The mycelium, or rootlike structure, of Lion's mane mushroom is part of the "Stamets Stack."

What is micro-dosing?

What is micro-dosing? Stamets, who over the last 40 years has discovered four new species of psychedelic mushrooms and written seven books on the topic, said he believes micro-dosing is a solution. That’s the practice of taking tiny amounts of a psilocybin mushroom several times a week to maintain brain health and a creative perspective on life.

What about micro-dosing?

A typical microdose is 0.1 to 0.3 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms, as compared with the 25-milligram pill of psilocybin that creates the full-blown psychedelic experience.

Stamets practices microdosing and has focused on a process called “stacking” in which a microdose of mushrooms is taken with additional substances believed to boost the fungi’s benefits. His famous “Stamets Stack” includes niacin, or vitamin B3, and the mycelium, or rootlike structure, of an unusual mushroom called Lion’s mane.

Surveys of micro-dosers obtained on his website have shown significant positive benefits from the practice of taking small doses.

“These are self-reported citizen scientists’ projects, and we have now around 14,000 people in our app where you register yourself and report your microdose,” Stamets told an audience at the 2022 Life Itself conference, a health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.

“I’m going to say something provocative, but I believe it to my core: Psilocybin makes nicer people,” Stamets told the audience. “Psilocybin will make us more intelligent and better citizens.”

Scientific studies so far have failed to find any benefits from micro-dosing, leaving many researchers skeptical. “People like being on it, but that doesn’t validate the claims of micro-dosing,” Johnson said. “People like being on a little bit of cocaine, too.”

Experimental psychologist Harriet de Wit, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of Chicago, was excited to study micro-dosing because it solves a key problem of scientific research in the field – it’s hard to blind people to what they are taking if they begin to trip.

Micro-dosing solves that problem because people don’t feel an effect from the tiny dose.

De Wit specializes in determining whether a drug’s impact is due to the drug or what scientists call the “placebo effect,” a positive expectation that can cause improvement without the drug.

She published a study in 2022 that mimicked real-world micro-dosing of LSD, except neither the participants nor researchers knew what was in the pills the subjects took.

“We measured all kinds of different behavioral and psychological responses, and the only thing we saw is that LSD at very low doses produced some stimulant-like effects at first, which then faded,” de Wit said.

The placebo effect is powerful, she added, which might explain why the few additional studies done on it have also failed to find any positive results.

“I suspect micro-dosing may have an effect on mood, and over time it might build up resilience or improve well-being,” Nutt said. “But I don’t think it will rapidly fragment depression like micro-dosing and going on a trip.”

Mushroom side effects long term

Obviously, not all hallucinogenic experiences are positive, so nearly every study on psychedelic drugs has included therapists trained to intercede if a trip turns bad and to maximize the outcome if the trip is good.

“This is about allowing someone access into deeper access into their own mental processes, with hopefully greater insight,” Johnson said. “While others might disagree, it does seem very clear that you need therapy to maximize the benefits.”

There are also side effects from psychedelics that go beyond a bad trip. LSD, mescaline, and DMT, which is the active ingredient in ayahuasca tea, can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Ayahuasca tea can also induce vomiting. LSD can cause tremors, numbness, and weakness, while the use of mescaline can lead to uncoordinated movements. People hunting for psychedelic mushrooms can easily mistake a toxic species for one with psilocybin, “leading to unintentional, fatal poisoning.”

Another issue: Not everyone is a candidate for psychedelic treatment. It won’t work on people currently on SSRIs — the receptors in their brains are already flooded with serotonin. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or who have a family history of psychosis are always screened out of clinical trials, said Frederick Barrett, associate director of the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research at Johns Hopkins.

“If you have a vulnerability to psychosis, it could be that exposing you to a psychedelic could unmask that psychosis or could lead to a psychotic event,” Barnes said.

Then there are the thousands of people with mental health concerns who will never agree to undergo a psychedelic trip. For those people, scientists such as Roth are attempting to find an alternative approach. He and his team recently identified the mechanisms by which psychedelics bond to the brain’s serotonin receptors and are using the knowledge to identify new compounds.

“Our hope is that we can use this information to ultimately make drugs that mimic the benefits of psychedelic medicine without the psychedelic experience,” Roth said.

“What if we could give people who are depressed or suffer from PTSD or anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder a medication, and they could wake up the next day and be fine without any side effects? That would be transformative.”

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Phil

    When will micro-dosing psychedelics become legal?

    1. lucidworld

      So many controversies surround the use, purchase and administration of psychedelics in the therapeutic certain. Read Psychedelics decriminalization article for more information on the legality of psychedelics

  2. Bill

    What are the long term effects of microdosing?

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