Unpacking The Benefits Of Psychedelic Therapy And Microdosing For Mental Health

Unpacking The Benefits Of Psychedelic Therapy And Microdosing For Mental Health

Throughout our mental health journey, it’s natural to hit a plateau in progress. It may feel as if after all the therapy sessions, journaling, and self-care you’ve undergone, there’s still more that your mind may need in order to reach the psychological benefits you’re seeking.

One alternative medicine option known as microdosing, offers small doses of psychedelics to spark changes in the brain to alter the way they think and create tangible, psychological improvements.

What is Microdosing?

Microdosing refers to the practice of taking a very small, sub-perceptual dose of a psychedelic substance, such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) or psilocybin mushrooms, typically on a regular schedule. The aim is to experience subtle cognitive and emotional benefits without the full-blown psychedelic effects associated with a standard or recreational dose.

Taking this subthreshold dose of psychedelics (typically within the 10 to 20 mcg range) allows one to operate within their daily lives without being restricted or slowed down by the normal effects of psychedelics or hallucinogens.

In some traditional indigenous healing communities, microdosing is often the preferred approach for individuals seeking healing, rather than macrodosing.

Microdosing vs. Macrodosing

“There is a long-standing history of different kinds of dosing of ‘master plants,’ as I call them, in traditional communities, where shamanic doses (or very high doses), were only taken by the maestro,” Maya Shetreat, MD, author of The Master Plant Experience tells xoNecole. “In fact, they would only offer a microdose to the people participating in the ceremony or to the person they're doing the healing on.”

While macrodosing might be more common among visitors of what Shetreat calls, “the global north,” the traditional method can vary among different communities, and in some cases, macrodosing may not be a part of their healing practices at all.

Due to the legality of psychedelics in most places, Dr. Shetreat shares that The Institutional Review Board (IRB) mandates that individuals taking psychedelics, even in microdoses, must be closely monitored in clinical or hospital settings, which can be “impractical” and often inconvenient as early research develops.

Unlike full-dose experiences, which are planned with preparation and integration sessions, microdosing doesn't make sense for such intensive monitoring. This is because microdosing involves taking sub-psychedelic doses that don't significantly alter one's state, and individuals usually take these doses every few days, making constant clinical supervision impractical for most people's daily lives.

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The Benefits of Microdosing for Mental Health and Well-Being:

While research is still limited on the full range of benefits from microdosing, Dr. Shetreat shares that while subtle, there are “benefits with neuroplasticity,” meaning that neurons in the brain make new connections, even with microdoses over a period of time.

Additionally, microdosing has been shown to be beneficial for individuals who are not able, for any number of reasons, to experience large doses of psychedelics as they can be disorienting. “Some people are medically contraindicated due to their mental health or medications that they're taking, and are very sensitive to having really large psychedelic experiences,” she explains.

However, individuals with anxiety, depression, OCD, and also medical conditions, like chronic pain, autoimmunity, asthma, ADHD, and autism, have been shown to benefit from microdosing.

Is Microdosing the Best Option for You?

In terms of whether microdosing is a suitable option for you, clinical papers based on self-reported experiences suggest its potential benefits as being a safer and less intense approach to mental health issues.

“People tend to feel happier, lighter, more social, and more inclined to take good care of themselves like exercise and eat better,” Dr. Shetreat explains.

“They tend to avoid other altering substances like alcohol and feel less depressed; many people have gotten off of antidepressants using microdosing.” However, some may have concerns about microdosing due to its legality.

What To Expect From Your Microdosing Experience

Although the initial day of ingestion may not be the most potent day in terms of physical or mental experience, Dr. Shetreat shares that some individuals report having a particularly euphoric day following ingestion. “Many people experience benefits on the day that they take the microdose, but there are also people who describe the next day as being what we would call ‘The Best Day' where they feel a sense of euphoria,” she says.

In order to make the most of your microdosing experience, she suggests keeping an open mind, self-reflection, and clear intentions, which in turn, holds significant value in maximizing its benefits.

“Treat this experience with a master plant or psychedelic as being just as meaningful and sacred as a large experience can be,” she says, “Engaging in the meaning-making and thinking of it in a ceremonial way makes a difference. Coming in with a sense of preparation for the experience itself — during and afterward — has really great value.”

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