‘It lifted me out of depression’: is microdosing good for your mind?
Erica Avey, 27, microdosed on LSD for eight months, using an analogue that was legal in Germany, where she was living. “I started microdosing essentially because I was in a really depressed stage of my life. It was for mental health reasons – mood balancing, mood management. It was hard for me to leave my apartment and do normal things as a human being,” she said.
Depression or sadness are very common reasons for starting; Avey was unusual only in that she could be open about it. Her workplace knew and thought it was fine. “As long as I wasn’t out of control or permanently high at work they were quite OK.”
She took about 15 micrograms (a whole tab is 100 micrograms). “That was a good amount for me. Some people take as little as six,” she said. She adopted a popular protocol – one day on, three days off.
It worked for her. “It definitely had the effect I wanted,” she said. “It lifted me out of a pretty deep depression. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what it has done to me in the long-term. I think it has changed me.” She had been “pretty negative”, she said, mindlessly going through social media, plagued with obsessive thoughts.
“I’m able to be more mindful of my emotions. If I’m feeling sad, that’s OK. I don’t obsess anymore. I don’t dwell on it. I don’t get worked up about it.”
She and others spoke of becoming more aware of the need to be active, cut down on alcohol and eat healthily. She talked of heightened energy and heightened awareness. In the beginning she felt more productive and creative, but later that became more of a problem.
“I was able to get all my work done but around 2pm to 3pm I would hit this wall of really needing to go out for a walk, a need to be moving,” she said. And although it lifted her depression, she felt more anxiety. “There were one or two experiences when I did feel a bit overwhelmed. If people experience high levels of anxiety, I don’t think this is for them.”
Microdosing, for her, is a transformative psychological experience and she is not the only one who feels it is in danger of being misused in Silicon Valley. “To think of people using this just to write code faster does seem a bit superficial. But it might be good for them. They might re-evaluate their lives in ways.”
It’s not the answer to everything. She left her job and moved on. In a blog, Avey wrote: “There’s no magic pill. Microdosing is not a good-time-guaranteed, call-now ‘remedy’ or quick fix. Our minds are in conversation with our environments. We create and are created by our contexts. And in many cases, we don’t need drugs, just a new environment.”
Alex, 35, (not his real name) is a paramedic in the NHS and can tell nobody that he microdoses. Severely depressed, he turned down his GP’s offer of antidepressants which he had tried before without success, he said. He did a lot of reading and researching online before experimenting with microdoses of LSD.
“What struck me was that there was no discernible difference at first,” he said. “I’d never tried LSD recreationally before so I had no idea what to expect. I stared at a blank wall every now and then just to make sure I didn’t see any hallucinations, but there was nothing. Weirdly, it’s not until the next day, in retrospect where you look back, that you realise you handled things, or reacted to things differently. It’s so subtle it’s easy to miss. But it definitely worked.
”I continued taking it for approximately three months – sometimes I’d take a dose before work (around 9 mcg dose). I found that whilst it improved my concentration, I didn’t want to become dependent on it for that purpose. Once I was out of that ‘black hole’ cycle I stopped taking it, but I will take it again if I need to.”
Adam, 30, (not his real name) lives in Germany and has been microdosing on magic mushrooms for five months, on and off. He also follows the one day on, three days off protocol. He says he is stereotypical of those who microdose: “someone who has been struggling with more or less intense depression all my life.” Before he started, this spring, he was stuck in a rut, he said. “I lost interest in my everyday activities. I had no sense of pride or joy.” He was drinking too much red wine after work to calm down.
Microdosing, he says, “doesn’t make me feel better. It forces me to reflect on things. It helped me to reshape my daily habits.” He got back into exercise – running on the days he microdosed, going to the gym the day after. He ate and slept better.
There are downsides. “I can get a little anxious on dosing days,” he said. He talks of underestimating challenges, having to confront things and not duck them, whether thoughts or encounters with strangers. On microdosing days, he said, he is exhausted and in bed by 10pm. The second day brings an afterglow, he said, which is more pleasant.
He too does not believe microdosing should be used to try to boost your career. “I’m not a big fan of people promulgating microdosing to a bunch of CEOs to increase their work,” he said.