Microdosing magic mushrooms is the new trippy trend for adults with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and addiction disorders who seek to improve their wellbeing and mental health without relying on antidepressants. Today’s GKIS article is for those who are curious about microdosing on psychedelic mushrooms. We discuss potential therapeutic uses, safety, and the current trend toward legalization and decriminalization of psilocybin. Check out Dr. Bennett’s new Screen Safety Essentials Course for comprehensive help when it comes to maintaining psychological wellness, avoiding digital injury, and keeping your family safe and connected.
What is micro-dosing?
Microdosing is the phenomenon of taking very small doses of a psychedelic drug like magic mushrooms to improve well-being, emotional, and mental health. The active chemical in medicinal mushrooms is called psilocybin. When psilocybin is metabolized, the brain responds by releasing serotonin in the prefrontal cortex region of the brain that is responsible for regulating mood, cognition, and perception.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or ‘feel good’ chemical, that contributes to positive moods. While microdosing, one can expect to feel the subtle effects of the drug while still remaining in control of the senses. “When you take psychedelics, you loosen up and reduce the egoic experiences of identity and self, and it allows people to feel more connected, not only to themselves but to people and to the environment.”
Those who microdose usually don’t report experiencing an altered state of reality or mystical awakening. However, some do report small changes in perception, like colors appearing a little brighter. Most of all, these minor effects can contribute to new connections and mental shifts that help people think or behave in more open and creative ways. Micro-dosing also helps people become more reflective and responsive to positive suggestions by embracing the effects that the drug has on their neurotransmitters. Studies suggest a mechanism through which psychedelics might improve mental health: feeling greater self-compassion and less obsession with negative thoughts, anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and PTSD.
The effects of psilocybin are similar to the effects of LSD. But instead of a long-lasting and intense hallucinatory experience or a deep spiritual awakening, the effects of microdosing ensure a safer and more subtle mind expansion that allows for an entirely encompassing holistic understanding of the internal self and external world.
The positive effects of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin include:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Stress and anxiety relief
- Improved moods
- Increased energy
- Better concentration and focus
- Greater personal awareness
- Less self-doubt
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
Regardless of safe and proper dosages, many people refuse and reject microdosing due to the common and rational fear of experiencing a bad trip.
A bad trip may occur due to many factors such as:
- Derealization, or the feeling that surroundings are not real
- Depersonalization, or a dream-like state of being separated from reality
- Distorted thinking and behavior
- Slight visual and auditory impairment
- Unusual bodily sensations
- Paranoia and confusion
- Nausea and vomiting
To ensure a safe and positive experience, one should feel comfortable with the concept of surrendering to their psychedelic experience and feel safe in their environment. We call this set and setting. This relaxed mindset allows for feelings and ideas to naturally arise and process without reacting to fear and judgment. By channeling this calm and comfortable mindset, many can benefit from the medicinal effects of microdosing.
Also, some psychedelic mushrooms are better for microdosing. As it is impossible for the average person to accurately determine how much psilocybin is in a mushroom, mushrooms with lower psilocybin content are preferable for microdosing. Weaker strains of psilocybe cubensis mushrooms are more commonly utilized for this purpose.
Microdosing Effects on Depression and Anxiety
Psilocybin still remains illegal in the country, so it is rare to find doctors and psychiatrists that recommend microdosing as a legitimate treatment for depression and anxiety. However, with FDA trials underway with psilocybin as a treatment for mood and trauma disorders, more and more professionals are endorsing the idea that microdosing may have positive clinical applications. In a 2021 survey, respondents reported that microdosing led to significant improvements in both anxiety and depression. Further, those who have higher expectations of microdosing tend to respond more positively (also called the placebo effect).
In a 2014 study at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, researchers tested whether psilocybin could help people quit smoking. It was an open-label study, which meant the participants knew they were getting the drug and not a placebo. The drug was administered in three sessions – one on the target quit date, another two weeks later, and a third eight weeks afterward. The subjects returned to the lab for the next 10 weeks to have their breath and urine tested for evidence of smoking and came back for follow-up meetings 6 and 12 months after their target quit date.
At the 6-month mark, 80% of smokers in the pilot study (12 out of 15) had abstained from cigarettes for at least a week. The study concluded that there is evidence that the sense of unity and mystical significance many people experience on psilocybin is associated with greater success and motivation towards quitting, and those who take the drug may be better able to deal with cravings. At the biological level, scientists have hypothesized that psilocybin may alter communication in brain networks, kind of like a reboot that leaves the brain more receptive to new ideas, feelings, and pathways. We call this new state of openness and opportunity for brain growth neuroplasticity.
Microdosing’s Effects on Eating Disorders
The mystical and psychedelic experiences a person has with psychedelic therapy may also shift body image away from fixed and repetitive unhealthy thoughts, potentially easing symptoms of eating disorders. A 2020 systematic review concluded that several of the participants who microdosed to treat their eating disorder said their experience offered them new insights that encouraged them to embrace healthier habits.
A drug’s therapeutic index is a number determined by a ratio comparing the amount of a drug needed for a lethal dose to the amount of the drug needed to get the wanted effects. The higher the therapeutic index, the safer the drug. Psilocybin has a therapeutic index of 641, which is pretty high. This means you are more than three times as likely to overdose on aspirin (which has a therapeutic index of around 200) than psilocybin. Also, psilocybin is considered to be non-addictive and no overdose deaths have ever occurred from psilocybin use.
Legalization of Psilocybin
There is a current movement to decriminalize and legalize magic mushrooms for both therapeutic and recreational use. While several cities had already decriminalized psilocybin, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize and legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin in 2020. This year (2022) the citizens of Washington will be voting on the legislation of psychedelic mushrooms. It should not be long until they are legal throughout California. See you then, space cowboy.
Thanks to CSUCI intern Haley Begun and Michael Watson for researching co-authoring this article. Please note that GKIS does not offer an opinion on the use of psilocybin for microdosing. This is an informational piece that does not offer a GKIS-endorsed opinion.
If you are interested in learning more about the interconnection of curing addiction, anxiety, and depression, Dr. Bennett’s book, Screen Time in the Mean Time includes information and research about how parents, teachers, and adults can pinpoint the underlying causes of their own or loved ones’ addictions and mental disorders based upon biological, genetic, and environmental factors.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
- Breeksema, Joost J., et al. “Psychedelic Treatments for Psychiatric Disorders: A Systematic Review and Thematic Synthesis of Patient Experiences in Qualitative Studies – CNS Drugs.” SpringerLink, Springer International Publishing, 17 Aug. 2020, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40263-020-00748-y.
- Kaertner, L. S., et al. “Positive Expectations Predict Improved Mental-Health Outcomes Linked to Psychedelic Microdosing.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 21 Jan. 2021, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-81446-7.
- Lewis, Tanya. “Johns Hopkins Scientists Give Psychedelics the Serious Treatment.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 16 Jan. 2020, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/johns-hopkins-scientists-give-psychedelics-the-serious-treatment/.
- “Psilocybin and Magic Mushrooms.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/308850#what-is-psilocybin.
- 5. Raypole, Crystal. “Mushrooms for Anxiety: The Potential Power of Psilocybin.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 26 Aug. 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/mushrooms-for-anxiety.
- 6. Roberts, Kayleigh. “What You Need to Know before Microdosing to Treat Your Anxiety.” Allure, 19 Apr. 2019, https://www.allure.com/story/microdosing-lsd-mushrooms-anxiety-depression.
- Strassman, R., Wojtowicz, S., Luna, L.E., & Frecska, E. (2008). Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys to Alien Worlds through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies. Park Street Press. 147.
- Nichols D. E. (2016). Psychedelics. Pharmacological reviews, 68(2), 264–355. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.115.011478
- Acker, L. (2020). Oregon becomes first state to legalize psychedelic mushrooms. The Oregonian. https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2020/11/oregon-becomes-first-state-to-legalize-psychedelic-mushrooms.html
- Photo by Ashleigh Shea, https://unsplash.com/photos/otVUcXqwqGM
- Photo by CottonBro, https://www.pexels.com/photo/silhouette-of-man-standing-in-front-of-purple-light-6491956/
- Photo by Anni Roenkae, https://www.pexels.com/photo/purple-green-and-yellow-abstract-painting-4299344/
- Photo by CottonBro, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-lying-on-wearing-earring-3693050
- Photo by That One Intern
Thanks to Kent Williams for the beautiful painting used for the thumbnail. (https://www.kentwilliams.com/paintings/2018/8/16/2018/8/16/m-w)