For the longest time, people have dismissed psychedelic drugs like LSD and magic mushrooms. They are best known to create intense psychological experiences that vary from person to person. However, some within the scientific community have been looking at the benefits of microdosing mushrooms in treating mental health conditions.
That said, how does microdosing mushrooms compare to other stimulants like coffee, Adderall, and other types of smart drugs? Obviously, we want to explain why microdosing deserves a fair chance, but we’ll compare all those substances below.
What is Microdosing?
Microdosing means what it sounds like: taking microdoses of psychedelic drugs at 5 to 10% of a regular dose. Studies have shown that taking small enough doses where you don’t have as intense a psychedelic experience or even an experience at all, can have positive effects.
For the record, studying recreational drugs isn’t a novel idea. Scientists have studied psychedelic drugs’ effects since the 1940s but haven’t done quite so much in the last fifty years or so. It’s only now that the first clinical trials studying it are taking place, and the study is taken much more seriously.
How do Psychedelic Drugs Work?
Psychedelic drugs affect the chemical messenger serotonin, a chemical messenger that we usually associate with feeling happy. More specifically, serotonin assists with other functions like sleep, body temperature, eating, and memory.
Scientists have hypothesized that psychedelic drugs target serotonin 2A receptors. When these two things bind together, the parts of the brain responsible for sensory and motor functions spike, creating hallucinatory experiences. Similarly, psychedelic drugs stimulate more connectivity between neurons, creating a more intense psychological experience.
Unless taken in greater doses over time, you don’t always become addicted to psychedelic drugs. Some individuals might become dependent on it, but microdosing, and spacing out doses between days, should help prevent such effects.
Studies investigating microdosing are few and far between since the overall research is still so new. Many results have been mostly positive, though several key factors have affected their validity as of late.
The biggest issue in gathering valid data on microdosing is relying on self-reporting. That is, scientists pose questions to people (sometimes through the Internet) who have microdosed or have expressed interest in it. However, such reporting comes with a possibly heavy bias since people expect to have a good microdosing experience or have engaged in placebo studies. Thus, their predisposition to a positive experience inadvertently made it positive.
That said, some studies have gathered some possible benefits from microdosing reports:
- Increased creativity
- Improved energy and stimulation
- Reduced anxiety and stress
- Improved mood and optimism
- Improved ambition and motivation
- Enhanced cognitive benefits, such as problem-solving
- Improved focus and mindfulness
Much of the time, people microdose to alleviate symptoms relating to mental health troubles, such as depression, stress, and anxiety. Several of these studies have revolved around treating depression in particular.
A 2019 study conducted at Maastricht University conducted an online questionnaire that asked people who microdose to compare its effects to other treatments for mental health issues. Overall, people found microdosing to be more effective than other mental health treatments but still less effective than a standard psychedelic dose.
A 2020 study published in Psychopharmacology found that 21% of people used microdosing as therapy for depression, 7% for anxiety, 9% for other mental health disorders, and 44% believed that their mental health had improved because of microdosing.
Whether microdosing increases creativity is hard to quantify. However, scientists believe that stress reduction and increased focus create this benefit by themselves.
Bear in mind that these are all early studies, and scientists must complete many more human clinical trials to solidify these benefits.
What Does Microdosing Mushrooms Mean?
In the world of psychedelic drugs, people use “magic mushrooms,” or “shrooms,” to achieve a euphoric sensory high, similar to other hallucinogenic drugs. Most mushrooms that grow in Europe, North and South America, and Mexico have psilocybin in them, which, when ingested, achieves that desired high. Shrooms have a high potential for abuse, although their benefits are currently under close study.
Psilocybin affects serotonin receptors, which consequently affect mood, cognitive function, and perception. It can create visual and auditory hallucinations, but more often, it will change how the user perceives people or objects around them.
A person’s past experiences with shrooms, how many they take, and even their expectations of what the drug will do can affect their trips’ power. The placebo effect, or knowing that you might receive some effective treatment even if you are not actually receiving it, plays a considerable part. Such an effect makes it challenging to gauge psychedelic drugs’ actual power in clinical studies.
A little note of common sense: never use mushrooms you find in the wild, as some varieties could be poisonous. Mushrooms used for psilocybin are typically small and are tan or brown-coloured.
How Long Might a “High” from Shrooms Last?
When microdosing mushrooms, you don’t necessarily have a “high.” You might feel a little happier or a little calmer, but your sensory perception of your environment might not drastically change.
However, the effects of ingesting psilocybin in mushrooms can begin in about 30 minutes of ingestion. Such effects can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, or even a day, depending on the individual.
How Does Psychedelic Drug Stimulation Compare to Coffee Stimulation?
For years, coffee has been the go-to drink for awakening our minds and bodies. Despite what the nitpickers say, coffee is not terrible for you. It’s a natural product that, in small doses, can be a delicious way to get stimulation.
However, the more negative effects of drinking coffee are still valid. Consuming more than six cups a day can stimulate anxiety, insomnia, increased heart rate, and upset stomach. At worst, it can create irregular heartbeat and intense agitation. Drinking unfiltered coffee can also increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood.
Similar to psychedelic drugs, coffee works best when taken in small doses and not all at once. Of course, most people recommend microdosing psychedelic drugs every couple of days rather than hours. According to anecdotal evidence, most people feel alert and happier, but not necessarily high, when microdosing. Coffee has the potential to agitate you even in small doses, depending on how often you drink it.
In short, depending on the person, both coffee and psychedelic drugs can stimulate you differently.
How does Psychedelic Drug Stimulation Compare with Adderall Stimulation?
Adderall is a prescription medicine for treating conditions like hyperactivity and narcolepsy. Similar to coffee, it acts as a stimulant for the nervous system. It is part of a group of drugs known as “smart drugs” or drugs that help you maintain focus. It can also produce similar side effects, such as restlessness, headaches, problems getting or staying asleep, and even dizziness.
Adderall may cause psychological or physical dependence as a controlled substance, meaning people can abuse and misuse it. Long-term use might also cause brain changes, particularly in the amount of the chemical messenger dopamine. However, this is more likely in people who take Adderall in higher doses.
Adderall does not cause a “high,” as psychedelic drugs do if taken at a standard dose. However, it does produce stimulating effects of being energetic, excited, or focused. You might even get a sense of euphoria, though, more likely, that happens due to drug misuse or abuse.
Like psychedelic drugs, a regular dose of Adderall can create symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations or disordered thinking, though these are rare cases. Such symptoms are more likely to occur in people with a history of psychosis and people who misuse or abuse the drug.
Adderall Alternatives (Ritalin, Dexedrine, Modafinil)
Many doctors advise people not to take Adderall unless they’re under prescription, and some worry about the adverse side effects, especially in people predisposed to mental health issues.
On that note, that’s why doctors also prescribe Adderall alternatives, such as Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Modafinil. They supposedly have the same effect as Adderall, but the side effects are not as powerful. Their ability to make the user focus and concentrate better reportedly makes them a better, not to mention safer, alternative to Adderall.
Modafinil is the most popular smart drug available, boasting of providing 12-plus hours of increased concentration in a standard dose. Studies have proven these effects, as well as the drug’s non-addictive properties. Although it still has side effects, such as anxiety, nausea, fever, and sleeplessness, such effects wear off after short-term use.
Dexedrine works about the same way as Modafinil. Doses and side effects between the two are about the same as well. Doctors can say the same about comparing Ritalin to either of these drugs.
All drugs used to treat narcolepsy, ADHD, or sleep apnea are federally regulated since they can be abused and lead to dependence. They may not contain addictive substances, but people can form a habit of taking them too often.
Can You Overdose on Psychedelic Drugs and Smart Drugs?
Although these drugs do not create addictive results if taken in small doses, you can undoubtedly overdose on them both.
The problem with either drug is that long-term use produces tolerance. When you first start out using either drug, it might not require a high dose to feel the desired effect. Over time, as your body grows accustomed to the drug, you may need to take higher doses to feel those effects. More significant usage in the long term might produce an addiction, but the danger lies in taking too much at once and producing life-threatening effects.
Does Anyone Know the Proper Microdosing Amount?
Unfortunately, because microdosing is still such a new concept for mental health treatment, no one knows the proper dose that works safely for most individuals. Different doctors can perhaps gauge the adequate dose for individual patients, but not for a whole group. To start, you can start low with a 5mg dose.
How Does Everything Compare?
We’ve gone over several ways that coffee, Adderall and its alternatives, and psychedelic drugs are similar and different. Here’s the long and short of it.
While psychedelic drugs can produce anxiety and sleeplessness if taken in too large doses, overall, they can have a calming effect that increases good mood and concentration. You still run the risk of building tolerance and consequently overdosing, but their overall results are calming rather than stimulating.
Coffee is a stimulant all by itself, with almost zero of the serotonin-inducing power of psychedelic drugs. It may taste delicious, but it does have adverse side effects if drunk too much and too often.
Adderall and its alternatives stimulate concentration and focus and are non-addictive. However, similar to psychedelic drugs, you can build tolerance and run the risk of overdosing.
Microdosing Safety Concerns
If psychedelic drugs increase neuron activity, microdosing does so on a much smaller scale. That’s not to say that it is a safe alternative to previous psychiatric medicine, though. Even a small dose can have negative consequences, depending on the individual.
When some people take psychedelics, they can have psychotic episodes or exacerbate other mental issues, particularly if they have a pre-existing risk for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, among others.
Although microdosing is supposed to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and sleeping problems, psychedelic drugs might also make these problems worse. Some users have also reported overstimulation, physical discomfort, and even migraines.
Scientists have not completed many clinical trials yet, so we don’t have as firm a grasp on dosage, scheduling, or what kind of microdosing is right for each individual.
Studies concluding whether microdosing mushrooms and other psychedelic drugs can help treat mental illnesses are still in their early stages. The results we’ve seen so far look promising, and the scientific community appears to support it more and more.
Like any drug, both doctors and patients should be aware of the benefits and the risks of taking psychedelic drugs. We highly encourage our readers to speak with their current therapists or doctors about the benefits of using these drugs. However, time will only tell whether such substances will become a regular part of mental health treatment.