The use of psychedelics has been historically highly stigmatised due to unfounded claims as to their harmfulness. These claims were often made from a politically motivated perspective and not subject to rigorous scientific enquiry. In the years since, evaluations of various substances, legal and non, and their impact on the individual and society has shown that classic psychedelic substances and cannabis not only have low levels of harm, but in some cases the risks are negligible. By comparison, commonly used substances such as alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine amphetamines, painkillers such as fentanyl and oxycontin, pose major risks to individual health and public safety.
Not only can we use this to demonstrate the fallacy behind the demonisation of psychedelics compared to other substances, but also an irony emerges where psychedelic and entheogenic substances are seeing more and more positive clinical results in improving conditions in participants who often turn to more harmful substances to relieve, such as easing the psychological problems that may lead to alcohol or drug addiction, or where cannabis may help to relieve pain where someone may have instead depended on daily use of harmful painkillers.
However, this is not to say that psychedelics are themselves entirely without risk. Microdosing is associated with relatively fewer risks than macrodosing. However, there are still things to consider when taking psychedelics.
Who Should Not Microdose?
- Those under 18 years
- People who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- People with a history of psychosis or paranoia/delusions
- Those taking certain medications – full info about medications here.
Commonly Reported Side Effects
- Increased anxiety
- Nausea or stomach upset if taking truffles or mushrooms
- Intensified emotions
Important to note that of all the people who have self-reported their experiences with microdosing, a reduction in anxiety and depression are very common. The number of people reported increase in anxiety is comparatively very small. Most people find microdosing in the morning to be the best practice, as they feel energised and enjoy their day. They may also feel that microdosing closer to bedtime increases problems with sleep, so earlier is better in this case (before breaking your fast is best, but after food is also fine if It helps with grounding). Some people actually find that microdosing makes them feel fatigued or sleepy, so microdosing going to bed may be preferable.
Microdosing may cause more intensified emotions and restlessness. It is important not to panic or think that microsoing is harming you. We often get stuck in emotionally numb states, so at first, microdosing may be jarring because of the way it may help to connect you to your emotions more. A newfound feeling of wellbeing can also be quite unnerving to those who are not used to it. The key is to start small and have patience, and explore uncomfortable feelings with curiosity and compassion.
Some side effects can also be a combination of things, and just because you experience them one day is not necessarily going to be the same on other days. For example, some days you may feel restless if you are tired and have microdosed, and maybe also had coffee, or not enough to eat. Even without microdosing, we all have days when we simple feel off-kilter because conditions simply aren’t right. If you feel this way (microdose or not!), eat something grounding (something with carbs is good), practice some pranyama, take yourself out of high stimulus environments, and try to relax and give yourself a break for the remainder of the day, if at all possible.
Other Possible Risks
HPPD (Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder)
More commonly associated with macrodosing, Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is not unheard of in microdosing. For information about this condition, see the Perception Restoration Foundation.
Microdosing and Medications
Once upon a time, extra caution was taken when it comes to combining medications and microdosing. This sense of caution has eased amongst microdosing professionals in more recent years. James Fadiman and Sophia Kolb compiled a list of medications that have no known contraindications, derived from their collected reports from microdosing users. This list is not derived from clinical studies and does not guarantee safe use during microdosing, nor should it be used to assume safety with the same substances whilst macrodosing. It is not recommended to take psychedelics, including microdosing, with Tramadol or Lithium.
For the full list, see here.
For more information about microdosing and safety, I recommend two places, both of which have information and other resources for those who like to delve a bit deeper:
Microdosing Institute, based in the Netherlands