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Microdosing is a hot topic; it’s been covered everywhere in the media from GQ and Marie Claire to Business Insider and the Guardian. But what is it? And why is everyone, from Silicon Valley execs to homemakers, jumping on the bandwagon?

Let’s start by looking at what microdosing is (and what it isn’t).

What is microdosing?

Microdosing usually refers to taking a tiny dose of a psychedelic substance, but the term is not restricted to psychedelic substances only. The technical definition of a microdose is 1% of the active dose. In reality, though, a microdose is understood to be between a tenth and a twentieth of a standard dose (around 10 to 20 micrograms). The commonly accepted definition of a microdose is a small dose that does not cause any significant alteration of consciousness or intoxication. The idea behind this is that you want to experience the positive results of the substance (such as improved focus, energy and mood) without the negative (which can include hallucinations and other extreme effects).

People may use microdosing for increasing, performance, energy, focus, concentration and creativity, reducing physical symptoms and pain, alleviating mental health symptoms, managing withdrawal symptoms and improving social interactions. But, while interest in and experimentation with microdosing has grown hugely in the last ten years, there is not a lot of research on the practice.

Who microdoses (and why)?

Psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin first grabbed mainstream attention in the 1950s and 60s when it was used to treat mood disorders. But, in 1971, they were both classified as Class A drugs in Britain among reports of recreational overdoses and bad trips, effectively putting a stop to scientific research into the potential of different psychedelics.

Then, in 2011, the idea of using psychedelics again began gaining popularity when the term microdosing was coined by James Fadiman, an America psychologist and researcher, in his book, “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.” He provided first-hand reports of the effects of small amounts of LSD on productivity and ignited scientific studies into the practice of microdosing.

Around the same time, the concept of microdosing took off in Silicon Valley as a way to increase energy and productivity, as well as overcoming roadblocks in strategic planning and coding. And the concept received a further boost after Steve Jobs spoke about the benefits of microdosing.

For the most past, people who microdose take very small amounts of a substance to improve their wellbeing by enhancing their physical, mental or emotional state (and the effects at low levels do not cause a psychedelic experience). A recent Guardian article covered different forms of microdosing and the positive effects that it has had on the people they interviewed with benefits ranging from improved relationships and careers to a more positive mood and approach to life.

In the UK, there is an ongoing self-reported study conducted by the Beckley Foundation that is looking at the science behind microdosing. They aim to document the effects of microdosing on an individual’s creative and cognitive abilities.

What are people microdosing with?

LSD, mushrooms, marijuana and CBD are among the most popular substances used for microdosing, although there are many others.

LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide)

LSD is the most popular (and well-known) substance for microdosing. People microdose with it to enhance focus, productivity and creativity, and long-term studies have shown that the substance is not addictive. A review of the research on LSD that has been done over the last 25 found that LSD helps with social connection and neuron growth, reduces anxiety, and some users report feeling more focused, and productive throughout the day.

“Magic” mushrooms (psilocybin)

Anecdotal evidence suggests that microdosing with magic mushrooms can help reduce anxiety and boost happiness, and it may act as an antidepressant for those with major depression.

Psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms. It is converted to psilocin in the body which allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier. It is similar in structure to serotonin (which can become inhibited, leading to anxiety and depression) and the effects last between four and seven hours.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is found in marijuana and industrial hemp and can be legally consumed in the UK when derived from industrial hemp with a THC content of below 0.02%. It is non-psychoactive and is used to help relieve anxiety and stress. The most popular ways to microdose CBD is either via oil or an edible, such as a gummy.

Cannabis

Known by many names, including marijuana, cannabis is often using for microdosing to relieve anxiety and improve mental acuity.

Other substances that are popular for microdosing include:

  • DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine) for heightened spiritual awareness and to lower anxiety
  • Nicotine to improve memory and focus
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate) to enhance academic or athletic performance
  • MDMA (methylenedioxyamphetamine) for heightened energy, empathy and self-awareness
  • Peyote (mescaline) for spiritual awareness and relief from fevers and joint pain
  • Ibogaine for reducing withdrawal symptoms including opioid dependence
  • Ketamine for pain relief
  • Ayahuasca for spiritual illumination

Is microdosing with CBD a good idea?

In short, yes, it is a good idea for most people.

Why?

It’s legal.

While most substances used for microdosing are illegal and carry jail sentences if you are caught in possession, CBD is completely legal in the UK. It is therefore easily available, and you can get good quality products that have been independently tested. In comparison, because other substances are illegal, it is difficult to verify if the product is of good quality.

It’s safe.

There is ongoing research into the safety and efficacy of psychedelics with over 60 studies either completed or in progress around the world, but most have not been cleared for use. In comparison, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has gone on record saying that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile. Reported adverse effects may be as a result of drug-drug interactions between CBD and patients’ existing medications… To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

It’s effective.

Study after study shows how regular dosing supports natural balance and wellness in the body and it’s effective for a wide range of physical and mental conditions including anxiety, pain, inflammation, sleeplessness and even acne.

This makes CBD the best option for managing stress and anxiety, as well as other conditions such as pain, sleeplessness and more. If you take other prescription medication, it is best to talk to your doctor before trying CBD.

Microdosing continues to be a trending topic, but with the lack of research and studies on microdosing with illegal substances (such as LSD and psilocybin), most people would rather stick to a legal supplement that has been proven to be safe with very few side effects. It is for this reason that CBD is emerging as a top choice for microdosing, it is completely legal, safe and offers excellent health benefits if done correctly.

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