These are not your parent's (or grandparent's) psychedelics.
“Life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.” — Bill Hicks
I’m a supporter of psychedelics.
Not in a communal “let’s hang out and listen to The Grateful Dead” way… or Phish, or String Cheese Incident… take your pick.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with the experimental and social use of psychedelics - the musical choices are a discussion we can table for now.
I’ve outgrown the use of psychedelics like that and am more interested in the service and importance of these drugs for helping people.
But before we go on, let’s look at the two main dosing categories of psychedelics - as I see them:
Macrodosing (for LSD, 100 + micrograms)
Microdosing (for LSD, 10–20 micrograms)
Suppose I want to be free of ego and examine my inner self; I would consider a macrodose. That is a re-alignment of my psyche, thinking, and perspective. It’s also a personal event, not a communal one, so I don’t feel compelled to share it with anyone.
More on microdosing below.
YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY
Psychedelics are slowly beginning to return from where they came. This is to say, they’re being used to aid in treating specific disorders such as PTSD, addiction, depression, end-of-life illness, etc.
“Slowly” is a subjective term. The drugs have been around for decades and were first embraced by the medical community; however, psychedelics would eventually become a medicinal pariah thanks in large part to things like the CIA’s Project MKUltra, the explosion of the counterculture in the mid to late 60s, and ultimately the introduction of President Nixon’s “war on drugs” in 1971.
Lest we forget the misguided and wildly incorrect propaganda that these drugs would make you jump off buildings (they do not do that); for what it’s worth, you also can’t overdose on psychedelics. To be clear, you can take too MUCH, but you won’t die. You will NOT have a great time… but you won’t die.
It’s been through the hard work of people like Rick Doblin of MAPS, the world of academia, and many others that the medical (and political) community’s recognition of psychedelics’ benefits has picked up steam in the past 24-36 months.
If you need affirmation that the barometer has changed with psychedelics, consider that Ketamine is now legal in the United States for treatment-resistant depression. It’s served up under the name Spravato.
The Colorado House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would align state statutes with legalizing MDMA prescriptions if and when the federal government ultimately permits such use.
As reported by The Intercept, the Health and Human Services Department disclosed that they anticipate FDA approval of MDMA and psilocybin treatments within two years. But I suspect this will be contingent upon the Democrats holding the line past the upcoming mid-term election and holding the White House in 2024.
The Republicans, as a rule, are very anti-drug. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re not interested in helping people… BUT unless it’s a drug that can first line the coffers of their biggest supporters and lobbyists and then help people, they’re gonna look away or poo-poo any such drug.
According to OpenSecrets.com, the Pharmaceuticals/Health Products sector has spent 187 million on lobbying in 2022 (for clarity, the most by any lobbying group). I suppose it’s worth noting that they also have a 3:1 lobbyist-to-client ratio.
IN POPULAR CULTURE
Over the past few years, esteemed writers like Michael Pollen and Ayelet Waldman have written popular books about their experiences, How To Change Your Mind and A Very Good Day, respectively.
Where Pollen’s book is a dense and comprehensive look at psychedelics, Waldman’s is a memoir about her experience microdosing. It was reading her book that prompted my journey.
Pollen’s book also got the Netflix docu-series treatment.
There is also the terrific 2019 Israeli documentary Trip of Compassion*. The film chronicles three of the ten participants of a study on how MDMA impacts/helps people with PTSD (trailer below).
Because I’ve been vocal about my experiences and actively advocate for the use of psychedelics, I’ve been beleaguered with stories about people’s experiences with macrodosing psychedelics. Which is great; I welcome the dialog because I have similar experiences.
It’s just that I was 17 years-old…, and I’m not 17 anymore… and neither are they.
When I explain the difference between macro and microdosing, you’d think I was trying to tell them about Amway products.
After explaining the difference, several people have said, “Oh, we should totally microdose together.” This is a typical exchange:
ME: “And why should we microdose together?”
THEM: “Because it would be fun.”
ME: “No, it wouldn’t.”
(They stare at me vacantly for 20-30 seconds.)
THEM: “Why not?”
And then I will re-explain the difference between macro and micrdosing; admittedly, a little more tersely and succinctly.
That being said, if someone has no experience in microdosing and is curious, I am more than willing to hang out with them so they can understand what is happening. But in the spirit of transparency, all of my microdosing experience has resulted in a similar feeling to drinking a strong cup of coffee.
So rather than attempting to procure an illegal drug, I suggest we get coffee.
Many have asked: “Then why microdose?” It’s a fair question to which my only answer is: “I dunno. It somehow works for me.” And if they’re still staring at me vacantly, I’ll roll up a ball of tinfoil and throw it on the ground for them to play with.
The more interested will ask, “How does it work?” Also, a fair question to which I also do not have an answer: “I dunno. It somehow works for me.”
The truth is nobody knows how or why psychedelics work, only that they work for many people.
The more honest advocates, medical doctors, and researchers will tell you that. It’s a lot of supposition and supposition with confidence.
When we consider psycho-pharmacology, we must also understand the dirty secret no one talks to you about - the actual efficacy of the legion of these drugs. In a 2012 article from the National Library of Medicine:
“Although there is significant variation in the pharmacodynamics of drug receptor and transporter-binding profiles, at a population level there is little evidence to differentiate the various antidepressants’ efficacy, and prescribing is generally based upon tolerability. However, it is well recognized that there is significant individual variation in response to different medications, although the so-called pharmacogenetics of such variation is only poorly understood at this time.”
In other words - no one fucking knows. They may work, but they may not. If one doesn’t work, they’ll try another… and on and on until, hopefully, one is found that may offer the patient some relief.
Psychedelics don’t require that kind of trial and error.
I have my theory of why microdosing works, but it’s only based on my experience. And let me be clear - I’m not a scientist OR a medical doctor. Furthermore, one person is hardly a substantial data set. I can only say that I find benefits from microdosing.
But, it should be noted that it may not be effective for everyone. The one thing that can be said about microdosing is that it does not harm.
Microdosing psychedelics is not an exact science, but as I noted above, neither is psycho-pharmacology.
If you’re considering microdosing psychedelics, it’s a good idea to consider a few things:
Have a goal or a thought about what you HOPE to get from it.
Write your goal or hope down, and keep a journal as you execute step 3.
Follow the 30-day protocol, often referred to as the Fadiman Protocol. In short, once every three days for 30 days.
Please note that microdosing (or macrodosing) is not meant to be a cure. Psychedelics should be considered complementary aids.
If you microdose because you’re depressed, you should continue any talk, behavioral therapy, or pharmaceutical regimen. If you microdose to help treat addiction, follow your recovery program, etc.
That said, I don’t think that psychedelics of any kind - or amount - would benefit someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia—just the opposite (although it’s still doubtful they’ll jump off a building - it’s not a thing).
The use of psychedelics as a potential treatment aid has become so popular that the notoriously conservative pharmaceutical industry is beginning to zero in on it. Again, this is only a result of privately funded groups like MAPS, academics around the world, and many others who have gone to great lengths to secure and release positive data-driven reports about the impact of psychedelics.
Where will all of this lead us? I don't know, but having additional drugs available that can offer potentially substantive relief (without terrible side effects) from psychological pain and trauma is incredible.
However, gird your loins; despite all the data that proves psychedelics are effective, the way our system of capitalism works, these drugs first have to prove their financial mettle to corporate entities before we can have widespread acceptance. Sadly, the impact on the bottom line crushes any potential impact on personal health.
Until then? You’re on your own.
Look, these drugs are not for everyone. And they’re currently illegal.
And in the event you’ve never seen, heard about, or read a story on the illicit drug trade - it’s full of some supremely evil, shitty, and, at best, selfish people.
Psychedelics can be a powerful tool. So if you decide to macrodose or microdose (again or for the first time), take as long as it takes to find a trusted source, and above all, be smart.
And if you can’t be smart… don’t be dumb.
Psychedelics are illegal not because a loving government is concerned that you may jump out of a third-story window. Psychedelics are illegal because they dissolve opinion structures and culturally laid down behavior and information processing models. They open you up to the possibility that everything you know is wrong.
- Terrence McKenna