It’s 7 a.m. on the U-Bahn. Eyes still puffy from the night before. A woman slowly nibbles her morning brötchen while staring into the static on the broken TV above. Everyone is silent. And in this crowd of straight faces, there I am, grinning like an idiot.

Why? I have a little secret. There’s acid under my tongue.

This slightly mischievous feeling is familiar to me. I’ve taken 1P-LSD (a legal LSD analog in Germany) over 50 times in the last six months. Most doses have been small, so small they’ve merely lifted my mood — but somehow, each time still feels like a new experience.

These small, ritual doses have drastically improved my life and reshaped my perception. It seems my brain has been especially malleable these last few months. I’ve been able to untangle the knots of thought that eclipsed my reality and made everything a little darker.

We still don’t know exactly what microdosing does to the brain over time. But new research is beginning to unveil the effects of LSD: It interrupts your regularly scheduled programming. Default networks of the brain quiet down, making way for new channels and connections. This causes previously segregated regions of the brain to communicate. Like modern lighting, dimming fluorescents and brightening the shadows in your mind. Illuminating corridors you never knew existed.

There are also hypotheses floating around that psychedelics can reroute neural pathways, replace outdated pharmacology for depression, and maybe even contribute to small amounts of neurogenesis.

When I first heard about microdosing, I needed help that a doctor, or even a therapist, couldn’t provide. Sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, relief in the form of psychedelics was an exciting option. I decided to start James Fadiman’s dosing regimen: One day on, three days off. I usually take 10–20 mcg, but some people take as little as 3 mcg per dose.

So far, I feel different. And I feel good. That might sound like a weak sell, but anyone who’s found themselves in a few existential buckles or just straight-up pain knows that just feeling good is a feat. Whether you’re for, against, or simply curious about microdosing, more and more people are trying it and reporting noticeable improvements in their psyche and life.

Disclaimer: My continued use and microdosing protocol is not exemplary. I’m not a scientist. I’m not a doctor. No lab coat, no letters after my name. I’m writing this from a cafe in a bright yellow hoodie. This is my n=1, anecdotal, qualitative experiment. This has worked for me, but it might be completely different, or even dangerous, for you. The long-term effects of microdosing on the brain and the heart remain unknown.

I’ve been pretty open about microdosing, so friends, family members, and random dudes on LinkedIn have asked me how it’s going. I’m realizing the answer is not so simple — there’s a lot to process. Microdosing LSD isn’t like drinking a coffee or popping an Adderall. The experience has been much more complicated than taking your classic stimulant.

Psychedelics don’t just send you on a temporary trip, no matter how slight or strong the high. Insights from small and large doses of psychedelics can be integrated into daily life with intentional use and reflection. What’s more interesting is these substances seem to physically change the brain over time, especially when taken on a regular basis.

Marta Pucci

After dozens of doses, it’s clear: microdosing hasn’t just tapped my mental state, it’s also impacted the way I relate to myself, others, and my environment in ways both slight and significant.

The most important change I’ve noticed is a reintroduction to the most elementary forms of happiness, joy, and awe. As someone who oscillates between emotional highs and lows, microdosing has significantly uplifted and balanced my general mood and perception. It’s easier to look up and out, rather than spiraling inward.

Microdosing makes it hard to stay inside all day and easy to marvel at the little things too often ignored or taken for granted.

LSD also wipes away the murky filter that usually makes me hypercritical and negative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still hypercritical and sensitive to my surroundings, but being that way doesn’t get me down like it used to.

Example: I’m on a plane. A baby is wailing a few seats behind me. Like really screeching at the top of his little lungs. A couple years ago, this would have worked my nerves, but I’m less of a grouch now. I’m more likely to smile and think to myself, “That used to be you, and that’ll probably be you again.”

A few weeks into dosing, a friend noticed how happy I seemed and asked if I was avoiding my issues with yet another coping mechanism. Another drug, another clutch. But microdosing doesn’t cloud my vision or tune out my issues (we’ll always have alcohol for that). Rather than an escape or release, microdosing is the opposite. It’s a direct confrontation with everything in my life. No more avoidance. No more hiding.

It shuts down the kind of overthinking that manifests in severe self-doubt and self-harm. Where do I fit here? and I should just be quiet transform into Let’s go.

This lack of filter can make me appear a bit more brash at times. But for the most part, it’s done nothing but improve my relationships with myself and others. I’m still the same Erica, but I feel better about being me. I’m ecstatic just to be here, and that’s the difference. It’s like cutting all the strings that used to tie me back from just living.

Microdosing makes difficulties, at any scale, a bit more manageable. Just like meditation, mindfulness, or yoga, it alters the way you react to your surroundings. All of these tools help you adapt to situations, realities, and emotions with a bit more ease. An unexpected trial or tribulation that would historically ruin your afternoon might simply shift your state of mind for a few minutes. It’s easier to deal with daily disturbances and to let them slide.

Being more situated in the moment, more “present,” also makes me less distractible. When you’re no longer intimidated by things to come, the weight of a deadline or a looming meeting, procrastination and avoidance melt away. I’m definitely more productive when it comes to work, but that’s more of a positive side effect than an end game. Microdosing for occupational advancement is not my goal, intention, or priority. I’m much more interested in its potential to ease depression and other existential debacles. To be or not to be.

I’m more confident in simply being. Less apologetic for existing, for taking up space — something I was programmed to do as a young woman growing up in the US. Sorry! Excuse me! For what?

It’s important to remember that just being isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for people with mental dips, complications, or oddities. Existence used to be unbearable for me, especially in my teens and early 20s. I clung to reckless, addictive, selfish, and maladaptive behavior, diving from one intense emotion to the next and barely coming up for air. I did a lot of non-psychedelic drugs then, which has definitely resulted in some noticeable damage to my brain, memory, and emotional and cognitive development. I had a hard time in school, a hard time with my parents, and a hard time taking care of myself.

I’ve come a long way thanks to a delicate balance of many factors, not just microdosing. Bottom-up bodywork, close relationships, a bit more conscious media consumption, and moving to a new continent all helped. Microdosing is just another tool, another supplement. The molecule itself doesn’t do the work, I do.

Regardless, psychedelics have played a critical role in my “healing” or “development,” in finding a bit more ease within my existence.

[Psychedelic researcher] Carhart-Harris believes that people suffering from mental disorders characterized by excessively rigid patterns of thinking, such as addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder, could benefit from psychedelics, which ‘disrupt stereotyped patterns of thought and behavior…’ It may be that some brains could benefit from a little less order.
Michael Pollan

I have no idea what kind of synaptic pruning and blooming has been taking place to parse through previously mangled patterns in my mind. But I truly believe these routine tune-ups have helped clear some blockages.

Illustration: Marta Pucci

Not only do I feel more comfortable emotionally, I also feel more aware of my body, my posture, and the alignment of my bones. I walk more, run more, stretch more. I make sure to look up more often and put my phone down. Let’s do it together now.

*Look up*

But while I’m more in tune with myself and my context, this awareness works both ways. Being more mindful or vigilant isn’t always ideal. Microdosing can heighten anxiety in certain situations. For example, one morning when I was microdosing, a man sexually harassed me on the street. This is a regular occurrence for young women especially, and on any other day, I’d twist up my face, blurt some profanity, and keep walking. This time I did all of that, and then I ruminated on it for the next hour. Replaying the situation again and again in my head. HOW IS THAT OKAY? WHY IS THIS NORMAL? I was worked up, fixated. So sometimes, being more aware can also mean being more pissed and frustrated.

I had two other bad experiences while microdosing, both all-consuming episodes that sent me into quite a panic. It seems important to note that on both occasions I also had a lot of caffeine; too much caffeine plus LSD can be extremely overwhelming to the nerves and senses. So yes, in some contexts, microdosing has worsened my anxiety and mania. Another not-so-ideal scenario: Microdosing can intensify symptoms of a brutal hangover or sleep deprivation. So I don’t dose if my body’s not up for the additional energy output.

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.

Microdosing highlights the things you need to embrace or change about your habits, behavior, and environment in order to get closer to your congruent self. It feels more like long-term cognitive behavioral therapy, which addresses the root causes of depression and anxiety, rather than a psychiatric solution that masks the symptoms, like antidepressants or antipsychotics. I can’t say it’s “cured” my ailments or relieved me of the regular friction that comes with being human. But microdosing helps me deal with a bit more happiness and ease. And for that, I’m grateful.

Looking back at these last six months makes it painfully obvious: more people need access to this kind of treatment. Amidst the rising cultural chaos, social division, violence, mistrust, opiate addiction, environmental disarray, and media noise, integrated and safe psychedelic use provides a glimmer of hope.

Luckily, more and more people are coming out of the sometimes-I-alter-my-consciousness closet to vouch for psychedelics. Frustrated researchers, psychiatrists, policy makers, doctors, writers, artists, tech workers, students, and activists are working to destigmatize these substances. And research — from universities like Johns Hopkins, Bristol, Yale, NYU, and Harvard — legitimizes what I know firsthand: microdosing works. Roland Griffiths, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University, even compared the effects of psychedelics on the brain to “surgical intervention.” The potential for psychedelics to transform psychiatry — and health, more generally — can no longer be ignored.

Most people taking psychedelics today aren’t slouching towards Bethlehem. While Haight-Ashbury hippies failed to communicate the legitimate promise of psychedelics as tools for reframing the world and the way we take care of ourselves, our communities, and our environment, today’s advocates have a message: Whether we use psychedelics to heal, to explore, to learn, or just to enjoy the last drop, this is our reality to alter.

*My exact dosages are visible here if you’re really curious. I’m no longer sticking to Fadiman’s regimen. Now I take a little here, a little there.

**I’ve been tracking my substance intake with the Precise.ly app and biometrics with the ŌURA ring. My resting heart rate has hovered around 51 BPM throughout this trial.