Fifteen micrograms of acid, on a sliver of paper, washed down with a glass of water. This is my medicine of choice.
I microdosed 1P-LSD from April to December 2017 following a regimen: one day on, threeish days off. It’s been over a year since I stopped that routine and tapered my dosing to as-needed for mood support.
Eight months is a bit longer than most ~microdosing experts~ recommend. Online sources typically suggest six weeks or three months, but that’s mostly speculative. Any recommendations for continued psychedelic use (and all psychiatric medicine?) are relatively inexpert given our still premature understanding of the brain. When it comes to intimate psychological issues, there is no single cure for what has complex—and largely unknown—causes. No one knows which precise treatment or prescription will work for anyone. Especially in people with discreet or hard-to-diagnose issues, who experience difficulty communicating, or who are especially young or old. It’s all an experiment. That’s what the medical community has been doing, as well as a few rogue individuals.
Testing, and reflecting.
So that’s what I did. After decades of severe mood swings, met with inadequate personal and medical response, I decided to try microdosing.
Within hours of my first microdose I was able to step outside of old habits and gridlocks of thought. Prior to dosing, I could spend a whole day inside my apartment, going back and forth between obsessive, addictive behaviors. Checking social media, eating without hunger, picking at myself in the mirror. All would lead to shame and isolation. I’d think to myself, I can’t go out like this, and bail on work and friends regularly. It’s disturbing how much time I spent in that headspace. An extremely uncomfortable way to be.
On that first dose, I felt a renewed awe being in the world. I walked to Hasenheide, a nearby park I’d been through many times before, and felt like I was discovering it for the first time, noticing all its beauty. Finding new paths. I was finally able to leave the tunnels of thoughts and spiraling storylines. The world was rewriting itself before my eyes, and I could read it, be in it, and detach from the reruns in my head that led to damaging behaviors and kept me locked inside. That April in Berlin changed everything.
Since initially publishing about the effects of microdosing, several people have asked how I’m doing now—are there any noticeable long-term effects?
Let’s start simply: Acid makes me happy, and with low risk. It’s very unlikely to have a bad time if the dose is low and the source is safe (in Germany I was able to order 1P-LSD, a legal analog, from a lab). There’s a reason this yellow smiley face is synonymous with the brand that is acid.
Any medicine that continuously induces happiness and awe in exploration could likely improve a wide range of conditions and maybe even decrease inflammation. So whether physically or psychologically, or both because always both, microdosing may help. And I think it helped me.
But it’s difficult to measure the residual impacts in retrospect.
Microdosing for a bracketed period of time did not “cure me” of my depression/obsessions in the long run or instantly recode attachment styles that simultaneously tug and expel love from my life. I still have rough days, but they happen less often and I’m better at managing them now. For the most part.
I feel more fit and flexible mentally and physically after taking acid regularly. This is likely due to several factors working in unison (time passing, intermittent fasting, moving more), but microdosing seemed to be the catalyst towards a healthier lifestyle and outlook. The regimen helped me become better at taking care of myself and incorporating daily practices to avoid or better handle a breakdown.
Many people arrive at this same state with years of meditation and/or other practice, and how we individually ease collective suffering could provide interesting cues to reconsider the causes and categorization of mental illness. Maintaining some sense of balance is a constant effort, and no single pill or treatment will end that ongoing process. (The pharmaceutical industry is shaking.)
Now I dose sporadically for critical mood support and sometimes just for fun (it eases social anxiety, perks energy, and there’s no hangover). Without following any strict schedule, I usually dose once or twice a week. Sometimes once or twice a month. Sometimes less, sometimes more.
I don’t resort to microdosing my way out of every difficulty, discomfort, or suffering. I want to feel everything I’m feeling. But sometimes I need more support when my web of daily efforts isn’t suffice to prevent a fiasco. Whether I feel a significant/dramatic episode coming on or I’m in the middle of one, I know a single microdose can pull me through when exercise, meditation, or rationalization seem out of reach. I can’t reason my way out of madness. That would be magic.
We need more data to know the long-term effects of microdosing and how they might compare to larger, more dismantling trips, but one thing I know for sure: Microdoses can help in the here and now as spot-treatment for mental emergencies.
The main controversy here is less and less about the substance itself as more people speak openly about the potential of psychedelic medicine (yes, acid is currently illegal and stigmatized, but the War on Drugs isn’t working, and I know acid works for me). The concern is self-medication — independently discerning when and what to take vs. being told by a doctor, or the pharmaceutical industry, when and what to take.
It’s becoming more clear that it’s not just about what we consume, but when/how we consume. I don’t want to take a drug every day, I want to take it when I need it.
Knowing when to dose (or take extra care of myself) is the tricky part. Oftentimes when I start to dip into depression (replaying old episodes, where’s the clicker?) or have already dipped, I’m in the wrong state to make the right decisions for myself to heal. So while a walk outside might be a good idea, it might be the last thing on my mind. However, since microdosing, I’ve become more aware of myself and my emotions, so it’s a bit easier to sense the clouds before they come and take proactive, preventive measures.
How and when a microdose might work for who is yet to be known, and I’m still experimenting. But I feel safe microdosing as an on-the-spot mood stabilizer and think psychedelics can be used responsibly with intention (in low and high doses). Regardless of personal belief, there are many people living full, healthy lives with positive psychedelic integration.
Microdosing isn’t for everyone, especially people who don’t suffer from debilitating mental illness or hard-wired maladaptive tendencies. These substances can change minds, and that should be respected.
The latest microdosing research out of Macquarie University showed that microdosing may indeed improve mood and concentration, but could also increase neuroticism and anxiety. This makes sense because many people in that study did/do not suffer from depression or mental illness. Acid can give you a lift, and maybe not everyone needs that lift. As someone who fluctuates between high highs and low lows, microdosing helps me better navigate the lows, but can also increase mania and hyperactivity during the highs, so spot-treatment makes more sense for me than regimented dosing.
(I do think microdosing emphasizes my neuroticism. That being said, I prefer the side effect of feeling a bit more wired/creative on acid than lulled/dulled on current pharmaceutical options. Microdosing also increases my libido and endurance. This is not the case for most antidepressants and mood stabilizers.)
“Very small doses, perhaps 25 micrograms, could be useful as a euphoriant or antidepressant.” -Albert Hofmann, 1976
Further research is needed to move from baseline to medical understanding. The more scientists uncover the potentials of psychedelic medicine, the more press and talk around microdosing, in particular, will recalibrate from a loud speech about productivity to a more sustainable conversation about psychiatric reform. The intention will hopefully move from professional gain to personal health.
Because this is momentous. Psychedelic medicine could upheave the entire psychiatric system and provide a new structure, just like it can quiet the default mode network and create new connections in the brain.
As collective mental health seems to be getting worse, and access to treatment is limited and oftentimes insufficient, it’s important to question how to make this medicine and treatment accessible to the people who may need it most and want to try it.
Psychedelic psychotherapy is on the horizon, which will involve high doses/impact in a therapeutic, ceremonial setting. This is already happening in underground networks and research settings. But how many people will be able to get in the door? How much will it cost? How soon can we make this available and for whom?
Whether these therapies are scalable or not, it seems that self-administration and experimentation with smaller doses — to create and maintain balance — could be possible, too. And I can’t wait for reform.