Microdosing is having a moment – here’s how to do it safely as possible
Microdosing is everywhere right now. On Netflix, Fantastic Fungi and How to Change Your Mind are some of the streaming service’s most popular documentaries. Over on TikTok, the hashtag #mushies has amassed 27.9 million views while #microdoselife has racked up 20.9 million. On top of this, Google searches for “how to microdose mushrooms” are up on average too compared to last year, and searches asking “are microdosing magic mushrooms legal” skyrocketed at the tail end of 2021.
They’re not legal, as they contain the psychedelic compound psilocybin, making them a Class A drug. But as anyone who lives in the real world knows, this obviously doesn’t stop people from taking them. The train has already left the station, and from white-collar business owners to vanlifers, it seems like everybody is getting on board.
While the number of people who take magic mushrooms is still relatively low compared with more popular illicit drugs like cannabis, MDMA and cocaine, the figure has nearly doubled from 8.6 per cent in 2015 to 15.7 per cent in 2021 according to the 2021 Global Drugs Survey (GDS). While psychedelics aren’t for the fainthearted, a new wave of scientific research has found that those who do microdose report lower levels of anxiety and depression and improved moods and focus, so it’s no surprise more people are getting into it.
We spoke to Dr Russell Newcombe – also known as Dr Nuke – a researcher of drug use, drug policy and harm reduction, and the author of the book Magic Mushrooms, to learn how to microdose shrooms as safely as possible.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Most studies have concluded that microdosing psilocybin improves mood while decreasing anxiety and depression. Many people report feeling clear-headed, more productive and generally able to function better as a result of microdosing.
“So far, although there are only a handful of studies, they’re consistently finding that microdosing magic mushrooms is associated with reductions in anxiety, stress, and depression,” Dr Nuke says, adding that this “may have a knock-on effect on things like productivity.”
When done as safely as possible, adverse effects are few and far between: 77 per cent of GDS 2021 respondents who had microdosed psilocybin reported no undesired or adverse effects. Of those who did, 35 per cent believe it was because their dose was too high.
“Magic mushrooms are fairly safe as far as the body is concerned,” says Dr Nuke. “The overdose level is so high that it is unfeasible that anyone could actually eat enough mushrooms to get anywhere near poisoning.”
He adds that taking microdoses vastly limits the likelihood of nausea, vomiting and bad trips associated with higher doses. That said, some studies have noted increased anxiety, impaired focus and impaired energy as side effects of microdosing.
HOW TO DOSE SHROOMS
Whether you’re planning to microdose for productivity or take a full-blown trip, dosing is everything. The point of microdosing is to take enough that you’ll feel the mood-boosting effects, but little enough that you’ll get none of the psychedelic effects.
Shrooms can be taken in powder form, such as in capsules, eaten whole (if you’re into that) or boiled into a tea. According to Dr Nuke, the standard microdose is around a third of a gram, but can be anything from 0.1 to 0.9 grams. Anything more than that is “getting into the psychedelic tripping zone,” he says. Plus, the amount you take might also depend on how often you take it.
“The standard pattern for microdosing is taking a microdose every other day for one to two weeks and then taking a week or so off,” says Dr Nuke. The main reasons for taking a break are to avoid building a tolerance and because microdosing everyday can be expensive. While dependency is less of a risk, Dr Nuke says “the strongest advice you could give to anyone microdosing is to take breaks from it and monitor what its effects are on your health carefully.”
It’s also a good idea not to mix shrooms with any other drugs, particularly alcohol. “If you mix alcohol with magic mushrooms, it’s considered to be kind of pulling your brain in different directions at the same time,” says Dr Nuke. “The harm reduction advice is usually not to mix the two.”
WHERE TO SOURCE YOUR SHROOMS
It’s important to emphasise here that buying, picking and taking magic mushrooms is illegal – but if you’re going to take them anyway, you should try to be as safe as possible.
Dr Nuke recommends buying your shrooms from a trusted source rather than picking your own. That’s because there are other poisonous mushrooms that look similar to magic mushrooms and grow in the same spot. “The real problems [with magic mushrooms] occur when people pick them themselves,” he says. “There’s a good chance they’ll pick the wrong, inedible mushrooms, and that could lead to poisoning.”
He adds that users still need to exercise caution when buying from dealers: “until drugs like this are legally regulated, there’s always a chance you’re not gonna get the right thing if you buy them while they’re prohibited.”
If you do decide to buy shrooms, it’s better to get them in their dried form rather than as a powder. “If you buy them in their dried form, you can see what they look like – they have a nipple-like lump on top of the mushroom, which gives it a very distinctive appearance,” Dr Nuke says. “Although there are some other mushrooms that look like this, I think that distinctive visual appearance gives you something to check when you get them. But when they’re crushed up and dried into a brown powder, it’s more likely you could get something you didn’t ask for.”
Although Dr Nuke says that the chances of being ripped off when buying shrooms are fairly low, there’s no guarantee.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FEEL WEIRD
As Dr Nuke mentioned, you’re unlikely to get any adverse side effects from a microdose. But if you do take a little too much, or just happen to be highly sensitive to psilocybin, you might experience weak visuals, increased anxiety or nausea.
It’s a good idea to let somebody know that you’re planning to microdose, then you can call on them if you need to. “If you’ve got someone around to help you, they can help keep you calm and control your breathing,” says Dr Nuke. “Or even doing anything you usually do to relax, like meditation or yoga.”
Essentially, staying calm in the moment is the most important thing, because any negative effects will eventually end. “You need to remember that you’ve taken a drug and the effects will wear off,” Dr Nuke says. “With microdoses, it’s only likely to last for half an hour to an hour at most.” He adds that if you do get adverse effects from microdosing – particularly psychological effects – you should see that as a sign to take a good break from psychedelics.
Ultimately, while research suggests that the benefits of microdosing outweigh the dangers, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks at all. The topline is: tell someone if you want to microdose, get your shrooms from a trusted source, take breaks, and make sure you read up on legitimate harm reduction advice.