Is Microdosing Safe? Risks and Side Effects
One of the most frequently asked questions about microdosing is: is it safe?
After all, we all know the disturbing stories about LSD and magic mushrooms from the past. Psychoses, acute schizophrenia, “thinking they can fly”, flashbacks. Those serious stories date back to the 1960s. In the meantime, the dangers and risks of psychedelics in a trip dosage have been accurately mapped. As it turns out, psychedelics are among the least dangerous from the “drugs” spectrum, still below weed, alcohol and MDMA.
Risks of Microdosing
Micro means small, so it is tempting to assume that the risks will automatically be limited as well. However, we cannot just simply assume this.
At the moment, various institutes are investigating the direct physiological effects of microdosing. Until those effects are all mapped, we can only assume what we know about higher dosages, side effects and contraindications reported by the experimental microdosers.
James Fadiman and Sophia Korb received reports of the microdosing experiences from more than 1800 people from 59 countries. They have been able to establish a provisional starting point, and that is: it’s safe. Because the dosage is so low, there seems to be no danger of a bad trip, psychosis or other acute experiences – positive or negative – that can entail a complete psychedelic trip. Among the gathered responses of microdosers there was not a single case of psychosis. However, it doesn’t mean that the opportunity doesn’t exist.
The most well known drawbacks of microdosing are:
For Whom Microdosing is Not Recommended?
General note: the effects of microdosing in combination with many mental or physical disorders are not yet sufficiently known.
On the Other Hand
Are these findings and comments decisive when it comes to safety? We don’t think so. The long-term effects are not yet known. Fadiman especially wants to emphasize that the benefits far outweigh the risks. And that not all of the disadvantages mentioned are also by definition a risk: some might be described as a point of attention, or something to take into account.
David Presti, professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Berkeley, who is an expert on the effects of drugs in the brain, told Ayelet Waldman, author of the book A really good day, that microdosing is definitely much safer than taking antidepressants.
James Rucker, a psychiatrist affiliated with Kings College London, has called for psychedelics to be reclassified – making them better examined and more available to researchers. However, he is cautious. In the interview with BBC, he said: “If you look at the medical side of microdosing, we don’t know anything yet. We don’t know the long-term effects yet”.
It must first get to the point where microdosing is recognised by the community of medical researchers and the authorities. Dr. Fadiman belongs to the group of researchers who think that won’t take long. “As long as we continue to find that microdosing has a very beneficial benefit-risk ratio, because its use seems to be very, very safe and has a whole range of benefits, we expect more pressure from the medical world to use this in people with complaints or disorders that we have not been able to help so far”.
Microdosing in Combination With Medicines
James Fadiman and Sophia Korb have compiled a list of supplements and medications that have not been, to date, reported as causing any negative interactions when combined with microdosing. You can find the list here: Microdosing: drugs and supplements.
Please note that this list is a result of their long-term research with hundreds of subjects around the world, who have microdosed independently with (mainly) LSD, 1P-LSD and psilocybin. For other substances, nothing is known yet.
We want to emphasize that this list does not guarantee that you can microdose safely and responsibly while taking any of the medications listed.
What Are the Pitfalls?
According to experts like Fadiman and Korb, there can be pitfalls of microdosing. It can certainly happen that your dose is a little too high at the beginning. This can be disturbing during your daily activities. Hence the advice to start on a day off, so that you can for example go for a walk in nature.
Fadiman says that from more than 1800 responses he received, there were only about 75 in which people claimed that they weren’t able to get too many positive effects from their experiences. People who reported that had a lot of anxiety or had predispositions to it. Some of them said they felt fine with microdosing, but they felt depressed again in the weeks they didn’t microdose. Some took it too often, and built tolerance. Tolerance for LSD, psilocybin and mescaline has not been demonstrated.
What Does the Trimbos Institute Say?
The Trimbos Institute is a Dutch independent knowledge institute for alcohol, tobacco, drugs and mental health. They don’t recommend experimenting with LSD itself.
“It is very difficult to measure what exactly microdosing is. You may want to take 10mcg, but it may also be that the drop of LSD is not evenly distributed over the seal. Then you take a lot more than you think. Also, there are resources that are sold as LSD, but contain other trip products. There is also a risk there.”
Microdosing in general also has a strong warning:
“The greatest risk of psychedelics is that it can trigger psychiatric problems. For example, if you are sensitive to developing psychosis or schizophrenia, we strongly discourage psychedelics. Also in low dosages. But the problem is that you never quite know how sensitive you are to this beforehand. Microdosing is portrayed as if it can counter fears and gloomy feelings, but there is no scientific evidence for this yet. It is also known that irresponsible use of psychedelics can actually exacerbate these feelings in some people. It would therefore be risky to use these types of resources for a longer period of time.”
“Finally, there is a possibility that without microdosing you will no longer feel cheerful, creative or productive enough. As a result, you can become dependent on the drug.”