This story appeared in the April issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.
Since the 1940s, scientists have researched how the psychedelic drug LSD—or acid— can be used to treat ailments ranging from depression and headaches to alcoholism. Typically, such studies involve high doses administered in a strictly controlled lab.
Over the past five years, however, the psychologist Dr. James Fadiman, author of The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide, has been collecting accounts from people who have "microdosed" with it. They take, in other words, tiny quantities of the drug for up to a month with therapeutic, rather than hallucinogenic, results.
At THUMP, we stay tuned in to drug culture and how it pertains to nightlife, so I spoke to Dr. Fadiman to find out more about this treatment. This is the first installment in our new monthly column about drugs and nightlife, The THUMP Guide to Drugs, which also ran in the April issue of VICE Magazine.
THUMP: What is microdosing?
Dr. James Fadiman: Taking an extremely low dose of a psychedelic, from one tenth to 1/20th of a recreational dose. It has no psychedelic effects.
For those who don't know, what's the difference between microdosing and tripping?
Tripping is at a higher dose. When tripping, you need to be very concerned about certain settings; it's helpful to have a guide. It has perceptual distortions, synthesia, dragons, and angels. Microdosing has none of that.
Is it safe?
Microdosing is probably the safest possible way for people to use a psychedelic. What we've found in about five years of work and hundreds of reports is some people's stomachs can get a little upset, and others can get anxious, but that stops because the effect wears off fairly quickly.
What benefits of microdosing have you found?
People report that their system works better. Healthy people talk about increased focus, attention, and creativity. For people with mental illness and other conditions, they report an improvement in their mental state. Even people with chronic conditions, they don't report that those conditions have improved, but that they're feeling somewhat better and able to cope.
Should people who take psychedelics recreationally in clubs consider microdosing?
It might be beneficial to them in that they wouldn't have to worry about the hangover. But if you're going to a club and you want to distort your perception, this won't work. Microdosing seems to be what professionals do, or those who are solving coding problems or hiking with friends. For people who want to take a drug and go to a club, microdosing will disappoint them—but they will have a very nice time.
Is it possible to get addicted?
It isn't addictive in the sense that people have withdrawal symptoms and need more. It's something that people say helps them when they take it, and that they function fine without it most of the time. I think it's far less addictive than coffee.
What are the long-term effects?
It's hard to say, except people who use it over long periods of time seem to be very healthy. So, on some level, it may be as if you're taking a very correct vitamin. Psychedelics are unusual in that different doses have very different sets of effect, almost as if you're getting different stations on a radio. And so microdosing, which has the least effect, seems to have some healing properties without any of the excitement of higher doses.