Microdosing Psilocybin Mushrooms
By Don Gauvreau, MSc, CSCS
aka The Supplement Godfather
The buzz around psychedelic research and its potential to help with mental health and wellness is picking up some serious momentum. The positive results of recent and ongoing research studies at reputable institutions across the globe is what has caused this excitement and interest. Microdosing is one aspect of psychedelic therapy that is garnering a lot of attention and interest from a wide demographic of people, from athletes, gamers, elderly, university students, coders – you name it, virtually every adult could potentially benefit from some microdosing therapy.
What Exactly Is Microdosing?
Microdosing is the practice of consuming small, sub-perpetual (relatively unnoticeable) amounts of a psychedelic substance (e.g., psilocybin mushrooms) a few times per week. Because the dosage is sub-perpetual, it won’t cause any hallucinations, alter your immediate state of consciousness or have any visual effects, but it can provide a host of amazing benefits, when dosed appropriately for the individual.
What Are the Benefits of Microdosing?
Microdosing can result in better focus, creativity, productivity, empathy and sociability. Microdosing can enable changes in perspective (which aids in problem solving and critical thinking) and can creates a positive shift in overall mood and outlook on life. Many people who microdose also report more energy and an improvement in social and relationship skills.
In clinical situations, microdosing has been shown to have positive effects with the following conditions:
- Mood disorders
- Severe headaches
Mechanisms of Action: How Does Microdosing Work?
The mechanisms of action aren’t completely clear, but it’s known that psychedelics (such as psilocybin mushrooms) are agonists for the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor and glutamate and dopamine receptors. These compounds also activate the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway and tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB), which is also known as tyrosine receptor kinase B.
Resets the Default Mode Network in the Brain
Psilocybin mushrooms have the ability to reset the typical control systems of cognition in the brain. Research shows that these compounds have an effect on the default mode network (DMN) in the brain, which is a large-scale brain network of interacting brain regions. The DMN is known to be overactive in people with depression. Microdosing can reset this system and help regulate it in a positive way, which can allow for a clearer thought process and better creativity and mood.
Anti-Aging for the Brain
Microdosing of psychedelic compounds has been shown to promote both structural and functional neural plasticity by activating the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Neural plasticity is the ability of neurons to change in form and function in response to alterations in their environment. And psychedelics (e.g., mushrooms) that bind to the 5-HT2A serotonin receptor are capable of robustly increasing neuritogenesis and spinogenesis. Neuritogenesis is the process by which nervous system cells form new neurites (which develop into axons and dendrites) which extend from the cell body. Spinogenesis is the development of dendritic spines in neurons. These changes in neuronal structure are accompanied by increased synapse number and function.
In other words, microdosing can light up your brain, and in a very good way. It can help rebuild and regenerates brain cells and support improvements in the connections between brain cells. Microdosing can counteract the negative effects that normal aging has on the brain and its function. Research even shows that microdosing can help reduce neuroinflammation (inflammation of brain cells) associated with neurodegenerative disease such as dementia.
Addresses the Root Problem for a Long-Term Solution
Breakdown of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is believed to be a major factor in the pathophysiology of depression and related mood and anxiety disorders and is amplified by stress. Structural changes, such as the retraction of neurites, loss of dendritic spines and elimination of synapses, can be counteracted by microdosing psilocybin mushrooms because they promote structural and functional neural plasticity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
New Psilocybin Mushroom Study Published in the journal Psychopharmacology
New research from Leiden University in the Netherlands shows that microdosing psilocybin mushrooms can improve both convergent and divergent thinking in ways that promote cognitive flexibility, creativity and single-solution problem solving. Convergent thinking is the process of figuring out a concrete solution to any problem. Divergent thinking is the process of thinking that explores multiple possible solutions in order to generate creative ideas. It’s a straightforward process that focuses on figuring out the most effective answer to a problem. Now, couldn’t this be useful to just about everyone on the planet?
The lead researcher concluded that the results of the open-label natural setting study suggest that microdosing psychedelic compounds allowed study participants to create more out-of-the-box alternative solutions to a problem, and this provides preliminary support for the assumption that microdosing improves divergent thinking.
The Difference between Microdosing Mushrooms and Prescription Antidepressants
Researchers believe that psilocybin mushrooms help to revive emotional responsiveness in the brain. This mechanism is the opposite effect of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Psilocybin mushroom assisted therapy can help mitigate depression by increasing emotional connection. SSRI drugs, on the other hand, are known for creating a general emotional blunting in people (also known as the antidepressant zombie effect). New research published in the journal Neuropharmacology examined patients diagnosed with moderate-to-severe treatment-resistant depression to investigate what kinds of effects psilocybin would have on their brain activity and depressive symptoms. Previous research shows that psilocybin mushrooms can reset brain circuits in depressed people, with benefits lasting up to five weeks after treatment. This new research shows that psilocybin heightens the activity in the right amygdala. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure located within the anterior portion of the temporal lobes (brain) that is part of the limbic system and is known to play a part in controlling emotion, motivation, and memory.
Research shows that the alleviation of depression occurs from emotional receptivity being enhanced, which is the opposite effect of SSRI antidepressants. It has been proposed that decreased amygdala responsiveness to negative emotional stimuli under SSRIs is a key component of their therapeutic action, but new research shows that psilocybin mushrooms have the opposite effect.
Patients in the study published in Neuropharmacology reported the following after using psilocybin mushrooms:
“a greater willingness to accept all emotions post-treatment (including negative ones)” (original emphasis), whereas they felt their previous depression treatments worked to “reinforce emotional avoidance and disconnection.”
“I felt so much lighter, like something had been released, it was an emotional purging, the weight and anxiety and depression had been lifted.”
“I have felt a sense of acceptance; more acceptance of agony, boredom, loneliness.”
“willingness to try to accept the negative times – but also an appreciation of the wonderful times."
Researchers, including myself, believe that psychedelics have the potential to cure deep psychological wounds, depression and addiction.
Is Microdosing Addictive?
Since microdosing provides such amazing benefits, it makes you wonder—can it be addictive? It has been scientifically proven that psilocybin mushrooms aren’t physiologically addictive—this is a proven fact. However, one could argue that psychological dependence on the confidence/benefits that microdosing provides might be a possibility, and this might be an issue for some people. However, your body develops a tolerance to psychedelics such as psilocybin mushrooms very quickly, even after just one dose, which is why most people who micordose follow either the “Fadiman” or “Stamets” protocol (or something similar). The Fadiman protocol is named after Dr. James Fadiman, one of the world’s leading researchers on psychedelics. The Fadiman protocol has users taking a microdose every third or fourth day—so one day on, two to three days off, then repeat. The Stamets protocol is named after Paul Stamets, the world’s top mycologist and number one authority on everything related to mushrooms and fungi. The Stamets protocol has users taking a microdose for four to five consecutive days, followed by two to three days off (4-5 on, 2-3 off, then repeat). If you take a psychedelic substance every day, the effects and benefits will diminish, making most people want to stop taking it. I like to think of it as a nature’s built-in “anti-addiction” mechanism. If you try to repeatedly dose psychedelics, you will soon realize they have little to no effects, so there’s no point and no desire to continue.
When people use psilocybin mushrooms in macro (larger) dosages for full-on trips to overcome mental obstacles and for spiritual purposes, one usually experiences mental and spiritual exhaustion following a session. People usually get a feeling that it has been enough for a while. Most people who use macro amounts of psychedelics usually only do so a few times a year, and some people only do it once or twice in a lifetime and gain all the benefits they’re looking for from that one journey. Again, if you try to repeatedly dose psychedelics, you will soon realize they have little to no effects, so there’s no point. Most people realize how sacred these spiritual medicines are and begin to understand that less is better. The majority of people realize that they shouldn’t be abused and don’t have a desire to push the limits past reason.
That being said, some people need a little more guidance. This is where discipline, a structured regimen and ongoing support are very helpful so that microdosers can create a long-lasting healthy lifestyle. Just like any supplement, it’s also a good idea to cycle off microdosing and take break periods.
The purpose of this article is to report and educate on the emerging research on psychedelics and psilocybin mushrooms. We do not encourage illegal activities and the use of any illegal substances. This article is for education and information only. This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional with any questions or concerns you might have regarding a medical condition.
The Third Wave does not encourage illegal activities. Any information we provide is for education and information only. This site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.