I’ve been terrified of psychedelics since hearing a rumour in high school that people with a history of mental illness in their families might trigger some otherwise dormant genetic predisposition to serious problems, like schizophrenia. The anxiety and associated issues with which my grandfather was burdened were so crippling that he had to be institutionalized, my grandmother was narcissistic, a cousin is schizo-something…the list goes on. An article about DNA memory led me to suspect, in a highly-unscientific manner, that perhaps my family’s Jewish background and ancestors who were subject to Pogroms and concentration camps made us, their descendants, more prone to these kinds of issues, so the prospect of messing with psychedelics lest I stir up something unwelcome sounded to me like a very unwise decision.
Until I heard about micro-dosing, I didn’t intend to touch any psychedelic substances with a ten-foot pole. Even weed feels like a trip to me, and I once witnessed a guy I had just begun seeing actually become schizophrenic and have to go home and sent to an institution in France (we were in Australia at the time) after we smoked some weed together.
After reading Ayelet Waldman’s book about her experiment micro-dosing on LSD for a month, I started to think seriously about giving this a shot. She’s also Jewish, I reasoned, remembering my baseless but emotionally-charged theory. If she didn’t go permanently crazy, if her experiment actually improved her mood and productivity issues, perhaps it could do the same for me. (It wasn’t just the Jewish factor. She also referenced enough researchers and anecdotes to convince me that the chances of anything truly perilous occurring due to just a micro-dose are slim enough that even yours truly, hypochondriac extraordinaire, need not worry too much.)
Some months and a fair bit more research later, I’ve obtained 2 grams of mushrooms, ground them up into a powder with a coffee grinder, and decided to give it a shot. I’ll start out with .1 gram every 3 days in the morning, and if there is no effect I’ll try .15 grams, or .2 grams. (A standard micro-dose of psilocybin mushrooms is .1-.33 grams — a figure at which I arrived after combining data from a few different articles.) As an adult who is the size of a slim 13-year-old girl, I’m going to start with the smallest dose and increase from there if there’s no difference at all. I’ll follow the standard micro-dosing procedure of 1 day on, 2 days off, to avoid building a tolerance or compounding the effects. The experiment will begin on Monday, 26 November, so stay tuned.
EDIT: Today is Monday, and my brand new scale is not working! Since I couldn’t measure the appropriate dose, I didn’t start today. The scale will be replaced shortly and the experiment begun as soon as a working scale is procured.
Why am I doing this experiment?
Fortunately, the issues that plague Ayelet Waldman are not my own. I haven’t any diagnosed mental disorders, no issues that prevent me from living a regular life and having a job and friends and a relationship and all that. That said, my mood fluctuates more than I would like. I’m prone to restlessness. I can go quite easily from very grumpy to relaxed and at peace with everything to feeling that everything is wrong in the world to feeling that there is hope and back to being sure there’s not. I could probably win a trophy for over-analyzing my relationships. Sometimes, for no explicable reason, I can feel the physical sensation of extra cortisol pulsing through my body despite having no outward stimulus about which to feel nervous. I find it extremely difficult to keep my focus on one thing. Motivation and productivity can also shift like the wind; one day I might be really motivated to work on some key projects that are important to me, patting myself on the back for finally being so productive and imagining that this is it, I am in the zone now, I’ll stay here for awhile…only to feel completely scattered or unmotivated the following day.
None of this is extreme enough to actually necessitate medication, and other people don’t notice any of it unless they’re quite close to me — but it is enough to add up to one truth which which I am NOT ok: The theater of the mind usually keeps me from really fully experiencing the present moment, and its inconsistent nature tosses me about like a boat on the open sea without an anchor, keeping me from forming solid judgments that aren’t constantly changing.
What do I hope to gain from this experiment?
The research I’ve done so far shows that for many people, micro-dosing on mushrooms can help with focus, present-moment awareness, a decrease in analytical thinking, feelings of greater calm and clarity, and even productivity. This is what I’m hoping for; however, some reports (most notably from Fadiman, the most respected figure in the emerging field of research relating to micro-dosing) suggest that micro-dosing can actually worsen anxiety. While I don’t have clinical anxiety, let’s be honest — I’m not the most relaxed person out there, either, so if the mushrooms were to overstimulate my already rapid-fire mind, that would not be the effect I’m going for.
What will I measure? How will the results actually be quantified?
Great question. I will measure physical, mental, and emotional results. Here are the physical barometers which will be used, and their starting points:
Weight: 93 lbs (42kg)
Blood Pressure: 109/77
Pulse: 82 beats per minute
I can’t measure these at home, but I’ll go out and measure them periodically during the experiment.
I’ll also measure the following mental/emotional factors in a daily journal, inspired by this enlightening post on microdosing:
Thoughts: Are my thoughts the same as usual? Are there more or less of them, or about the same? Are they generally positive, negative, or mixed? What is their character?
Creative: Can I come up with solutions to problems more easily? Is my creativity/imaginative capacity enhanced?
Emotional: Are there any differences in quality or quantity of feelings? How fast do I hang on to them before moving on?
Social: Are there any speech changes, for example in tone, pacing, nature of speech? Any changes in facial expressions; more or less smiles? How often do I agree or disagree with someone? Do I talk differently with my family, housemates, partner, students, or the barista?
Body: Are there any bodily sensations which are noticeably different? Is sex better, worse, different, or the same?
Capabilities: Am I more capable than normal of completing any specific tasks? Any changes in attention span, problem-solving ability, empathy, different areas of awareness, visual acuity, etc.?
Outlook: Am I more positive or negative? Any changes in how I view the world?
So, there we have it. Check back in next week to find out how day 1 of the experiment went. Questions? Comments? Concerns? Micro-dosing experiences to share? More research to contribute? Leave them here, I promise to respond.
This article does not promote or recommend the use of illegal drugs. Many of the substances referenced to in the content are illegal in many countries. This article does not constitute medical advice. As always, please consult your doctor before taking any medicine.