If there’s any truth to Terence McKenna’s Stoned Ape theory, then human evolution may owe a great debt to psychedelic microdosing — the practice of taking a sub-perceptual dose (an amount too small to produce traditional psychedelic effects) of a substance such as LSD or psilocybin. As those who have read McKenna’s Food of the Gods know, the author famously proposed that our species’ collective journey from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens may have begun with early pack-hunting primates taking low doses of psilocybin mushrooms to improve their hunting abilities.
According to author James Oroc, the practice of microdosing for improved visual acuity, energy and quick response time is alive and well in the present day, especially among certain extreme sports enthusiasts. “Virtually all athletes who learn to use LSD at psycholytic [low to medium] doses believe that the use of these compounds improves both their stamina and their abilities,” Oroc wrote in the spring 2011 edition of the MAPS Bulletin.
Athletic prowess aside, numerous experimenters and research subjects have claimed that sub-threshold doses of psychedelics have improved their overall wellbeing and/or alleviated specific conditions like depression and cluster headaches. Others, such as a couple of commentators on a thread about microdosing on Reddit.com, have used psycholytic doses as a problem-solving aid.
Dr. James Fadiman, Ph.D., who was part of a Menlo Park, California-based team of researchers who studied the use of psychedelics in problem-solving in 1966, has been looking into the effects of microdosing since 2010. “[This practice] appears to improve practically everything you do a little bit,” Fadiman told Reset. “Various people have said they’re more comfortable with what they’re doing, and they do it a little better.”
Participants in Fadiman’s studies initially contact him at [email protected]. He responds by sending a protocol that essentially consists of a suggestion that prospective participants microdose every fourth day for a month and make notes of how they are feeling from one day to the next. Fadiman does not provide participants with psychedelics; rather, he offers information and guidelines to help maximize the microdosing experiences of subjects who already have their own materials. In this way, Fadiman has collected approximately 30 reports ranging in length from three paragraphs to between 30,000 and 40,000 words.
In a chapter of Fadiman’s book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide titled “Can Sub-Perceptual Doses of Psychedelics Improve Normal Functioning?,” one study participant describes a dose of 10 to 20 micrograms of LSD as both a stimulant and a calming agent. According to her notes, microdosing seems to augment her wit, response time and visual and mental acuity. “Sub-doses of 10 to 20 micrograms allowed me to increase my focus, open my heart, and achieve breakthrough results integrated within my routine,” her report reads.
This improved focus and clarity can be especially useful to artists, writers and other people working in creative fields. “What people report about doing their creative work is that they’re not creating at a higher level, but they’re creating longer; they’re in the flow for longer,” offered Fadiman, who also gathers data about microdosing from a conversation thread about low doses of LSD on Bluelight.org. He added that he knows of two noted writers who have used sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics while writing the first drafts of every chapter of their most recent books.
Along with being what one study participant has called an “all-chakra enhancer,” microdosing shows promise in treating cluster headaches, the pain of which is said to exceed that of childbirth and kidney stones. Through his work with a group called Clusterbusters®, Fadiman has come in contact with a number of cluster headache sufferers who have found relief from this condition through the use of LSD and mushrooms after all other treatments have failed. While the doses that such sufferers use to treat their headaches are generally too large to be considered sub-perceptual, Fadiman mentioned one subject who used a microdose of LSD to get rid of an “ice pick headache” (so named because its pain has been compared to that of an ice pick going into one’s skull) within five to 10 seconds. That subject achieved the same result several times over the next few months. Since then, her headaches have ceased.
Several research participants have also told Fadiman that microdosing alleviated their depression. One such subject, a Parkinson’s disease sufferer, reported that after a month of microdosing with LSD, his Parkinson’s symptoms were not improved, but his underlying depression was. Fadiman stressed, however, that because the data he has collected in this area is based on month-long microdosing periods, he doesn’t yet know whether this practice can yield long-term depression relief.
If future studies show microdosing to be as effective a depression reliever in the long-term as it appears to be in the short-term, then it may prove to be a viable alternative to prescription mood stabilizers, many of which are highly addictive. In light of their energizing and focusing effects, sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics may also provide a suitable replacement for anti-ADHD medications and other such pharmaceutical cognitive enhancers. Lending credence to this notion, one participant in Fadiman’s studies recently reported that microdosing helped him wean himself off of Adderall, a notoriously addictive anti-ADHD drug also used by many college students during all-night study sessions.
Paraphrasing Carl Hart, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry at Columbia, Fadiman offered, “Adderall is no different than street amphetamine made in the back of someone’s car. So the drugs that rot your brain and that we’re busting people for doing these terrible things [on] are the same drugs we’re giving to hundreds of thousands of children every morning.”
Expounding the addictive properties of certain prescription drugs, Fadiman observed, “As a general hint, if it says, ‘Do not miss a dose, and do not try to stop this medication without medical help,’ you know that you have a drug which is hard to get off of. It’s a very tricky area, because the pharmaceutical industry seems to not worry about this problem. In fact, there’s a term in the medical literature when you’re trying to get off of one of these substances. It isn’t called ‘withdrawals,’ as it is for illegal drugs; it’s called ‘tapering.’”
He added that this tapering can be a lengthy process: some patients taking extended-release capsules filled with a couple hundred microdots each have weaned themselves off these drugs by decreasing their intake by a single microdot every few days or even every week.
Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist who discovered LSD, is known to have been a proponent of microdosing as an alternative to the anti-ADHD stimulant drug Ritalin (called “one of the most abused drugs in the U.S.” by the website AddictionHope.com). It is extremely likely that Hofmann, who regularly microdosed with LSD in the last few decades of his life and considered this practice the most under-researched area of psychedelic use, would have thought sub-threshold doses of psychedelics to be an equally viable replacement for newer anti-ADHD amphetamines like Adderall or Vyvanse. Both do not come without very dangerous side effects. Web MD lists a myriad of negative side affects for both drugs. Among these are chronic trouble sleeping, heart throbbing or pounding, sexual problems, aggression, abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, high blood pressure, trouble breathing, stroke, mental impairment, and seizures — to name but a few.
Citing several study subjects’ claims that microdosing has helped them get off of prescription antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilizers and cognitive enhancers, Fadiman said he is hopeful that sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics will yield the benefits of such medications without their dangers and negative side effects. He added, however, that all official studies in this area will need to take place in universities, because “pharmaceutical companies are not about to test their own products against something that 1) is illegal and 2) might be better.”
In addition to helping people break their dependency on FDA-sanctioned drugs, microdosing shows promise in helping treat addiction to illegal substances. Representatives from one treatment center in Mexico have told Fadiman that after using ibogaine to help rid patients of substance abuse problems, they suggest that these patients take microdoses of that compound for a few months “to hold their gains.”
Given the positive feelings that many people experience while microdosing, some question has arisen as to whether this practice could itself become addictive. In Fadiman’s view, it is unlikely that anyone will become physically dependent on compounds that are inherently anti-addictive — if you take the same psychedelic substance every day, it stops working.
“Let’s say you take a high dose on Monday,” he proposed. “If you take the same dose on Tuesday, you get a very little effect, and if you take the same dose on Wednesday, nothing happens. It’s as if your system says, ‘No, I really can’t take any more of whatever those effects are until we’ve cleaned out the system.’”
While the research thus far seems to indicate that microdosing is not harmful or dangerous, a few of Fadiman’s subjects have reported unpleasant effects: one discontinued the practice because she felt it was bringing up too much emotion, while two others have observed that they sweat more than usual on days when they microdose. Both of the subjects who complained of excessive sweating — one of whom was using LSD and the other mushrooms — were unsure whether the sweating was part of healing or just a quirky side effect. One of these two participants reported that she was thrilled with the increased productivity and sense of calm that she got from microdosing, while the other found the practice useful, but was bothered by the sweating.
Several experimenters have reported that since they began microdosing, they have adopted healthier diets and have either returned to or taken up meditation. The latter of these claims aligns with the experience of the late author/researcher Myron Stolaroff, who advocated low doses of psychedelics as an aid to meditation.
While microdosing does not induce the same kinds of spiritual breakthroughs that higher doses of psychedelics can, Fadiman observes that over time, it produces effects much like the after-effects of such breakthroughs. “People are saying, ‘After a month or more of microdosing, I’m eating better; I’m nicer to my kids; I’m not as upset when people behave badly,’” he notes. “One man was saying, ‘I’m so much more in the present. I used to, even when I was enjoying something, really be thinking about what I was going to do when it was over and so forth. Now when I’m doing something, I’m actually doing it.’”
He added that microdosing appears to give people a better orientation to themselves. “I think it’s a little bit [like] the way people indicate that if you would only do meditation in the morning and do some yoga and eat healthy, your whole life would improve,” he noted. “It looks like microdosing is in that direction.”
Ryan Robinson says
This is very interesting and compelling! Does anyone know what a common micro-dose amount for psilocybin might be? More specifically, what amount would that equate to in a normal, average size cubensis mushroom, for example? One mushroom, perhaps??
Christopher Eldridge says
From what I’ve read, a common micro-dose is between 0.2-0.5 grams. Buy a scale. There are thousands of strains of mushrooms of numerous sizes and potency so you can’t equate it based on size of mushroom.
Mikey G says
I second that. Depending on the type of shrooms, obviously, 0.2-0.5 appears to be a good dose for DRIED material.
Agreed! I have been taking anywhere between .2 to .25 of psilocybin everyday for the last month and I am really pleased with the results. I am more in tune with nature and I am feeling more emotions. Overall, my spirit feels lifted, but in no way do I feel immune to adversity. When I was taking antidepressants, overall I felt better, but at the expense of suppressing difficult emotions and never really dealing with the root of problems. It’s quite the opposite with micro – I feel everything and am much more aware of my feeling defense system that is armed with a great number of distractions. Also, It’s interesting to note that my meditation and yoga practice is stronger than it ever has been since starting a daily microdose.
Daisy Hooley says
Less than one mushroom. Grind up in a blender and pack into an empty gel cap. Do 1 or 2 gel caps. I found 1 per day works great for me but I’m under 150 lbs. so a bigger person could try 2.
Thijs Bierman says
i use about 30-50 mg (0.3-0.5) tampenensis truffle every fourth day.
I was saying this 35 years ago. The problem is having a reliable source.
Best to grow your own!! Not hard to do, I assure you.
Stephen Zyszkiewicz says
All these articles about micro dosing make me want to micro dose already.
Gristle McThornbody says
I’ve been micro dosing for two years. If you have the opportunity to do this, TAKE IT. The spores can be purchased legally online (except for California and two other states), and they are easy to grow. These things re-regulate your entire body; you flow through life easier. For me, they set off a feedback loop of positive physical and mental changes. They’ve treated my PTSD, depression, anxiety, dissociation, mild autism, and sensory issues.
Wow thats so amazing. Can we talk more about this?
Bekka Michelle says
Do you take it every day? I have what I need, but have heard to not take it every day because of tolerance. How can something help you if you don’t keep it constant?
I suggest having a friend who lives outside of the States where you can’t get them online as they won’t ship to those states. A simple thing to do unless somehow your friend gets busted for it via us mail, so have them shipped by FedEx, or UPS. And get well informed on how to grow them, I have and a bright sixth grader could do it, it’s rather simple one if you follow the instructions online.
Devark Veyth says
Too bad big Govt doesn’t want you to have autonomy.
Are there particular strains of mushrooms that are more beneficial than others when used for micro dosing?
I’m thinking they’re referring to psilocybin
Any will do fine Barbara, as long as they contain psilocybin!
Were any of you who started micro dosing on mushrooms, also in the process of tapering off SSRIs the same time? Or did you have to do it separately because of the interactions? I’m trying to come up with a plan I just don’t know if I have to come off Paxil first before micro dosing
And I should add I’m on a really low dose, only 10 milligrams of my SSRI
Gristle McThornbody says
I was on 20mg sertraline when I started micro dosing two years ago. The SSRI increased my tolerance to the mushrooms, and it deadened the effects when I tried to trip with 2g; there were no harmful interactions for me. The mushrooms lessened the withdrawal symptoms, and I could go for more days without brain zaps and lightheadedness etc. As I came off the SSRI, I became more sensitive to the mushrooms and I would sometimes experience slight nausea and anxiety in the first hour or two if I took more than 1g. I also cut my doses of SSRI pretty quickly and should have tapered more. Definitely go slow coming off Paxil, I heard it can be rough. The mushrooms helped me a lot. Start small, .1-.2g to test your sensitivity. I take .2-.6g in the morning; it energizes me and I find I fall asleep easier at night. I take larger doses, 1-3g every couple months. The SSRI left me feeling flat and hollow inside. I feel like myself with the mushrooms, only more creative and insightful.
Aha! Now I get the sweating. I’m currently microdosing every other to every two days (small amounts, no scale, am photographing before consuming). I am a member of a Native American Church, they are considered my sacrement and I can carry them & order online!
Morey Ladini says
Crude characterizations such as “Adderall is no different than street amphetamine made in the back of someone’s car….” is just as ridiculous (if not more so) than the demonization of LSD use.
Indeed, compared to tweaked-out street use, the tiny amounts of amphetamine that are time-released slowly in the stomach could itself be considered “microdosing.”
While prolonged amphetamine abuse certainly has devastating physical effects, a single large dose of LSD has been known to have devastating mental effects is some rare situations.
While psychedelics certainly have “spiritual” aspects for most users, those aspects can never be expected to be reliably incorporated and guided by the strictly “evidence-based” medical establishment.
I kinda get what you’re saying, but microdosing psychedelics is a VERY different kettle of fish to taking psychedelic doses. And I believe one can gain benefit here without subscribing to any spiritual views of any kind/ Also prolonged amphetamine abuse is only negative..whole a large dose of LSD has the capacity to be devastating, it also has the capacity to be profoundly healing and transformative when used well.
“If there’s any truth to Terence McKenna’s Stoned Ape Theory …” You ought to have seen ‘the one that got away.’
Everyone knows (whether they can admit it or not) that stoned ape crap was a ripe piece of charlatanism – the facts have been out for years. The Mackster concocted that whole ‘enhanced visual acuity’ (from ‘microdosing mushrooms’) as a ‘clever’ fabrication, on totally false and misleading ground – theatrically attributing ‘such a discovery’ to scientists whose names he exploited, in their absence (while they were ‘out of the room’) – telling his fans “no really, its true (I wouldn’t lie to you).”
And to this day – the fate of those he reeled in with such juicy story bait – the cult leaders’ minions are left dangling on the line, unable to unset the hook they took, when they snapped at it – hook line and sinker. Why do you think Festinger called it cognitive dissonance? Stoned apes is a case file from the annals of WHEN PSEUDOSCIENCE FAILS.
As FOOD OF THE GODS shows (p. 24) – Mr Mackie was apparently so intent in his forgery of ‘data’ – he had the audacity to fraudulently cite his ‘visual acuity’ claim not only to Fischer and colleagues – but to one publication of theirs in particular (“Transformation of Nearby Visual Space …”).
And guess what article by Fischer, in particular (along with all his others) says nothing even remotely like Mr Mackie’s ‘enhanced visual acuity’? Guess what claim about ‘low doses’ of psilocybin – turns out to be a steaming crock of rich creamy crap – by doing the unthinkable, actually reading the Fischer research on which McKenna had the gall to fraudulently pin his infamous ‘visual acuity enhanced by psilocybin’ perjury?
Despite conjured appearances, moonbeams in jars etc – checking sources to see what Fischer et al really did, discovered and reported is all it takes to disclose – there’s no such question in evidence, as – ‘If there’s any truth to the Stoned …’ Mr Mackie’s little story has been checked against sources to which it was fraudulently cited – the jig is up. The results are in and – conclusive. Uh no, there is not any ‘truth’ to it nor does anyone really think there is – its simply a modus operandi, of broadcast throughout the McKennasphere.
What’s next, are still waiting to see if Mr Mackie’s Eschaton really really ‘manifests’ – comes true Dec 21, 2012? What if there’s any ‘truth’ to that?
Not only is the basic ‘stoned apish’ claim ‘psilocybin enhances visually acuity (and it was discovered by real scientists – not made up by a Bard)’ – dishonest and wrong. Every tiny detail Mr Mackie ‘fleshed it out’ with, for story telling ‘veracity’ – proves equally fallacious.
Fischer et al. didn’t even study ‘low doses’ – nor did they claim to. Moreover – Tmac’s description of their study design (a tall tale about ‘two lines going from parallel to skewed’ -and trippers performing better) – likewise turns out to have been utterly untrue. Not only results, but – what the researchers actually did, and how they did it. Their study and results alike – have nothing to do whatsoever with Mr Mackie’s “version of research events.”
And as reflects above, CPR maintenance of the Mackster’s lyric deceit, ‘low dose effects of psilocybin’ (“discovered by Fischer …”) – the deceptive story on which he built his stoned ape schmeory – isn’t ‘up for discussion.’ Its to be told and retold as gospel for his fans to believe and spread – regardless. Its a lie to perpetuate world without end, amen.
“if there’s any truth to Terence McKenna’s …” indeed. What if the moon proves to be made of green cheese? Imagine the ramifications, it would be paradigm-shfiting ! Not that anyone oughta be convinced, but to “seriously consider the possibility” would be vital for the ‘open minded.’ What about – whether pigs have wings? What if there’s any truth to that?
Microdosing really appeals to me because of a very bad trip I had the only time I have ever taken psychedelics and I would rather not risk my still-fragile nervous system on perceptual distortions again.
John Andrew says
Microdosing is amazing, I recently did my first (and definitely not last) experiment – on four consecutive days whilst travelling across the desert! You can read about it here 🙂 http://mapsofthemind.com/2016/11/20/daily-microdosing-from-desert-chile-to-salt-flats-bolivia-4-days-on-lsd/
Mr. Shifty says
After 5 months of micro dosing L, I’ve started to change up my approach. 10 mics every other day was my baseline, with positive effects. Was convinced to try this every third day, but after 3 weeks switched back. My true experimentation started 3 weeks ago, as I have been dosing with 20 mics every day. Absolutely love the benefits, but am beginning to feel a bit exhausted. I’ve concluded that just like with everything else i.e. food, water, sleep, etc, my body will tell me what I require, and when. No longer do I plan days, or dosages. My body speaks, and I listen, and could never have imagined feeling this content. Just my two cents.
Jim Byrnes says
Sounds like it’s mostly subjective self -reports of the “positive” effects of LSD self-administration. Doesn’t sound very scientific.