Almost two years ago, I went on a 30-day microdosing experiment. But now I have stopped microdosing for PMDD and there is a reason but it’s not what you think.
A hormonal mood disorder called PMDD had me bedridden with depression monthly and made my eating disorder recovery impossible.
It was not my first exposure to psychedelics. After educating myself for an entire year, I’d embarked on intentional inner journeys that had helped me tremendously with some things, but not with everything. When I was diagnosed with PMDD I remembered reading a book by a novelist and mom of four called A Really Good Day. In it, Ayelet Waldman takes you on her month-long microdosing experiment with LSD to treat precisely PMDD.
I decided to give it a try.
It went as expected. It was the best month I’d had in a long time.
Yet, I didn’t continue. Not because it was a bad experience, but because I had an insight that changed my approach to psychedelic medicine.
These days, I mostly feel similar to the way I felt during that month — without any substances. Read on to learn what microdosing can and can’t do, and how my journey involved leaving it behind in order to get long-term healing.
Microdosing Has a Host of Benefits With Virtually No Side Effects
Microdosing is taking over the world, and for good reason.
A microdose is a sub-perceptual dose of a psychedelic plant or medicine, most commonly psilocybin (magic mushrooms) or LSD. It’s usually 1/10th of a regular dose. It won’t produce any of the psychoactive effects commonly associated with tripping such as visions or hallucinations.
At the right dose, you might as well not know that you took a microdose.
You’ll just think you’re having a really good day.
The colors are brighter, the food is more flavorful, you’re more present, you feel more connected to your inner world, to nature. You feel things more deeply — in a good way.
There are different microdosing protocols, but the most popular one is the Fadiman protocol as described in this book (more about him later). It’s one day on, two days off. This ensures you don’t develop a tolerance.
Microdosing has vast benefits that improve your overall well-being
Here are some of the benefits people commonly report (according to this study, anecdotal accounts, and some additional research linked):
- Improved mood, optimism, and life appreciation
- Improved focus and concentration
- Increased creativity
- Enhanced problem-solving
- Improved mental health
- Improved energy and stimulation
- Reduced stress
- Self-efficacy, including improved ambition, productivity, and motivation
- Can help quit other substances, such as alcohol or nicotine
Who wouldn’t want all of this? It sounds superhuman.
Risks are minimal, most people have a neutral or good experience
So, what are the side effects of microdosing?
In terms of safety, there are none.
Psychedelics have no lethal dose, and they’re also not physically addictive.
It’s not for everyone, however.
Fadiman, the Stanford researcher who popularized microdosing, has been collecting personal accounts from people for decades. He reports that only a small handful has reported they did not enjoy the experience though (five out of hundreds of accounts).
Lastly, for people with psychotic disorders, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, it may be too stimulating and should perhaps be avoided.
There are still no large-scale clinical trials proving these claims
Despite the many voices emerging in support of microdosing, there’s still been no large-scale clinical trial. While trials for psychedelic therapy with substances such as MDMA, psilocybin, and LSD are progressing rapidly, microdosing remains under-researched.
While Fadiman agrees that it’s time for a placebo-controlled, large-scale study, he also urges not to discount field reports.
In a Vice interview he explained:
“If you’re interested in what are the real effects, field reports are superior to clinical trials. You’re dealing with people in the context of their lives. They have no stake in any particular outcome. Clinical reports are helpful if you want to make these medically available.”
It seems that for now, you’ll have to trust the anecdotal accounts and those hundreds of “microdosing coaches” popping up all over Instagram.
Microdosing Is Growing Rapidly and Increasingly Becoming Mainstream
James Fadiman is arguably the person most famously associated with microdosing. Ten years ago, he published his recommended microdosing protocol in the aforementioned book. He also began collecting stories from individuals about their experiences.
Microdosing has spread rapidly since.
What originated as a productivity hack in Silicon Valley is slowly but surely reaching the masses.
The Third Wave, which originated as a microdosing community, now trains microdosing coaches. There’s also the psychedelic publication DoubleBlind Magthat sells courses on how to grow your own mushrooms.
The barrier to entry for microdosing is low, and that’s what makes it so attractive for many people.
Especially for those curious about psychedelic medicine but intimidated by the experiences higher-dose journeys can produce, microdosing is a fabulous entry point.
My Experience Was Extremely Positive, As Expected
So in the spring of 2020, I embarked on my own experiment.
It had been a few months since my first Ayahuasca retreat. The afterglow of the experience had worn off. I had relapsed in my eating disorder just two months after returning from Costa Rica. I also had to take a sick leave from work because of burnout.
I was still reluctant to try medication, after learning how challenging it can be to wean yourself off of psychiatric drugs.
As my world came crashing down on me, I was hopeful that microdosing could help me lift the fog.
And it did.
Here are some things that happened during that month:
- Mood. Overall, I felt much more present and connected. Daily walks became almost ecstatic, interactions with others became revitalizing rather than draining. I mostly walked around with a smile on my face, both on dose days and on the days I wasn’t dosing.
- Eating. Feeling more connected to my feelings allowed me to recognize emotions more quickly. Sometimes, not all the time though, I’d be able to just sit with the emotion rather than eat. This was a big deal for someone struggling with emotional eating.
- Self-talk. I still had a raging inner critic back then. She bullied me hard every time I misstepped in my eating. During this month though, she was so quiet. I still binged and purged (albeit much less), but I’d wake up the next day without being pulled into the black hole of shame and disgust.
- Self-love. One day I looked at myself in the mirror and thought “wow, you’re beautiful”. That’s a rare incident for someone with virtually non-existent self-esteem (at the time). I don’t know if that was still a residue from my Ayahuasca journey though, or if it came from microdosing.
- Energy. The month brought me back to life. I was off work to recharge, so it would’ve been easy to turn into a couch potato. Instead, I went on daily walks, did tons of yoga, wrote vividly, and even started a creative side hustle (I ended up ditching it but hey, it got me here).
- Sobriety. One day, I drank 1.5 glasses of wine and absolutely hated how it made me feel. I woke up the next day wrote down in my notes “hello sober curiosity!”. I’ve been alcohol-free for almost two years now, and this was the beginning of it. It was certainly the Ayahuasca experience that triggered this change, but microdosing made it easier to implement it.
Clearly, I had an incredible month.
So why did I decide to stop microdosing?
I Stopped Microdosing Because It Didn’t Help Me in the Way I Wanted (and Needed) It To
Despite the thorough and positive experience, I came to realize that microdosing wasn’t too different from taking antidepressants.
Yes, it was arguably much more effective and had no side effects.
Nevertheless, it didn’t help me address the root causes.
The microdoses were making me feel better purely by masking my symptoms. They didn’t change anything about what caused them in the first place. That’s why I still had eating disorder behaviors.
I could’ve microdosed for the rest of my life and would’ve probably been well off, especially with regard to the depression.
Yet, I didn’t like the reality of relying on anything outside of me for the rest of my life to make me feel good. There was a part of me that was convinced that all of our minds have the capacity for wholeness.
I stubbornly believed that if I didn’t feel that way yet, it simply meant I hadn’t done the work.
So I did.
Over the course of the following year, I continued to work with plant medicine and eventually healed the root causes of both my depression and my decade-long eating disorder.
Now, I’m free.
Most days, I now feel the way I did when I microdosed during that month in 2020. I’ve taken microdoses very selectively since — I can count the occasions on one hand over the last 20 months. Like everyone, I still have days when I get in a funk, and on a rare occasion, I indulge in a microdose is a sure-fire way to make the day beautiful. I don’t rely on it, however.
I’m offering my experience not to critique anyone who’s found relief in microdosing.
It’s such a great tool for so many people.
Sometimes, it’s more critical to treat acute symptoms and get in a good mental spot first before embarking on the journey to uncover root causes. That journey takes a lot of time and energy, resources not everyone may have.
I’m excited to see how the microdosing movement will unfold.
I believe it can help especially those with chronic mental issues such as depression to get off of psychiatric medication for a more sustainable and harmless option. Microdosing also facilitates and encourages the formation of habits such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness. With the right practices put in place, people may be able to use microdosing sprints as a springboard into a more balanced, healthy life.
Not everyone’s willing to go through hell during Ayahuasca ceremonies, relieve their traumas, and break apart the way I had to in order to heal.
And that’s okay.
Not everyone’s meant to.
Yet, everyone’s meant to experience the happiness and connection microdosing can facilitate.
Curious to learn more about psychedelic healing?
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Note – The featured image is from Covid patient vector created by storyset – www.freepik.com
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