There’s no denying it, magic mushrooms are going mainstream.
Sure, shrooms have been a staple of counter cultural movements since the 60s, but never before have the profound benefits of psychedelic mushrooms been so widely known.
While a full-on psychedelic trip may not appeal to many people, the idea of taking small, sub-perceptual doses of psilocybin mushrooms does.
In fact, microdosing - as the practice is known - is fast gaining popularity as a safe and effective way to benefit from magic mushrooms for people who may never have considered experiencing psychedelics before.
However, taking larger doses of magic mushrooms - or macrodosing - offers its own unique benefits that microdosing can’t.
This article will break down the differences between micro and macrodosing, the benefits of each, and what you should consider when deciding which would be best for you.
How magic mushrooms work
Magic mushrooms, also known as psilocybin mushrooms or simply "shrooms," work primarily due to the presence of the psychoactive compound psilocybin.
When ingested, psilocybin is converted into another compound called psilocin, which has a profound impact on the brain and mental processes.
Psilocin, the metabolite of psilocybin, primarily interacts with a specific type of serotonin receptor called the 5-HT2A receptor in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating mood, perception, and various cognitive processes.
Activation of the 5-HT2A receptors by psilocin leads to significant changes in neural activity, including changes in perception, mood, and thought patterns.
Psilocybin has also been shown to promote the production of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the brain, which leads to stronger neural connections and the growth of new brain cells, which may explain how psilocybin exerts its profound antidepressant effects.
What is microdosing?
Microdosing is a practice that involves regularly consuming a very low, sub-perceptual dose of a psychoactive substance, typically a psychedelic, to achieve subtle therapeutic effects without the full-blown hallucinogenic experience associated with higher doses.
The term "microdosing" is most commonly associated with psychedelics like psilocybin-containing mushrooms (magic mushrooms), LSD, or mescaline, but it can also apply to other substances like cannabis, coffee or even microdosing of pharmaceuticals.
A typical microdose of psilocybin-containing mushrooms is usually in the range of 0.1 to 0.3 grams of dried mushrooms.
This is a very small amount compared to what is typically considered a recreational or full "trip" dose, which can range from 1 to 5 grams or more.
The key principle of microdosing is to take a dose that is sub-perceptual, meaning it should not induce significant alterations in perception or produce a "trip." Instead, the goal is to experience subtle cognitive and emotional enhancements without the intensity of a full psychedelic experience.
Most people follow a microdosing schedule, typically taking a microdose every few days (e.g., every third day) to avoid developing tolerance to the substance and to minimise the risk of experiencing negative effects.
What is macrodosing?
Macrodosing is the practice of taking a full dose of a psychoactive substance, such as psilocybin-containing mushrooms, LSD, or other psychedelics, with the intention of experiencing the full range of hallucinogenic and perceptual effects associated with that substance.
In contrast to microdosing, which involves taking a very small, sub-perceptual dose, macrodosing is about taking enough of the substance to induce a significant and often intense altered state of consciousness.
The immediate effects of a macrodose of magic mushrooms includes vivid visual and auditory hallucinations, altered perception of time, profound changes in thought patterns, and intense emotional experiences.
The long term effects can include a reduction in depression symptoms, greater mental clarity, and increased resilience to stress and trauma.
There is no set dose for what’s considered a macrodose. However, when it comes to magic mushrooms, a macrodose is typically in the range of 2 to 5 grams of dried mushrooms.
Anything between 0.5 to 2 grams is considered a medium dose, or a ‘museum dose’, as the effects are noticeable but not so powerful that you can’t stroll around a museum.
Benefits of microdosing mushrooms
The Microdosing subreddit has over 200,000 members, with a large percentage of them reporting positive experiences with microdosing.
The most common benefits are:
Microdosing magic mushrooms may lead to an improvement in mood. Many users report feeling happier, more content, and less prone to depressive feelings.
Microdosing is often linked to enhanced creativity. Users may experience a boost in creative thinking, novel ideas, and artistic inspiration.
Some individuals find that microdosing can reduce feelings of anxiety and promote a greater sense of calm and relaxation. This can be particularly beneficial for those dealing with generalised anxiety or social anxiety.
Microdosing may help some individuals reduce cravings for certain substances, such as alcohol or nicotine. It can support efforts to overcome addictive behaviours.
Microdosing may improve focus and concentration. Users often report increased productivity and the ability to complete tasks more efficiently.
Microdosing magic mushrooms can assist in emotional regulation. Users may become better at managing their emotions, responding to stressors more adaptively, and avoiding emotional extremes.
Some individuals experience a boost in self-confidence and self-esteem when microdosing. This can lead to a more positive self-image and greater assertiveness.
Enhanced empathy and emotional understanding, which can result from microdosing, may lead to improved relationships. Users may find it easier to connect with others and communicate effectively.
Microdosing can contribute to a more optimistic outlook on life. Users may feel a greater sense of hope and positivity about the future.
While there is not a great deal of scientific evidence for the benefits of microdosing, psilocybin has been shown to help promote the growth of new brain cells, making it a potential treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other related conditions.
Although they’re not common, some people do report negative effects from microdosing, including:
- Increased emotionality
- Disrupted sleep
Benefits of macrodosing mushrooms
Macrodosing magic mushrooms, which involves taking a full and typically higher dose of psilocybin-containing mushrooms, can lead to a wide range of effects and experiences.
While some people engage in macrodosing for recreational purposes, others seek therapeutic, spiritual, or self-exploratory benefits.
It's important to note that the experiences are highly dependent on factors like dosage, individual mindset, and the setting in which the mushrooms are consumed.
However, here are some potential benefits and experiences associated with macrodosing magic mushrooms:
Many individuals who macrodose magic mushrooms report having spiritual or mystical experiences. These can include feelings of interconnectedness with the universe, a sense of oneness, or encounters with what they perceive as divine or transcendent entities.
Some users find that macrodosing allows them to confront and process deep-seated emotions, unresolved trauma, or psychological issues. This can lead to emotional healing and personal growth.
Similar to microdosing, macrodosing can also lead to enhanced creativity. Users often describe having a flood of new ideas, artistic inspiration, and a unique perspective on creative projects.
A common experience during a macrodose trip is the dissolution of the ego, which is a temporary loss of one's sense of self. This can lead to profound insights into the nature of the self and the world.
Some individuals report an improved sense of well-being, greater life satisfaction, and a more positive outlook on life following a macrodose experience.
There is some evidence to suggest that macrodosing, especially in a therapeutic setting, may help individuals overcome addiction or substance abuse issues.
Macroscopic experiences can lead to deep personal insights and self-awareness, helping individuals better understand their motivations, fears, and desires.
Many users report feeling a stronger connection to nature, other people, and the universe as a whole during and following a macrodose experience.
Be aware that while there can be profound benefits associated with macrodosing magic mushrooms, it can also be intense and challenging, potentially leading to difficult or "bad trip" experiences.
Therefore, if you’re considering macrodosing, make sure you’re well-informed, have a supportive environment, and be prepared for the possibility of confronting difficult emotions or experiences.
The potential negative effects associated with macrodosing include:
- Psychological distress or a "bad trip"
- Confusion and disorientation
- Prolonged effects
Studies on microdosing
Most studies done on microdosing so far are not conducted in clinical settings. The results are usually self-reported and from small sample sizes.
This is why more research is needed to determine the true efficacy and safety of microdosing. Having said that, let’s look at the science that has been done.
A 2019 study saw 278 microdosers complete an online survey. The results showed that 26.6% of participants reported an improved mood and 14.8% reported increased focus.
A similar 2019 study found that people who microdose LSD or psilocybin self-reported an increase in creativity and open-mindedness.
Another survey found that some microdosers experienced decreased levels of depression and stress over a six-week period.
One placebo controlled study found that microdosing psilocybin has no noticeable effect on anxiety or depression.
This study did find that microdosing psychedelic truffles produced a short-term improvement in divergent thinking and creativity, but no other outcomes were measured.
The most recent study on microdosing, published last month (June '22), found that “psilocybin microdosers demonstrate greater observed improvements in mood and mental health at one month relative to non-microdosing controls”.
Which is best for you?
Deciding whether microdosing or macrodosing mushrooms is best for you depends on your goals, preferences, and individual circumstances.
One of the most important things to consider is to clarify your intentions for using mushrooms. Are you seeking therapeutic benefits, personal growth, spiritual experiences, or recreational effects?
Microdosing is often associated with subtle cognitive enhancements and therapeutic potential, while macrodosing is more likely to result in intense psychedelic experiences.
Your prior experience with psychedelics is also a crucial factor. If you are new to psychedelics or have limited experience, it's generally recommended to start with microdosing, as it provides a milder introduction to their effects.
Macrodosing is typically reserved for individuals with more experience and a better understanding of the psychedelic experience.
If you have a history of mental health conditions, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using either method. Microdosing may be considered safer for individuals with mental health concerns, while macrodosing could potentially exacerbate these conditions.
If you're looking for personal growth, emotional healing, or spiritual exploration, macrodosing may be more appropriate. If you seek subtle cognitive enhancements and mood improvements for daily life, microdosing may be a better fit.
Ultimately, the choice between microdosing and macrodosing is a highly personal one and should be based on your individual needs, goals, and circumstances. Some individuals may even choose to experiment with both methods at different times to explore the range of effects and benefits that magic mushrooms can offer.
Regardless of your choice, always prioritise safety, responsible use.
The growing interest in magic mushrooms, or psilocybin-containing mushrooms, has led to the exploration of two distinct approaches: microdosing and macrodosing.
As the benefits of these practices become more widely recognised, individuals are faced with the question of which path to choose.
While some are drawn to the idea of full-scale psychedelic journeys, others find the concept of microdosing, or taking subtle, sub-perceptual doses, to be more appealing.
For newcomers or those seeking subtle daily enhancements, microdosing may be the ideal choice. Conversely, individuals with prior psychedelic experience and a desire for intense, transformative experiences may opt for macrodosing.
It is crucial to approach both practices with care, responsibility, and a thorough understanding of the potential risks and benefits.
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