Was it addictive? In short: no, thankfully not. In this article I’ll explain why all the benefits, side effects, withdrawal symptoms and lasting changes made microdosing a wonderful experience for me, which I could also easily let go of.
1.Advantages of microdosing
To make it easier to analyze the effects, I categorized different moods as “positive” (such as joy, love, courage, passion and peace) and “negative” (such as anger, fear, sadness, anxiety and shame), and rated them on a scale from 0 to 10 (0 meaning not present, 10 most intense). By the end of the 30 days, I no longer wanted to label them that way. I found it more valuable to also let feelings like sadness or shame just be there.
With the meditation, nonviolent communication and circling I had been practicing for some time before microdosing, this was not a new insight. Yet these 30 days helped me feel it even more deeply.
Another noticeable change was that thoughts and feelings lingered much less – I fretted less about what was going on in my head and could more easily focus on the present. For example, instead of being grumpy for hours about the streetcar being late and my dance class being cancelled, I found that I quickly put it to one side, and the beautiful trees and flowers on the way home caught my eye. Incidentally, the less lingering also applied to the “positive” stories (such as compliments or financial success, for example), which gave me a greater sense of equanimity.
In other words, microdosing with psilocybin did not stimulate my dopamine reward system or create cravings for pleasure; nor did it numb emotional pain. Instead, it brought you closer to all feelings and encouraged you to be more curious about them and make more room for them. And that’s the opposite of the mindset of addiction and trying to run away from pain.
For those interested in the “positive” and “negative” despite that, here are my findings. Overall, for much of the day, I felt more loving, passionate, joyful and grateful than usual. Even when I was fixing the kitchen sink or filing tax returns, things I normally hate, I felt a twinge of joy and relaxation. The undertone of my emotional life became much lighter and warmer, leading to a deep sense of confidence and optimism for me.
Feelings of anxiety, among other “negative” feelings, were also easier to deal with. Some studies show an increase in anxiety in some people who microdosed. But to me, it doesn’t feel like a “side effect.” I see it as the body not yet being familiar with the increased energy and sensitivity that microdosing can bring about. A friend of mine, Dr. Alex Gearin, notes the same thing: “finally, getting more in touch with the unconscious or ‘feeling body’ is not always easy, but that is also where powerful learning and transformation can take place.”
I also realized that feelings of fear were often accompanied by joy, connection, and inner peace on the same day. This fundamentally changed my previous assumption that “anxiety ruins a whole day” to “I can still have a great day while being anxious.” With this shift in perspective, I had much more space to live with anxiety. It also helped me actively focus on the needs that appeared to be behind it: connection, self-empathy, and patience.
In the month after microdosing, I did indeed experience a decline. I can’t say whether that was because of withdrawal, or because I was going through some intense life events. Probably both. And I think science needs to adapt to real life rather than the other way around: we can’t conduct a controlled experiment on ourselves in which only the dosage changes and all other aspects of life remain the same.
After two weeks of falling and fluctuating, my positive feelings returned to the level of an average microdose day. And even the worst day after I stopped microdosing was not much worse than a not-so-good day during microdosing. (In retrospect, I’m glad I kept track, because otherwise my brain could have easily made the drop worse than it really was.)
In addition, collecting this data has also been an exercise in emotional awareness and self-care. Even now, four months after microdosing, I still keep it as part of my evening ritual. When I go through the items on the sheet, I can take the time to recall all my feelings and give them the attention they need. For example, if I go to “sadness” and give it a 7, I would acknowledge how sad I was that day, and then treat myself with more tenderness. Does a 7 for sadness or a 6 for anger make it a bad day? No, it’s a rich day.
Overall, my productivity increased compared to the months before. This was noticeable as measured by the amount of tasks I completed, my energy level, focus, inspiration, problem-solving ability, and also by how much I was able to get into a flow state. When the dosage was right, I was able to get and stay in the “zone” more easily. I also noticed more hunches during brainstorming sessions, and I wrote more fluently. Both my logical and visual thinking seemed to have improved. However, when I took more than my sweet spot, I became too hyper to focus properly. The more familiar I became with the feeling of a flow state, the easier I found it to access, with or without microdosing.
A big surprise to me is that my chronic fatigue largely disappeared in those 30 days, and stayed away afterwards. As can be seen in the graphs, the second half of the month without microdosing was even more productive and stable than the month when I did microdose. For the past ten years, I felt constantly tired, which in retrospect had less to do with physical problems than with mental ones. I was not living in my “zone of genius,” and I was too often saying yes to things I really wanted to say no to. Partly because of the energy boost from microdosing, and partly because I was doing more things that I find meaningful and connecting more with people I love to be around, I became much more alive and less likely to become exhausted. A month of like this continues to reinforce in me the belief that I can have great energy as long as I do what I am truly passionate about.
Although I was skeptical at first, I have benefited tremendously from the increased productivity and extra energy. However, this did not turn me into a working machine. It just allowed me to create higher quality products in less time, enjoy the meaningful work I do, and relax the rest of the day. I find freedom and strength in this paradox: I can now produce more, but I choose to do less.
Microdosing with psilocybin truffles opened my heart, as it were, and deepened my connections. I felt more connected to myself – listening to my body, accepting and exploring my thoughts and feelings, and making decisions that were more and more in line with what I really needed. While I enjoyed the time to myself, I also felt more connected to others. That month I hung out with friends a lot and hosted more dinners than usual. I also felt more committed to the online community I lead.
My connection to nature took off in the second half of the month. No wonder people say that microdosing on truffles can be described as “earthy.” I found myself spending much more time simply marveling at a flower or a leaf, watching a sunset, or biking slowly through the woods.
Interestingly, unlike my experiences with macro-dosing, I did not think much about the mystery of life, death, the cosmos or spirits during micro-dosing, as I did before and after that month. Probably due to the earthy, grounding quality of truffles, which made me feel very content with my daily life. Of course, I was still connected to spirituality in the broader sense of the word, which simply means being in the now.
I was planning to use microdosing as a driving force for better habits, to take what I learned from my macro and micro experiences with psychedelics. Now before that month, I already had pretty much good habits like meditating, yoga, exercising, eating healthy, getting things done. But microdosing helped me to embed this even deeper, making it an almost automatic running system, so I could use less and less willpower to do these things.
Sometimes I doubt that these habits don’t actually play a much bigger role than microdosing. If so, is microdosing nothing more than a placebo? Maybe so, but if a placebo makes me more willing to do what’s good for me, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I like how Fadiman & Korb define it: Placebo is a “natural healing response of the body”. In that sense, with microdosing/placebo as a catalyst, my body might have tuned itself into its own healing and flourishing.
2. Disadvantages of microdosing
Fair is fair, microdosing also caused side effects and withdrawal symptoms for me.
As I mentioned earlier, the sweet spot varies from person to person. I started with a much higher dose than I actually needed. From this, I became irritable, felt upset in my stomach, panicked at night, had sour sweat smell (similar to the smell of truffles), and was hungry all the time. As for energy, I was hyper during the day, but exhausted by 8pm. However, when the dosage was right, all these side effects were gone.
When I stopped taking the 30-day microdose, I experienced a lot of heavy feeling in my head and occasional migraines. In the first two weeks, I woke up cranky and didn’t have enough energy or motivation to keep up my good habits. I often had thoughts that I could not let go, followed by my frustration at not being able to sustain the effects. As mentioned earlier, I cannot say for sure if this was because of withdrawal, or because of the challenges in my life. Would withdrawal be smoother for others? Would it have been a good idea to taper off? I would love to see more research on this.
Four months have passed since the experiment. I feel just as good, if not better, and I don’t miss microdosing at all. One day I tried microdosing one again with truffles and another day LSD to boost my productivity, and I found that it no longer made a huge difference. After withdrawal, my body was more sensitive to psychedelics, so what used to be my sweet spot in terms of dosage made me restless rather than bringing me concentration and inspiration.
That’s another reason why it’s not hard to let go of the help of psychedelics – microdosing is like riding a bike with training wheels; now that you can ride a bike even without your hands, why would you want to go back to the wheels – unless it’s for fun?
3. Lasting positive effects of microdosing
Even now, I still feel the afterglow of this 30-day experiment. One of the longest-lasting effects is that I experienced some great moments and mapped out the memories of them. And better yet, I realized that there is nothing magical about microdosing – it’s like a fresh apple hanging low on the tree. I just need to be a little more observant and raise my hand a little higher. I can do this now even without using psychedelics on a daily basis.
- No matter how stormy my emotional world is; it plays out against a backdrop of peace and joy.
- Thoughts and feelings don’t stick to me, so I have more space to be centered and present.
- The day begins with my morning rituals – meditation, stretching, journaling and a healthy breakfast – before I turn on my phone.
- I connect with people from my heart, and say no to things I can’t passionately say yes to.
- When I work, I can easily get into a flow. I choose to work less despite my improved productivity.
- I no longer find mundane chores boring; I do them with presence and joy.
- I appreciate the beauty in nature in the urban environment I live in, and in many other details I would otherwise ignore.
- My heart feels both soft and strong: I feel self-love and compassion, as well as confidence and resilience.
- I end my day with my gratitude journal, and have a good night’s sleep.
The end of my microdosing journey is not ” and they lived happily ever after”. I still experience incredibly bad days sometimes, and that’s okay. And fortunately, my concern that I initially had turned out not to hold up: having experienced a really good day does NOT make a bad day unbearable. Instead, knowing that good and bad moments all come and go, I became more at ease. Maybe that’s what they call neuroplasticity?
Another long-term effect has to do with my diet. After a six-month transition, I became completely vegan just before I started microdosing. I was pleasantly surprised that microdosing is such a great endorsement for new vegans. It makes a vegan lifestyle much nicer and easier to maintain. Since with truffles you seem to be more connected to nature and more quickly drawn to fresh healthy plant foods, becoming a vegan seems like just a small step.
4. Methodological limitations
There are some limitations to this self-experiment:
- It did not have an ABA format. I did not keep track of the previous month, so we could not see what changes microdosing brought about compared to the previous months.
- Due to some physical discomfort during the month, I did not strictly follow the rhythm of dosing every third day. In the last ⅓ of the month, I felt well enough that I did not feel the need to dose. Such irregularities made it difficult to see the effects of single dosing days compared to non-dosing days.
- The variables in my life other than dosage are difficult to control. Therefore, in-depth studies with a larger sample are useful to smooth out the influence of other factors in an individual’s life.
- The scoring of each item is fairly intuitive, i.e., random. I did not have a list of set definitions and criteria. I notice that over time I became much milder when I gave a 9 or 10 to “love,” for example.
- However, I doubt that this is just methodological sloppiness. As microdosing made my inner critic milder, I no longer held the same hard standards when I thought about “love,” “joy,” “inspiration,” and “flow state.” In the past, just working my ass off for hours and producing a hugely satisfying article earned me a 7 in the “flow state” category, but now I would give generously the same to an hour of highly focused, relaxed, and enjoyable house cleaning.
This last “limitation,” when viewed from a larger perspective than empirical research, is not necessarily a disadvantage. Microdosing changed the way I relate to myself and to the world, to the extent that the “I” filling in the data day after day is no longer the same person it was months ago. The feeling of deep satisfaction replaced the harsh voices, so that the former “so-so” things became something I celebrate with a 9 or 10 at the end of the day.
To me, such growing compassion for myself is as meaningful as creating perfectly scientific data. It invites us perfectionists to make a choice: pat yourself on the back for not achieving the unlikely 10, or change the definition of 10?
Will I ever microdose again? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever I decide, things are good the way they are