As the popularity of microdosing mushrooms continues to rise, so does interest from the scientific community in this potentially therapeutic tool. While you’ve probably read about all the benefits of microdosing mushrooms that people have reported, you probably haven’t been able to find much information about the risks. That’s because most research so far has only focused on validating whether or not the benefits purported by anecdotal evidence hold true, and microdosing hasn’t been in the mainstream culture long enough for long-term effects to be known.
However, a new study was able to shed light onto some of the potential risks and challenging aspects of microdosing. The study used self-reporting and subjective measures to collect data on both the positive and negative effects of microdosing mushrooms, LSD, and other psychedelics.
The results of this study show us that microdosing mushrooms is not without its disadvantages. Remaining aware of the risks of microdosing is essential for those hoping to benefit from psychedelics in a safe and effective way.
The most commonly reported negative effects are as follows.
Of the 278 participants, 178 reported challenges regarding the legal status of psychedelics in their area. While this is a product of societal and cultural factors and not of the medicine itself, it’s still a risk that should be taken seriously.
Specific microdosing disadvantages related to illegality included:
Difficulty regulating the dose. Without a doctor’s prescription and directions, it can be challenging to regulate the dosage of a microdosing regimen, especially since everyone’s ideal dose will be slightly different. Many people start out taking too much or too little, and it takes time and persistence to get the dose right.
Difficulty with availability. Those who chose to use medicinal mushrooms and other psychedelics where they are illegal had to go through the black market, which can be an uncomfortable experience. Additionally, the cost of acquiring psychedelics illegally is likely much higher than it would be if they were available at the pharmacy, and there’s no possibility of insurance coverage.
Social stigma. Some participants reported feeling slightly guilty and ashamed, and would hide the fact that they were microdosing from friends and colleagues.
The second most commonly reported negative effect was some form of acute physiological discomfort. These physical challenges range in severity, but don’t seem to include anything dangerous or harmful to long-term physical health. Many of them are reminiscent of the negative effects reported by users of higher doses of psychedelics.
Reported physical side effects of microdosing include:
- Disrupted senses
- Temperature dysregulation
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Reduced appetite
- Increased migraines and/or headaches
Parallel Risks and Benefits
This study revealed something interesting about microdosing. While there were many reported benefits in several categories, a smaller group of people actually experienced a disadvantage in each category. For example:
- Focus: 119 positive reports, 53 negative reports
- Energy: 84 positive reports, 43 negative reports
- Mood: 215 positive reports, 41 negative reports
- Social: 61 positive reports, 15 negative reports
- Cognitive: 47 positive reports, 14 negative reports
Even more interestingly, there were 104 reports of improved creativity and open-mindedness, but no reported experiences of the opposite effect (close-mindedness and inability to think creatively).
This goes to show how widely results can vary from person to person. Several factors could potentially explain these findings, including individual differences in metabolism, brain chemistry, personality, genetic makeup, expectations, and perception of the experience.
What Does It All Mean?
While this study was based on self-reporting and not placebo controlled, it does begin to provide insight into the potential disadvantages of microdosing.
Individual differences in perception and behavior were highly likely to impact the results, so further research is needed to confirm these findings.
Compared to most prescription and over-the-counter medications available today, microdosing mushrooms and other psychedelics seems to have a relatively benign safety profile. For those who do experience benefits from microdosing, it has the potential to be a safer, healthier way to heal from various mood disorders, boost creative thinking, and foster greater enjoyment of everyday life.