Written by Matthew Landis
Art by Lisa Festa
Society is in the midst of a renaissance right now, and it’s probably not the one you expect.
Since the mid-1960s, drugs and drug culture in general have been emotional and often polarizing topics of discussion. Popular media outlets will latch on to any story that strikes a chord with viewers if it keeps them glued to their TV sets. Politicians love to tout the “dangers” of drugs to prove how much they care about the well-being of the public. Fortunately, in the age of information, the truth cannot and will not be suppressed for long.
It’s easy to see the shift in cultural perception that has happened over the past two decades in regard to drugs; just look at our good friend cannabis. Cannabis has gone from “the scourge of society and source of all ills” to one of the most widely accepted medicines and tax revenue sources in less than twenty years. I remember reading an article in High Times back in 1999 (for the record, I was 11 years old) that claimed that more than half of the US States would have some version of legalized cannabis by 2017. And they were almost exactly right.
But the real shift, the kind of shift that will have an enormous impact on the future of mental health, has been happening in the world of psychedelics. We are watching the Psychedelic Renaissance unfold before our eyes.
Before the ridiculous criminalization of psychedelics in the 1960s, the research was so promising and hopeful that it was almost unbelievable by any standards. Everyone from Dr. Albert Hoffman (the chemist who discovered LSD in 1943) to Alexander Shulgin (the chemist who synthesized MDMA) knew and understood the obvious merits and possible medicinal uses of their creations. Cultures throughout history have used psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and other psychedelics as part of rituals and healing ceremonies for thousands of years.
So what the hell happened? Where did we go wrong? As anthropologist Graham Hancock has said on numerous occasions, “We are a species with amnesia.”
When LSD emerged on the scene, the reaction was so overwhelmingly positive, we knew that it was going to change the world for the better. Harvard professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert made it their life’s work to spread the word about LSD. And the fact that the “dirty hippies” were exploring their own minds and questioning the establishment scared authorities so much that they outlawed it faster than it takes to pronounce lysergic acid diethylamide. If you are not free to put whatever you want into your body, you do not live in a free society.
Dr. James Fadiman was one of those researchers working with psychedelics in the 60s before they were deemed to have “no medical use.” Dr. Fadiman’s early work examined the effects of psychedelics on the cognitive abilities of mathematicians, scientists, and architects. Most recently, he authored “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide” which is a manual for the safe and effective use of psychedelics as therapeutic medicine. His main focus as of late, though, is something that has changed the entire landscape of psychedelic studies: Microdosing.
Microdosing is the use of psychedelic substances in sub-perceptual doses to facilitate changes in lifestyle or brain chemistry. Unfortunately, the legal restrictions on these medicines have forced the most important and promising research to remain confined to individuals experimenting on themselves. It seems to be effective at almost everything it is used for, from treating depression to ADD to smoking cessation. Dr. Fadiman provides some basic guidelines for microdosing in “The Psychedelic Explorers Guide” for those interested in trying it on themselves. You can also listen to Dr. Fadiman speak more on the topic on the Tink Tink Club podcast here.
Here is how it works: A “normal” dose of LSD is between 100ug and 200ug, or one to two hits. A microdose of LSD is usually 10ug, or one-tenth of a hit, depending on the individual. Generally, you would take your first “dose” on day 1, then take two days off, and “dose” again on day 4. This can be done for as short or as long as necessary. The typical effects of psychedelics are barely felt, if at all. But what is happening behind the scenes, deep in your brain’s neurons, is where the benefit comes in. It is a tool that allows you to make small changes that add up over time. The most important caveat though, as it is with any psychedelic medicine, is that you have to want to change before you start. It is not a cure-all. Let me repeat: It is a tool that will help you achieve a change.
I’ve personally used a microdosing regiment to quit smoking cigarettes. I first heard about the merits of microdosing from Dr. Fadiman’s book, tried it on myself, and it was wildly successful. My regiment lasted two weeks total. I knew that smoking was bad and that it was killing me slowly (this is an important aspect for microdosing to be successful) and I knew I wanted to quit. Two weeks was all it took. Additionally, during that two weeks, I went to my first yoga class and tried meditation for the first time. It’s now been roughly two years since that time and I not only a non-smoker, but I have never once had a craving for a cigarette. And I am now a certified yoga instructor. And yes, I attribute all these lifestyle changes to my microdosing experience.
Since it’s still technically against the law to even suggest someone find drugs illegally, Dr. Fadiman and I will both tell you to use caution and serious discretion when trying this on yourself. For a full breakdown of my experience with microdosing and for a lot more information, you can listen to me talk about it here.
Always do your own research. There is plenty of information out there and there is nothing better than begin educated on a topic. Microdosing can change the world, we just need more people interested and talking about it. I know for a fact that Dr. Fadiman is eager to gather more information and data around microdosing, so if you have a personal story or decide to experiment on yourself, please record your results and send them his way (or to me, I will pass it along).