The history of microdosing
The history of microdosing does not begin in this century, as more research is being done on its effects. People have been using mushrooms and other psychedelic substances for thousands of years. These helped them to feel connected to the life around them and to have enlightening and predictive visions. Nowadays, we use microdoses of psychedelic drugs for our health. Through scientific research we are gaining more and more insight into how these substances work.
Microdosing in a grey past
The evolutionary theory says that the strongest survives and that’s how we came to be at the top of the food chain. Terence McKenna has another interesting theory, which is the Stoned Ape Theory. He claimed that the first humans were hunters and gatherers, who went after herds of animals. They ate meat, but also plants and fruits. That’s probably how they found mushrooms. Not just ordinary, nutritious ones, but magical ones.
It is not known exactly what our ancestors understood from these mushrooms, but they must have felt the effect. McKenna suggests that the magic mushrooms would have given a boost to the evolution of the brains of these early people. Man became more aware of himself. Mushrooms were the impetus for the birth of science, religion, philosophy and thus the entire human culture. This is obviously hard to prove, but doesn’t sound too far-fetched either.
Recent research on microdosing
Microdosing means taking minuscule amounts of a psychedelic. This is one tenth of the normal amount. You don’t take this microdose to get high, but for the subtle positive effects the drug can have on your health. Most people do it to get more energy or because it helps with anxiety. By microdosing you will profit from the advantages, but there will be no change in your functioning or consciousness.
At the end of the nineteenth century the first research into psychedelics began. At first it was after mescaline (a substance from certain cacti). Later there came an interest in microdosing, especially with psilocybin and LSD. In the 1960s, Dr Alfred Hofmann was a pioneer in this field of research. He applied his knowledge himself and took microdoses himself. He lived to be 102 years old, so it wasn’t bad for his health.
James Fadiman was another proponent of the use of microdoses of psychedelics and the research into their effects. He indicated that different amounts of psychedelic drugs have different purposes. A high dose is suitable if you want to have a spiritual experience. Low, microdoses can be used as a supplement, a remedy that helps you in your daily life. During his years of research, he has collected thousands of reports showing that microdosing with psychedelics can help to improve creativity, reduce dependence on addictive substances, work against headaches and reduce anxiety.
Unfortunately, both LSD and Psilocybin were both banned by the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971. Whereas psychedelics were popular and widely used in the sixties, public opinion changed. Research into these agents did not become impossible, but it became difficult. In the 90’s and 2000’s there were only a few studies done on psilocybin. Most of the research on these agents has been done underground over the last fifty years.
Increased interest in microdosing
Fortunately, times change. In this century, there is again an increased interest in microdosing and more research is being done on it. Both young and old people use microdoses to support their mental and physical health. Books are written about it and people talk about their experiences online and in magazines.
Fadiman also continued to do research. Anyone who shows an interest in microdosing can have a form with a microdosing routine sent to them. He asks them to note down the effects and he is sent the results. So he collected a huge amount of data: on what it does to their mood, how much energy they have, changes in appetite or creativity.
Fadiman concludes that the influence of microdosing may be subtle (it is also called sub-perceptual), but it does have an impact. “It seems like microdosing brings the system back into balance. It affects so many different complaints and symptoms.” It can act on your nervous system, the brain stem, it may even have an effect at the cellular level, he says.
As mentioned, more and more people are getting into microdosing. Fadiman, but also others, do indicate that they remain cautious. It is basically safe, but everyone reacts differently. Of all the reports Fadiman received, all participants were positive, but there were 5 people who had a negative experience. It is also possible that you react well and feel better when you take microdoses, but that your symptoms come back when you stop.
Although there are many positive stories about microdosing, not much clinical research has been done. Fadiman’s data is based on personal reports. Clinical research is still important to get a clear picture of the effects, both for short and long term use. And microdosing seems promising, so it’s a good thing there’s more interest in it.
Some recently published studies do seem to endorse the claims of users. A research team in Australia has found preliminary evidence that the placebo effect may not cause all the changes reported by microdosers. In the Netherlands too research which showed that a single, non-blind dose of magic truffles promotes convergent and divergent thinking. These are positive sounds, but these are only small-scale studies. It’s a step in the right direction, but hopefully many bigger steps will follow.