Are There Benefits Of Microdosing Mushrooms? And What Are The Risks And Legalities
Microdosing mushrooms has become an increasingly popular way of taking psychedelics. There’s also support for the benefits of microdosing mushrooms — which we’ll get to shortly.
Many people will microdose mushrooms to treat mental health problems. However, they may also do it to improve other areas of their life, such as work, creative projects, and relationships.
From the benefits of microdosing mushrooms, to potential risks and legal issues, read on for a crash course in the practice.
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Contents of this article
- The Basics Of Microdosing
- What Is The Evidence For The Benefits Of Microdosing Mushrooms?
- What Is The Stamets Stack?
- What Stamets’ Research Unveils
- The Potential Risks Of Microdosing Mushrooms
- How Microdosing May Impact The Heart
- Understanding The Legalities Of Microdosing Mushrooms
- Do The Benefits Of Microdosing Mushrooms Outweigh The Risks?
The Basics Of Microdosing
Microdosing involves taking one-tenth to one-twentieth of a normal dose of a psychedelic. So, if we assume that 2g of dried psilocybin mushrooms will provide a moderately strong mushroom trip, a microdose would be 0.1-0.2g.
This sort of dose is meant to be sub-perceptual, in that, no changes to perception should occur. There won’t be any of the classic psychedelic effects.
However, the effects that users are aiming for are manifold: They can be broadly thought of as delivering a positive effect on mental health and/or a kind of nootropic effect.
For instance, many people with depression want an antidepressant without the side effects, blunting of emotions, and withdrawal symptoms associated with SSRIs.
Moreover, news stories about Silicon Valley workers using microdoses of LSD as a productivity hack and nootropic have encouraged others to try out microdosing as a way to enhance attention, creativity, and motivation.
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What Is The Evidence For The Benefits Of Microdosing Mushrooms?
There are countless anecdotal reports from people listing the benefits of microdosing mushrooms. This includes things like improving (or even completely transforming) their lives.
We have promising evidence for the effectiveness of macrodosing psilocybin — in conjunction with psychotherapy — to treat major depression, treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), end-of-life anxiety, and smoking addiction.
However, large doses are not the same as tiny doses. Therefore, the benefits of microdosing mushrooms does not tend to be done alongside psychotherapy, an element that is missing, too. Researchers have proposed different reasons as to why psilocybin-assisted therapy can alleviate depression, for example.
These reasons include inducing mystical experiences, allowing people to reconnect to their emotions, producing emotional breakthroughs, and changing how people view themselves.
However, when microdosing psilocybin mushrooms, you may miss out on these effects.
The dose is simply way too low to ever produce a mystical experience, which would include the following:
- Ego death
- Losing your sense of time and space
- Feeling unified with everything
- Experiencing a sense of sacredness or the divine
In terms of the evidence available, there are some placebo-controlled studies show several benefits of microdosing mushrooms. More recent research has found that any improvements in mental health from microdosing can be explained by the placebo effect.
The expectation of benefits, in other words, is what is causing improvements to occur.
What Is The Stamets Stack?
The mycologist Paul Stamets has developed his own nootropic stack (a combination of cognitive enhancers) that contains psilocybin mushrooms, lion’s mane mushroom, and niacin.
This is known as the Stamets Stack, where he claims this stack could initiate “the next quantum leap in human consciousness”.
But what evidence is there for such an enticing claim?
Stamets refers to research showing that even low doses of psilocybin can cause neurogenesis (the generation of new neurons) in mice.
Other studies have found that psilocybin can prompt an immediate and long-lasting increase in connections between neurons in mice. But we should keep in mind these results do not necessarily mean that microdoses of psilocybin in humans will also result in neurogenesis. We need studies to confirm this before declaring it a benefit of microdosing mushrooms.
Stamets includes lion’s mane in his stack, as this type of mushroom may also cause neurogenesis. We know from animal studies that lion’s mane can reduce symptoms of memory loss and prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques in mice, so it may help protect people against Alzheimer’s disease.
What Stamets’ Research Unveils
“The reduction of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of mushroom-fed mice vs. the mice not fed any mushrooms was remarkable. The formation of amyloid plaques is what many researchers believe is a primary morphological biomarker associated with Alzheimer’s. Plaques linked to beta-amyloid peptide inflame brain tissue, interfere with healthy neuron transmission, and are indicated in nerve degeneration.”
By combining psilocybin mushrooms with lion’s mane, Stamets believes you can enhance neurogenesis. Niacin, meanwhile, is in the stack for purposes of deliverability. Stamets states that the niacin will help to distribute psilocybin and the beneficial compounds in lion’s mane (hericenones and erinacines) throughout the brain, therefore enhancing neurogenesis.
His aim has been to create an entourage effect or a synergy between these different molecules, which is believed to occur with cannabis, too, whereby THC in combination with other compounds in the plant work together to create a more beneficial effect than THC or CBD alone.
Many people swear by the effectiveness of the Stamets Stack. However, there are no studies on it, so we don’t know what its true effect is, nor if it works in the way that Stamets claims.
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The Potential Risks Of Microdosing Mushrooms
Magic mushrooms are, according to the 2017 Global Drugs Survey, the safest recreational drug that exists. The researcher David Nutt made the same finding previously in 2010 when he compared the harms caused by different drugs.
These harms include the following:
- Damage to the body
- Impaired mental functioning
- Loss of relationships
- Economic cost
He found magic mushrooms to cause the least overall harm.
Psilocybin and psilocin, the main psychedelic compounds in these mushrooms, are non-toxic (they don’t damage any part of the body) and they are non-addictive, with a low potential for abuse. Psilocybin can actually be anti-addictive, as we have seen it can help people give up smoking for good.
The impressive safety profile of psilocybin mushrooms doesn’t mean that microdosing mushrooms is categorically safe. There is a possibility (yet to be confirmed) that long-term microdosing may damage the heart.
How Microdosing May Impact The Heart
Patrick Smith points out the following.
“There is a link between regular, high-dose MDMA use and heart defects. Although the conclusion of this research is that the occasional dose of MDMA will not harm you, it has potential implications for long-term psychedelic use, including microdosing.
“MDMA’s harmful effects on the heart are due to its activation of the 5-HT2B receptor. This receptor is present all over the heart, and convincing evidence suggests that the long-term activation of this receptor leads to the formation of ‘valvular strands’, which can lead to Valvular Heart Disease (VHD) in extreme cases.”
This is relevant in the case of microdosing mushrooms because we know that psilocybin activates a wide range of serotonin receptors, including the 5-HT2B receptor. The pressing question here, though, is whether psilocybin (and other psychedelics like LSD) are activating this receptor enough to cause damage to the heart.
Smith adds: “Unfortunately, we don’t have an answer to that question. We know that LSD and psilocybin bind strongly to the 5-HT2B receptor, but we don’t know how comparable this is to the way that MDMA (and other cardiotoxic molecules) binds to 5-HT2B. So right now, there is no way of knowing for sure if there is any risk.”
Based on this uncertainty, Smith argued in another article that, “it is sensible to microdose for no longer than 90 days, and spread out your microdosing regimens throughout the year. If you have a pre-existing heart condition, it is especially important to avoid extended periods of microdosing.”
Understanding The Legalities Of Microdosing Mushrooms
In most countries around the world, magic mushrooms are illegal, and often highly prohibited. The United States lists them as a Schedule I drug.
This category means they are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no recognized medical value. In other countries, magic mushrooms are in similar categories, in that selling or possessing them can, theoretically, incur the harshest legal penalties.
There are some countries, nonetheless, where psilocybin is fully legal. These include the following.
- The Netherlands (in the form of magic truffles)
- The Bahamas
Psilocybin mushrooms have also been decriminalized in the following places in the U.S.:
- Seattle, Washington
- Denver, Colorado
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Washington D.C.
- Oakland and Santa Cruz, California
- Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts
Do The Benefits Of Microdosing Mushrooms Outweigh The Risks?
If you don’t live in any of these places and you want to microdose shrooms, your options are either: microdose illegally or visit one of the above locations to microdose without facing any legal risks. Most people aren’t going to commit to the latter option, as it won’t make practical sense, especially since a microdosing regimen tends to last for several weeks.
By microdosing mushrooms in a country where psilocybin remains illegal, you should be aware of the risks. The fact that you’re taking very small amounts and not tripping doesn’t change the legal situation whatsoever. You can, of course, make your use more discreet.
For instance, you can learn how to make mushroom chocolates, which look just like normal chocolates. That way, you can have shrooms in your home and carry them around with you without raising any suspicion.
As more research comes out about the benefits of microdosing mushrooms, the legal landscape surrounding the practice will change. Soon, you may be able to walk into psilocybin dispensaries and buy legal microdosing kits (which startups in the Netherlands are already selling).