Microdosing’s Micromoment - Part 2


Consuming crumb-size amounts of psychedelics — not to get high but to feel more focused and creative and present — has moved a tiny bit mainstream. By Simone Kitchens

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11:41 A.M. Have greater ability to end undesirable thoughts.

11:54 A.M. Instead of blankly gazing at nothing, as can happen normally, my focus is flitting somewhat randomly around, scanning. My memory images seem stronger.

10:38 P.M. In bed. Had another almost continuously productive day — doing a phone interview, reading, writing, drawing.

Day 3

10 A.M. Two days later. Used one-12th of a tab — half as much.

4:11 P.M. Time has passed fast. The half-dose seems preferable. One-sixth felt sometimes overwhelming and disruptive to my normal routine, but this amount seems good to use occasionally and strategically.

 

Microtripping Nine to Five

What it’s like to be high and functioning on the job.

Normal. Photo: Joe Belanger/Alamy Stock Photo
Microdosing. Photo: Joe Belanger/Alamy Stock Photo

A Blueberry Edible Before a Meeting
“I take chocolate-covered blueberry edibles, which are about 5 mg. each of THC — the psychoactive part of cannabis — on the way to work. It’s about a 45-minute commute, so by the time I’m at my desk, it’s starting to work. During meetings, I feel more lucid in my thoughts and confident sharing ideas that I may have thought were too radical before. I find myself making more jokes, laughing more. Before, I think I was always trying to say the right thing, playing it safe in a way. It worked, but it was also sort of boring.” —Anonymous animator

A Sliver of LSD Before Talking to the Boss
“When I microdosed LSD a couple of times before work, it was a mixed bag: When talking to my boss — who I never had problems with — I felt much more anxiety. I was more in my head, nervous about what I was going to say. On the other hand, I had much more empathy — which was a big deal, because I wasn’t very fond of my co-workers. It also made it much easier to do boring, heads-down work. Time kind of flew by — my job was basically ‘spreadsheet farming,’ and I was able to do that a lot more efficiently.” —Anonymous recruiter for a financial-services firm

A Sip of Iboga Before Visiting Patients
“I work in palliative care. All my patients are dying. Since I started taking 50 mg. of iboga TA powder in the morning, pain- and symptom-management visits are filled with much more laughter and happiness. Before, I was prone to burnout from these visits — I was tired and sluggish and often only able to provide the necessary care to my patients. I missed small subtleties in their physical and emotional state. This doesn’t happen as often when I’ve taken iboga. I am able to sit with a grieving family, feel their pain, and be present, without allowing it to shatter me.” —Anonymous nurse  

—K.S.

But Whats the Worst That Could Happen?

Illustration: Mark Nerys

“Okay, I Guess I’m Tripping at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday”

It took a few tries before this Brooklyn musician landed on his ideal dose.

Microdosing. Photo: Masahiro Noguchi/Getty Images
Tripping. Photo: Masahiro Noguchi/Getty Images

“The first time I did it, I took 0.2 grams of mushrooms at 8 a.m. It’s what I thought was a very small amount, so I was like, Okay, I’ll take that and I can up it from there. Maybe 20 minutes later I was in the park walking my dog, and I looked up at the trees, and I was like, Huh, that looks weird. Then I looked down at my hands, which is always the test: Do my hands look trippy? And I was like, Oh, yeah, they’re trippy. The grass beneath them was super-vibrant, moving in a weird way. I was like, Okay, I guess I’m tripping at 8 a.m. on a Tuesday. I tried to go home and work, and I was not okay to work, so I lay down, put headphones on, and listened to music in my bed in the dark for like an hour. So after that I started doing .07 grams, which is really small, then slowly worked my way up to .1 gram. Sometimes I’ll do .08 grams if it’s a day I know I’m going to be doing a lot of phone calls. There’s no impairment, but if I’m doing 0.1 or 0.125, I definitely feel a little extra something. When I hit the ideal dosage, it helps me get into a flow state. It’s a feeling you can totally have without doing drugs, it’s just one that I rarely achieve. If you’re working on something, you have a feeling that you can do no wrong, and because you have that feeling, it kind of comes true.”

 

One of the Biggest Dangers of Microdosing is Accidentally Macrodosing

Sara Gael, director of harm reduction at the MAPS Zendo Project, an organization committed to supporting people going through bad psychedelic trips, on the best ways to ride it out.

Move the body
“Qi Gong, yoga, stretches like that can be helpful; they get energy moving. When we’re really stuck in our head, feeling comfortable in our body can help.”

Eat something
“This can instantly help you feel grounded.”

Go outside
“Being in nature is a big one. Go to the park; it doesn’t have to be in the middle of nowhere, though still try to avoid a ton of people.”

Put on some music
“Something instrumental — classical, piano, guitar; mellow is key.”

 

How Illegal Is It?

Psychedelics are Schedule 1 drugs. Though laws vary by state, if you’re caught possessing or selling even a small amount of psychedelics in New York State as a first-time offender, you could face jail time — anywhere from less than a year to up to nine years. New Mexico is unique in that it is legal to grow mushrooms there, while a Florida loophole lets people off the hook who don’t realize the mushrooms they are in possession of are magic ones. Meanwhile, current decriminalization efforts in California and Colorado could show up on ballot measures later this year.

 

And Now, a Naysayer

Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the psychopharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, thinks microdosers should hold out for more-conclusive science.

“The problem is that the large-dose therapeutic studies that have been done so far — the NYU and Johns Hopkins ones in particular — are flawed, I think, so we don’t really know how safe or effective it is. For example, niacin, which was used in the NYU study as a placebo, doesn’t really have a psychedelic effect, so my objection is that it’s just a weak study. And then there’s the sample: Who raises their hand and does a hallucinogen? Those people might be more psychologically hardy and drawn to novel experiences. With microdosing, if you’re going to posit x or y about it, then go study it and get good data. Otherwise everybody thinks it’s perfectly safe, but there are people who are going to do it who are at risk for various psychiatric problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and severe depression, or who have a genetic loading for psychotic disorders and could unleash a latent illness. That’s who I worry about. Claims that are made based on anecdotes and individual stories are interesting but not conclusive, and they need to be subjected to the same rigorous study as any drug company that wants to sell a drug on the market.”

 

Did We Get All These People to Be in a Clinical Trial That Were Going to Realize, One Day, Was a Bad Idea?

Some microdosing early-adopters look back.

Reply All, the podcast that got things going
On November 5, 2015, the Gimlet Media podcast Reply All aired a show on which one of its co-hosts, PJ Vogt, secretly took small portions of acid and recorded what happened. (Vogt ended up panicking and ditching the experiment.) It’s become one of its most listened-to episodes. Vogt and Gimlet co-founder Matt Lieber reflect on how the episode’s aged since.

PJ Vogt. Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

PJ Vogt: One of the things I didn’t predict would happen is that everybody now tells me when they’re microdosing. They’ll say, “Hey, remember when you did that episode where you took acid?” And it always goes the same way: It’s them grinning and going, “Well, I’m trying it right now.” It happened two mornings ago in the elevator.

Matt Lieber. Photo: Courtesy of the Subject

Matt Lieber: I remember telling you that I was pretty sure you were going to inspire many people — hundreds or even thousands — to try acid. People that otherwise wouldn’t. If you ask me how I feel about it … I feel very conflicted, actually.

PJV: Sometimes I wonder, Did we get all these people to be in a clinical trial that we’re going to realize, one day, was a bad idea? But most people who’ve talked to me had good experiences, and I think they feel that they’re in a secret society.

ML: Have you done it since then?

PJV: No, oh my God, no. No. It’s worth reiterating: I messed up the dose and did not enjoy my experience. But I have the rest of the acid in this Orbit-gum box on my bookshelf. It feels like Chekhov’s gun in my apartment. —Margaret Rhodes

Ayelet Waldman, the mom who microdosed
In 2017, Waldman introduced many to microdosing with her memoir, A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. What does she think about it now?

Ayelet Waldman. Photo: Claire Lewis

“I was writing about microdosing psychedelics, but at the heart of it, I was writing about taking responsibility for mental illness and finding a way out of your deepest darkest place, and when you write about that, you have to take responsibility for your reader. That’s why I’m much less interested in people who have a more jokey approach to it. Look, I did it as an ad hoc personal experiment. I obviously don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as long as people are very aware of what they’re getting into and they understand the neuroscience, the therapeutic elements, the history, the criminal-justice ramifications. We spend too much time in this country taking really strong drugs without thought; people are gobbling up Paxil without anybody considering how incredibly difficult it can be to get off them. We’ve just been swallowing thoughtlessly, both legal and illegal, so if you’re going to microdose, I want you to really do your homework, or at least just read my book. One of the beauties of microdosing is that there isn’t a Sackler family forcing you to become addicted — there’s no advertising dollars [behind it] — so you can have a more thoughtful decision-making process.”

 

*This article appears in the April 30, 2018, issue of New York Magazine.

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