Depressed? Stressed? Anxious? Microdosing experts promise solutions.
Along with coffee, Adderall, exercise and meditation to live a good life, folks are also taking slivers of LSD or crumbs of magic mushrooms.
This is microdosing. Five years ago, it was unheard of. Then it exploded in popularity, especially in places like Silicon Valley, New York and Boulder, Colorado.
Now, people are getting advanced with it.
"Psychedelics are the best medicines, which is incredible," says Angela Ruiz. The nonprofit she works for, The Third Wave, offers courses in microdosing, one of a few outfits working as microdosing coaches. "It's starting to take the place of other medication, like adderall to be focused, or prozac for depression."
Microdosing psychedelics, at first glance, seems to make zero sense. After all, typical doses of LSD and mushrooms turn the world into a microwaved version of itself. At higher doses, it's hard to do much of anything except lie in a field watching clouds become abstract art.
But small amounts can be brain boosters and spirit lifters. It can help you concentrate, play and even kick ass. You’ll find your co-workers more fascinating. Relieve some social anxiety and self-loathing. All without the batshit hallucinations.
But it also offers something more than Adderall or coffee. Those drugs blunt the world, close parts of reality off to you. LSD seems to open you up, brighten things. It seems more … and this is weird for a drug that's illegal … wholesome.
Sensing intense and wide possibilities, a culture night be forming. Now, instead of just using toenail clippers to snip off part of a tab, folks are dialing in their regimen.
The most prominent avenue comes from The Third Wave, run by the enthusiastic Paul Austin, an entrepreneur who found that seven months of tiny hits of LSD every fourth day turbo-charged his business and personal development. Third Wave quickly became the loudest, and most sophisticated proponent of this kind of self-improvement.
The Third Wave course costs $147 and lasts four weeks. It starts with your motivations.
"Why do you want to microdose? What's the larger goal?" asks Austin. Are you trying to be better at work? At home? At athletics? Be happier? "The course is about, How are you optimizing your microdosing protocol for your specific situation?"
To get the most out of your microdosing, The Third Wave usually suggests pairing microdosing with meditation and exercise. It provides spreadsheets and worksheets so you can track your drug experimentation. It asks you to check in. Is it working? Or hurting?
The Third Wave will sell you a microdosing kit, to precisely measure out your dose — often recommended to be 5 to 12 micrograms, taken every four days. And The Third Wave suggests legal supplements — like lion's mane mushrooms and a mushroom tea. (One company's branding says "the everyday magic of mushrooms.”) The Third Wave suggests wearing a heart rate monitor and sleep tracker, and analyzing your gut bacteria. This way, you're breaking the law to improve yourself — but like a boss.
Austin hosts webinars for microdosers. In a recent one, the microdosers said they were doing it for all kinds of reasons: to wake up earlier, procrastinate less, get off depression meds, increase empathy, intimacy and presence.
"It's really incredible to see how many people it helps," said Ruiz. "Tons of people struggle with massive depression for 20 years, where they've been in therapy weekly and nothing has helped. And suddenly they do a regimen for a couple months and their life has changed completely."
The Third Wave is just one of several companies helping you navigate your microdose. Another is MicroKits, from the UK. They'll not only guide your through it, they'll sell you the stuff to create the drug, hawking psilocybin mushroom spores and the stuff to grow them in. (Spores are not illegal in the U.S.) And a company called DDave Mods sells gelcaps to help you measure and microdose cannabis.
Microdosing isn't brand new, but it was underground. Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD, reportedly microdosed throughout his life, and he was productive and happy until the age of 102. Robert Forte, a psychedelic pioneer, clued in his friend, a researcher named Jim Fadiman, about Hoffman's little secret. Since Fadiman started studying microdosing seriously around 2012, he has collected stories from 1,500 microdosers.
The effects? Microdosing made some more anxious. Some, it messed with their vision. (Two microdosers we interviewed said it gave them headaches.) But many more said it got them into the flow, helped them see patterns, and have more focused, happier days.
"Improved health habits — improved sleep, less social anxiety, lowered use of meds, lowered use of cannabis, lowered use of alcohol, lowered use of coffee, healthier food choices," Fadiman told a crowd at Psychedelic Science 2017. "A junk food guy … said 'I looked at the menu and, by God, I wanted the salad!'" It also had unexpected positive effects, like making period cramps less painful.
It is popular? There are no good numbers — microdosing is still illegal as hell. But in the Global Drug Survey, answered by 130,000 drug fiends and drug dabblers, over 30 percent of users said they'd microdosed.
Microdosing is a wild society-wide self-experiment, and amateur psychedelic scientists are the best amateur scientists. Wes Calhoun, 37, a Denver-based glassblower in a flat-brimmed hat, started dosing small amounts of LSD in high school back in Wichita in the mid-’90s. The stoned high schooler didn't know then he was pioneering "microdosing." It just made English class more interesting. No teacher ever noticed. Today, he doses a bit of LSD once or twice a week and buries himself in his glass studio, doing his best work.
"You feel clearer," Calhoun said.
Calhoun mixes drugs for effect like a psychedelic Rachel Ray. Can tell you with precision how an LSD microdose plus say, a joint, or a spliff sprinkled with DMT, or a whiff of nitrous, or a bump of ketamine, shapes his artistic brain. "2C-E was a really good microdosing drug. 2C-B is good, too," he'll say, referencing obscure drugs that are LSD-ish. "Not much anxiety. You could be really likely to accomplish things."
Denver's Tyler Williams, 28, who works in cannabis, dosed about 1/10th of a tab of LSD recently, then went about his life, visiting a hemp farm. Colors were brighter, he found himself more fascinated by the operation than he normally would have been.
Calhoun and Williams, like John Lennon did, seem to operate fine. But are there risks here? What are the health consequences of living so much of your life at 1/10th the level of Woodstock?
And are there bigger dangers? Clearly.
In the desert outside Moab recently, a group of rock climbers gathered their cams and ropes, chalked their hands and stepped into their harnesses. And, as usual — took a sniff of rappe, a few puffs off a joint and a cigar, some LSD and some mushrooms.
When the drugs kicked in, they were 120 feet up a cliff.
Thankfully, they are as good at calibrating doses as they are at flagging or matching or dynamic moves. And they said that psychedelics makes the rocks shine and their bodies more fluid.
Just as trees want to grow tall and birds want to sing more beautifully, so humans want to live their best life. Microdosing might be one surprising way to do that. And, if you pay closer attention to yourself while you're microdosing, you can use it to establish better routines and habits for yourself, ones that might stick around, even after you stop taking illegal drugs.
"The interesting thing about microdosing is it makes it easier to adopt new habits," Austin said. "Whether the impacts stick around depends on whether you built a system so that if once you're done, you still make sure you're eating healthy, that you're exercising, that you're creating space for creativity in your life."
A bit of a psychedelic can go a long way.