It was a trip out of my comfort zone that prompted me to jump on the microdose train. I was in another state covering a cannabis conference, far away from my quiet office and laptop, when an old friend showed up with a gift: 100 micrograms of LSD. “Take one tenth of the tab each time,” my friend advised. “It’s not super trippy, but it’ll take you out of your ordinary mind.” I folded the tab into a piece of paper, slipped it into my wallet, and flew home the next day.
I had done acid a couple of times back in college and admit to enjoying it immensely. Beyond the usual wavy lines and tree halos, I could both see and sense the yogic imagery of chakras—not as abstract concepts, but real and palpable objects in all their crystalline, rainbow glory. I sensed the aliveness of each thing—animate and not—and was truly, though temporarily, one with the universe.
Microdosing LSD is nothing like that.
The Fadiman Protocol
For my microdosing experiences, I’ve followed the Fadiman protocol. Where the old LSD movement was headed by radical psychedelics pioneers like Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Ken Kesey, and Abbie Hoffman, the contemporary face of LSD advocacy and tutelage is psychologist and author, James Fadiman.
Fadiman’s protocol involves a four-day cycle: On day one, you dose with anywhere between five and fifteen micrograms of LSD. Following my friend’s advice, I choose ten. On day two, you generally experience only residual and subtle effects from the previous day’s dosing. On day three, you reset without psychedelics in order to become more aware of your baseline mood and functioning. And on day four, you dose again.
Two Camps of Microdosers
When reading through microdosing accounts online, two camps emerge: the productivity-driven Silicon Valley-type biohackers; and those seeking relief from chronic and intractable depression or anxiety. There’s little research to support the desired outcome of either of these camps, but plenty of anecdotal evidence stacking up in favor of the practice.
I, on the other hand, find myself unaligned with the two schools. Sure, I’d be thrilled to produce at optimum capacity—who wouldn’t?—but that didn’t prompt my foray into the world of the microdose. I’d also welcome shedding many of the fears and frustrations associated with being an imperfect human, but it’s not extreme suffering that brought me to the door of LSD experimentation, either. I’m a mostly-happy, mostly-getting-it-done kind of person who’s interested in what the body and mind are capable of. An explorer of consciousness. The word sometimes thrown around here is psychonaut.
First Microdoses – Incredible Focus and Confidence
The first day of microdosing yielded this enthusiastic journal entry:
“Energy! Focus! Mood! The ongoing static interference of mind that wonders, “am I doing this right?” “am I okay?” “what will others think?” Is. Just. Gone. I feel solidly me, but also flexible and open. My awareness is heightened enough to really perceive the sensory details of everyday life: the graceful arc and perfect functionality of a teacup; the clean lines of machinery whirring and clanking in my cityscape; the raw and unfiltered beingness of a dog. My perception is not so much surreal, as hyper-real; the world, and my own mind, feel utterly clear. Simplicity flows from paying deep attention.”
Later that day:
“Edginess and irritation surface when my focus is disrupted. But I find that, feeling irritated, I can shift my mood more intentionally—reminding myself that anger isn’t serving a purpose and that I can choose dissipation instead of accumulation. Less at the whim of mood, I am intentional about how I want to feel: an empowered way of being.”
All in all, day one knocked it out of the park.
After waiting the appropriate time between doses, I found the second and third experiences following more or less the same path with only a slight tapering the third time; tolerance to LSD builds quickly.
The fourth and fifth microdoses, however, were less fun.
The fourth time, I upped my dose out of curiosity. If a small amount of LSD helped tremendously, what would more do? Unscientifically, I took roughly a third more than previous doses and found myself shaky in an over-caffeinated kind of way. I worked that day and experienced a few bursts of focus and idea-generation, but also felt vaguely uncomfortable in my skin and emotionally unsettled.
The fifth time I microdosed, it was on a day of unexpected stressors when my emotions felt more imbalanced and my judgment off. Unsure of whether I was in the midst of processing deep, dark stuff, or simply over-dramatizing my pain, I cried some and got angry some. I took stock of deep-seated resentment toward a close person in my life. Ultimately, I could label the experience neither good nor bad, but it was exhausting.
Insights About Microdosing LSD
Microdosing LSD is not usually considered the kind of thing that shifts your everyday experience from a tethered one—where you can’t help but get in your own way repeatedly—to one of real freedom. The radical, mystical potential of psychedelics are assumed to be reserved for ayahuasca ceremonies deep in the Amazon, or psilocybin-led psychotherapy.
But I have experienced true shifts as a result of my ongoing experiment with microdosing LSD. With utmost clarity, I know now that my two most debilitating and intransigent emotions, fear and anger, are also teachers. Every time they show up, they offer me an opportunity to move past them—protective as they may be—because they don’t serve a healthy purpose at this moment.
Today, honesty is easier than ever. I’m better able to have difficult conversations without sinking into a spiral of self-doubt. To state what’s true for me through the necessary filter of kindness, not fear.
My use of other substances has shifted, too. With microdosing, I find myself backing off cannabis and alcohol, in part out of caution; combining substances can lead to a much more intense experience than expected. But microdosing has somehow lessened my interest in both of them because, enjoyable as they are, alcohol and cannabis tend to obscure my real life experience to varying degrees.
Because LSD heightens awareness in a deeply-engaged-with-what-is kind of way, I reach for the other stuff less. Interestingly, LSD is being researched as a tool to help with addiction. And while I don’t suffer from addiction, I sometimes worry about the psychological dependence on cannabis that can develop with heavy use.
As the benefits, as well as the downsides, of microdosing LSD continue to unfold for me, I relish the privilege to explore the uneven edges of everyday life, to look more deeply at the world around me, and at my own habits of mind. Above all, I’m grateful for the opportunity microdosing LSD has given me to live in a thoroughly engaged kind of way.