the most comprehensive and accurate available to recreational drug users, but there are some noteworthy caveats. You will have to mail the drugs to the lab, and for $100-$150 DrugsData will test the drugs and post results publicly on their website 3-4 weeks later.

6. Storing your psychedelics

Storing psychedelics during microdosing is crucial given that these substances will be used over a period of several weeks or months. Psychedelics are susceptible to degrading and loosing potency if stored in unfavourable conditions. The two most commonly microdosed psychedelics – LSD and magic mushrooms – are best stored in airtight containers and placed in a cool, dry and dark environment. For long-term storage, keep LSD in the fridge or freezer.

7. Design a microdosing protocol

The dosing schedule is crucial. The aforementioned 2020 survey in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reported results from a study of microdosing practices from 414 microdosers. The authors found that just over a third of respondents used a one-day-on, two-days-off microdosing protocol, and about one-fifth of respondents used a one-day-on, three-days-off protocol. In other words, most microdosers consume their preferred psychedelic one day and refrain for 2-3 days before microdosing again. Some respondents also reported using a once-a-week or once-every-two-or-more-weeks microdosing schedule. A 2019 survey of more than 1,000 respondents found that almost half of them designed their own microdosing protocol.

Many practitioners follow schedules invented by some key thought leaders in psychedelia. The most popular is the Fadiman protocol, initially proposed by the psychologist James Fadiman in his book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys (2011), and further specified in a 2019 article in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. The Fadiman protocol is one day of microdosing followed by two days off. In the 2019 article, the authors stated that this protocol was informed by anecdotal reports suggesting that the effects of microdosing last two days. Another popular microdosing protocol is the so-called ‘Stamets stack’. The renowned mycologist Paul Stamets advises combining microdoses of dried psychedelic mushrooms with Lion’s Mane, another mushroom purported to enhance cognitive function, and Vitamin B3 on a dosing schedule of 4-5 days on and 2-3 days off. This cycle is repeated for 4-6 weeks, followed by a break of 2-6 weeks. These schedules are popular, but have not been tested in any systematic way against others.

At least a month of microdosing may be necessary to obtain any potential benefits

Microdosers should tailor their protocol to best fit their needs and desired outcomes, though this can be difficult to gauge the first time someone embarks on a microdosing cycle. Some may consider using microdoses for specific personal and professional activities, such as deep cognitive work or social engagements. Such protocols may not adhere to a fixed dosing schedule but may provide a psychedelic boost in preferred settings and situations. Despite limited consensus on the best microdosing protocol, dosing every day should be avoided. Psychedelic microdosing is not without risks and any negative side effects are more likely to occur when a substance is consumed daily.

In his guide, Fadiman counsels to go slow:

By going slow, you give yourself a chance to really know, to really observe what is different, why it’s different, and how you can best take advantage of it. The day you’re completely off is great as a reset day, kind of like clearing the mind/body palate. Then you’re fresh and ready to undertake the experiment again.

Little has been written about the ideal length of a complete microdosing cycle. In Fadiman’s 2019 article, he and his co-author collected self-reports of experiences with microdosing from research participants after one month of microdosing using the Fadiman protocol. The one-month cycle was chosen for research purposes, however, and lengthier schedules (from 2-4 months) are very common. Unless you experience serious negative side-effects after the first few microdoses, at least a month of microdosing may be necessary to obtain any potential benefits. Going on for too long, though, isn’t recommended. Even if you experience significant positive effects, microdosing consistently for six months to a year or more is not advisable due to cardiovascular risk.

The best approach to a microdosing protocol is consistent with any recreational drug use – proceed with caution.

8. Carefully measure and divide microdoses

Precision goes a long way when using drugs recreationally. Along with adulterated black-market substances, a great deal of drug harm stems from users miscalculating how much they are actually consuming. In his book Drug Use for Grown-Ups (2021), the neuroscientist Carl Hart provides readers with four ‘important lessons to facilitate their health and happiness’ when using drugs recreationally, the first of which is dose; the other three are route of administration, set, and setting. Hart writes that the dose, the amount of the drug consumed, ‘is perhaps the most crucial factor in determining the effects produced by the drug’. The most delightful psychedelic experience can quickly become harrowing if too much of the drug is consumed. It is imperative to be as accurate as possible when measuring individual microdoses.

Psychedelic plants and fungi can be measured with milligram scales. Generally speaking, a microdose is considered one-10th to one-20th of a standard psychedelic dose. Things are trickier with psychedelics like LSD, a liquid typically sold as tiny squares of blotting paper. It is basically impossible to ascertain the potency of an LSD blotter without hi-tech drug-testing hardware. One blotter is commonly understood to be one recreational dose of LSD, about 100 micrograms. One method for dividing LSD blotters is to cut a square into nine equal microdoses, though this is slightly greater than the one-10th to one-20th standard. Those new to microdosing may consider cutting smaller squares given how potent LSD is, though it may be difficult to cut the microdoses into equal portions.

Finally, dividing each microdose and storing them properly before starting the cycle is prudent for a safe and effective microdosing adventure.

9. Day 1 microdosing and beyond: track microdoses and effects in a journal or spreadsheet

The first day of microdosing is exceptionally important, especially if you have never previously used a psychedelic, microdosing or otherwise. Though LSD and magic mushrooms are considered relatively safe recreational substances, there is always a chance you may experience a bad reaction, as is true with any recreational or medicinal drug. On day 1, jotting notes or journaling about how you respond to the microdose is a good way to keep track of any bad reactions. Be sure to track good reactions as well. The goal is to just be mindful of how you respond to the psychedelic, and ensure it is something you can manage on a regular basis.

You may consider journaling and tracking other data points regularly throughout a microdosing cycle. Given the varied nature of how any individual person on any given day may experience psychedelics, monitoring your day-to-day experience may help you decode hype from reality. As I detailed earlier, the anecdotal reports of microdosing soar far higher than the scientific evidence. Reports of phenomenal outcomes due to microdosing should not be dismissed, but any positive effects you experience are likely to be less dramatic. You can use tools like daily journaling, or psychometric measures of depression, anxiety, flow, and wellbeing to gain clarity about your experiences with microdosing. You may consider N-of-1 citizen science, a method based on a study population of one, currently gaining ground in microdosing research, as a model for collecting and interpreting data about yourself. Again, the goal is to use more than personal intuition to delineate how microdosing affects your mind, body and wellbeing.

It would be irresponsible to conclude this piece without the cautionary note that microdosing suffers from a thorny quandary: it is clear that it is influenced by prior expectations, so we can’t be sure how much of the effects are due to this or to inherent properties of the drugs. This is a complex predicament for psychotropic substances, including antidepressants, across the board.

In popular culture, microdosing has been associated with transformative psychological and spiritual experiences. When captivating and sparkling anecdotes are propagated in the media, many people considering microdosing may inevitably surmise that it will also be transformative for them. Hype surrounding microdosing and psychedelics in general has cultivated an air of exceptional optimism and enthralment about their capabilities. The reality is that microdosing is susceptible to expectancy effects, possibly more so than other psychotropics. In fact, a 2021 study found no significant difference between a microdosing group and a placebo group on multiple psychological outcomes. There is a growing body of academic literature and lay media discussing the relevance of expectancy and placebo effects in microdosing, and it is worth reviewing it before starting a microdosing cycle.

None of this means that microdosing should be written off – placebo-controlled studies do show that microdosing has positive (and sometimes negative) effects on mood, cognition and wellbeing. And psychedelics across the board are inherently difficult to investigate because they affect fundamental features of consciousness, rendering one’s response to them subject to the many vicissitudes of life itself. This is not acceptable to scientists – scientists like to explain how and why things happen, and in fine detail. They like to quantify variables and generate equations. Psychedelic experiences do not lend themselves to such precise explanations.

Psychedelic experiences are esoteric phenomena that humanity grapples with mercurially

Compounding the complexity is the fact that establishing causal effects is difficult in microdosing research due to inadequate blinding methods. Indeed, the most consistent finding across the existing microdosing literature is that the effects of microdoses are often subjectively noticeable, in other words, microdosers can reliably tell they are ‘under the influence’. (Some would argue that these slight alterations in consciousness are necessary for microdosing to work.) Nonetheless, blinding is a bedrock of establishing causality in clinical trial and experimental research – scientists cannot say microdosing is superior to placebo if participants can reliably guess whether they have been given the actual drug or not. In a recent review of placebo-controlled microdosing studies, a duo of Australian researchers contend that ‘it is likely that a substantial proportion of participants in these studies were able to identify whether they had taken a microdose.’

I believe that microdosing can have positive effects on cognition, mental health and happiness, and can be extremely useful for many when used correctly. I am also convinced that controlled microdosing research will likely continue to produce middling results, as has been the case so far. Psychedelic experiences are esoteric phenomena that humanity grapples with mercurially, as an individual does with complicated emotions like fear and love. Neither multitudes of subjective anecdotes nor scientific instruments can capture the multidimensional value of psychedelics in society. Historical evidence is more compelling in my view and, historically, psychedelics are deeply intertwined with some of the most ethereal elements of humanity – rituals, healing, culture and consciousness. Psychedelics seem to vary and respond in accordance with the society and era in which they exist.

The question is: what is the role of microdosing in the context of today? I obviously do not have the answer. However, microdosing appears to agreeably integrate psychedelics with 21st-century society. In the modern era, genetic engineering, brain-computer interfaces and digital biomarkers are possible in humans. Those of us using digital and software technologies for daily work are already augmenting our productivity and our brains. And the need to gain an edge has become more relentless than ever before. The microdosing ethos aligns perfectly with these sentiments – just a little more biohacking to drive results.

There may be a simpler interpretation. Psychedelics are mainstream and widely accepted in the 21st century, possibly more so than at any other time in the history of Western societies. But at the same time, it’s not practical to enter the altered state of the high-dose psychedelic experience in any routine way. Microdosing may be that accessible and modest psychedelic nudge we might all need in modern society to expand our collective consciousness and see the world in new and creative ways.