By Maia Leggott
Microdosing is the word on everybody’s lips this year (the quarantine struggle is real). It's been said psilocybin — the active compound in “magic” mushrooms — may be the new CBD as far as health and wellness go.
Those who are drawn to the mildly mind-bending effects of microdosing are often seeking to improving mood, focus, energy and creativity. These and many more are some benefits of microdosing currently being studied, but research is still in its infancy.
So, what are some of the things you should watch out for when stepping into the wide world of psychedelics and microdosing? Come along, my friend!
It’s (Still) Illegal
With the plethora of options available to those interested in microdosing these days, it’s important to remember that psychedelic substances are still technically illegal. However, under Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, exemptions can be made for medicinal purposes. The influx of interest and research is sure to set a course for decriminalization, after which we’re sure to see a surge in fungi-related studies. Pretty exciting stuff!
As with any "uncontrolled" substance, the availability, dosage and cost of shrooms or capsules vary depending on where you get it. The line between microdosed exuberance and a bad trip is paper thin, and getting a full-blown trip when you want a little mood booster is not a fun surprise. Sound a lot like weed edibles, eh?
Evidently, social stigma continues to cling to the use of "illicit" substances. There's been a lot of progress in opening the cultural dialogue, but there's a long way to go.
Physical Side Effects
Microdosing psilocybin has many health benefits, from increased productivity and improved mood, to elevated creativity, among others. Many folks even use dosed caps of psilocybin to wean off traditional pharmaceutical treatments for depression; yet another commonality this magical fungus shares with cannabis!
Benefits aside, anyone who’s tried mushrooms is aware of the telltale nausea that can follow soon after ingestion. Microdosing is less severe on the gut, but not immune to negative symptoms, like gastrointestinal distress. Others include increased headaches/migraines, insomnia, visual disturbances, trouble regulating temperature, and numbness of arms and legs.
Anxiety can also be another undesirable effect. A bit of a catch-22 if you’re using psilocybin to treat mood or anxiety, so treading carefully is essential! We'll keep repeating this because it's so important: research and consult with a healthcare professional to ensure you're setting yourself up for a good, safe experience.
Serotonin is one of the molecules responsible for making us happy, so you’d think serotonin syndrome would be a good thing, right? Not necessarily.
Serotonin syndrome (SS) is a potentially life-threatening diagnosis caused by a surplus of serotonin in the brain. This can happen from a single substance or the interaction of different substances. So if microdosing piques your interest, make sure to do that research before jumping into the fungus troop with both feet.
Symptoms range from mild (increased heart rate, sweating, dilated pupils, muscle twitches) to moderate or severe (raised body temperature, affected speech, spikes in pulse and blood pressure, delirium).
In fact, many serotonergic medications are in our medicine cabinets. Obvious ones like antidepressants and mood stabilizers, but they're also hiding in certain allergy meds, painkillers like oxycodone and even Parkinson’s treatment, L-dopa.
The Bottom Line
There's still a ways to go on de-stigmatizing psilocybin. Everyone reacts differently, so when exploring something new, remember to start low and go slow. Always talk to a healthcare professional, especially if you're looking to treat mental illness or taper off of pharmaceuticals. A lot of the evidence is anecdotal, and there's an infinite amount of room for research into this gregarious field.
Psilocybin shows a whole lot of promise as a viable, all-natural treatment. We're super stoked to see how the story unfolds!