Is microdosing beneficial or detrimental?

Columnist Alex Daniels

Columnist Alex Daniels

Controversy is arising concerning the newly popular trend of ‘microdosing’ LSD as a way to boost performance in people’s everyday lives. Microdosing is taking LSD in such small amounts that the psychedelic effects aren’t felt, but it’s enough to stimulate the brain.
One-tenth to one-fifth of a normal dose is taken on a regular basis; once every three days is recommended. Microdosing researchers believe that this brain stimulation can increase productivity and creativity, as well as treat mental health problems such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Microdosing gained popularity in 2011 after psychologist Dr. James Fadiman published a book called The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, discussing the potential positive effects of taking LSD in tiny amounts. It’s now becoming widely popular in California’s tech-centric region, Silicon Valley, for fostering creativity in the area famous for starting companies.
Almost all users report only positive effects to researchers studying microdosing. Dr. Fadiman explained, “Someone taking a dose this low functions, as far as the world is concerned, a little better than normal. To date, I received no reports that sub-perceptual doses have caused any social disruption, personal upset or any form of work-related difficulty.”
According to The Third Wave, so far, over 99 percent of anecdotal reports about microdosing are positive. Although microdosing hasn’t been extensively studied, the feedback researchers receive from people who try it has been almost entirely pleasant responses.
With this kind of feedback, more and more people are beginning to try it out. Many people say microdosing pulled them out of depression they had been stuck in for years. LSD has worked for people who didn’t respond to antidepressant medications.
With all the proclaimed benefits clouding our outlooks, we forget that LSD is still illegal and not guaranteed to be safe. Besides the risk of being placed in jail, it’s also unregulated. Because the FDA outlawed it in the 1960s, there are no regulations on the production and distribution of LSD. With no regulations, you don’t really know exactly what you’re putting into your body if you choose to microdose.
Attempting to try microdosing could also result in unwanted and unpleasant trips. LSD can affect every person in a different way. Just because the majority of responses are positive, doesn’t mean everyone will experience it blissfully. Because of its unpredictability, in 2011, there were around 5,000 visits to emergency departments in the United States related to an adverse reaction to LSD, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.
Although the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that LSD is not addictive because it does not cause a physical dependence, people can still build a tolerance to it, causing a need for higher and higher doses each time.
Another negative associated with LSD use is the unknown. At this point in time, long-term side effects from microdosing have not been studied properly or enough. Because psychedelic drugs affect serotonin levels in the brain, it’s possible that they can have a negative effect on the way the brain processes rewards later in life.
The risks associated with microdosing outweigh the possible positives. Drugs such as acid and “magic mushrooms” were made illegal for a reason. The FDA doesn’t think it’s safe, so why should we?