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Exploring the Benefits of Microdosing Psilocybin for Anxiety and Depression

a brown mushroom growing from moss in a forest
Psilocybin is the psychoactive ingredient found in at least 180 different strains of mushrooms worldwide.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a naturally anxious person. Often worried about the ‘what ifs’ this anxiety followed me into adulthood and in my 20s negatively impacted my mental and physical health - along with my relationships, work and overall happiness. As a journalist, I often interviewed experts about mental health for my job and it was after one of these stories that I finally decided to seek some help. 


Like so many people, I went to therapy and even tried prescription medications. And while those seemed to work at helping some of my symptoms - including intrusive thoughts and panic attacks - they never seemed to get to the root of WHY I was so deeply worried. The medicine also made me irritable, would make me feel sick if I accidentally skipped a dose and I lost my libido completely. When I tried to quit taking the medications, it was a wild ride of physical pain including nausea, fatigue and sleep issues that lasted months. And in the end … I still felt anxious. 


I thought to myself, there HAS to be something better than this, right?

As I’m sure you know, mental health is a critical component of overall well-being, affecting how we think, feel, and act. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen more and more people talking online about mental health and thankfully more companies paying for mental health care.

But for many (like me) traditional treatments for mental health issues like anxiety and depression can be ineffective or come with unwanted side effects. They can also be extremely expensive and hard to access if you live in rural parts of the country. 


When my mental health started to become increasingly problematic in my mid-30s I knew I didn’t want to go back on medication. The physical sickness I experienced when quitting the first time made me scared of trying that route again. So, like a good journalist, I did my research and found many people sharing alternative therapies including microdosing psilocybin (magic mushrooms).


On a podcast, I heard a woman share her own experiences of working with this natural healing modality and I immediately contacted her to come on my own podcast, The Light Within.

Our conversation focused not only on mental health but on the healing capacity these fungi teachers have for sexual trauma, something I’d been dealing with since I was 18. She also explained how psilocybin has helped people quit alcohol and admittedly I had been relying on booze to numb my anxiety for years. 


This seemed like a win-win.

But what exactly IS microdosing? How do you do it safely and does it REALLY work? This blog explores the benefits of microdosing for mental health, supported by scientific research and personal anecdotes.


Understanding Microdosing


Microdosing involves consuming very small amounts of a psychedelic substance, typically about one-tenth of a recreational dose. This practice is designed to avoid the intense hallucinogenic effects of a full psychedelic experience while still providing potential therapeutic benefits. Common substances used for microdosing include psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and LSD.


The Science Behind Microdosing Psilocybin for Mental Health


How it Works

The primary compound in psilocybin mushrooms, psilocybin, is converted in the body to psilocin, which activates serotonin receptors in the brain. This action is similar to how many antidepressants work, but psilocin may also promote neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections​ (The Journal of Neuroscience)​. This process can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety by allowing the brain to create healthier patterns of thought and behavior.


Promising Research

While research on microdosing psilocybin for mental health is still in its early stages, several studies and anecdotal reports suggest significant benefits:

  1. Mood Enhancement: A study conducted by Prochazkova et al. (2018) found that participants who microdosed psilocybin reported improved mood and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression. These benefits were attributed to the modulation of serotonin receptors and increased neuroplasticity​ (Women)​.

  2. Cognitive Function: Another study published in the journal "Psychedelic Science" highlighted improvements in cognitive function, including enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills, among individuals who microdosed​ (Psychedelic Therapy Coaching)​.

  3. Emotional Regulation: Research from the University of Toronto indicated that microdosing could help improve emotional regulation, making it easier for individuals to manage stress and emotional disturbances​ (Women)​.


My Personal Experience

Beyond scientific research, many people have shared their personal experiences with microdosing, often reporting profound improvements in their mental health. This is my own experience working with a coach to improve my mental health through microdosing.


My Journey with Microdosing

At the age of 35, I had been struggling with anxiety, depression, burnout and PTSD for years. My therapist and psychiatrist wanted to put me on pharmaceutical drugs - which I’d been on in my 20s - but were supportive when I shared that I’d like to try an alternative method before going back on medications. After researching microdosing, I decided to try microdosing under the guidance of a professional psychedelic coach.


Very quickly I realized microdosing was a ‘game-changer’. I was able to start looking at my core wounds, habits and patterns to understand (finally) WHY I was so anxious. Through my coach’s guidance, we looked at my adoption and the month I’d been in foster care as a newborn as the possible source of my anxiety. While consciously I have no recollection of this time in my life, through exploring my subconscious via microdosing I was able to pinpoint why I constantly felt like ‘the bottom was going to fall out’ of my life. 


When my anxiety would come back, microdosing allowed me to respond to my bodily sensations, pause and become more present in the here and now. This allowed me to stop worrying about the future (and the past) and find safety and resilience in my body. After 3 months working together, I had many tools I could use when I felt anxious and felt my anxiety levels had dropped dramatically.

At this time, I never thought I’d one day get trained to also be a psychedelic coach. I just knew my experience was profound and had shown me not only WHY I was anxious but HOW to overcome these feelings when they arose. 


How to Microdose Safely

While the potential benefits of microdosing are promising, it is essential to approach this practice with caution and awareness. 


Finding the Right Dose

The optimal microdose can vary from person to person. A common starting point is around 0.1 grams of dried psilocybin mushrooms, taken every three days. It is crucial to start with a low dose and gradually adjust based on how your body responds. Your dose also has very little to do with your height or weight. It’s more likely to be impacted by your sensitivity to things like caffeine, light and sound. So again, starting small is key because you can always ingest more if needed.


Setting and Mindset

Microdosing should be approached with a clear intention and a positive mindset. Ensure that you are in a safe and comfortable environment, and consider keeping a journal to track your experiences and any changes in your mental health.


Legal Considerations

The legality of psilocybin and other psychedelics varies by region. Before beginning a microdosing regimen, it is essential to understand the laws in your area and consider the legal risks involved.


Benefits of Microdosing for Mental Health


Reducing Anxiety and Depression

One of the most significant benefits of microdosing is its potential to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Traditional antidepressants can take weeks to show effects and may come with various side effects. In contrast, many people who microdose report feeling improvements within days or weeks, with fewer side effects.

Microdosing can help by:

  • Modulating Serotonin Levels: Similar to SSRIs, psilocin (the active form of psilocybin) affects serotonin receptors, which play a crucial role in mood regulation.

  • Promoting Neuroplasticity: Microdosing may enhance the brain's ability to form new neural connections, aiding in the development of healthier mental patterns.


Enhancing Creativity and Productivity

In addition to mental health benefits, microdosing has been associated with increased creativity and productivity. This is particularly valuable for individuals in creative fields or those seeking to enhance their problem-solving abilities.

  • Improved Divergent Thinking: Studies have shown that microdosing can improve divergent thinking, which is the ability to generate multiple solutions to a problem​ (Journal of Psychopharmacology Berlin)​.

  • Heightened Focus: Many users report enhanced focus and concentration, making it easier to stay engaged in tasks and projects.


Emotional and Spiritual Growth

Microdosing can also facilitate deeper emotional and spiritual growth. By subtly altering perception and increasing introspection, it allows individuals to confront and process underlying emotional issues.

  • Increased Self-Awareness: Microdosing can heighten self-awareness, helping individuals understand their emotions and behaviors more deeply.

  • Spiritual Connection: For some, microdosing fosters a sense of spiritual connection and alignment with their purpose, contributing to overall well-being.


Addressing Common Concerns


Potential Risks and Side Effects

While microdosing is generally considered safe when done responsibly, there are potential risks and side effects to be aware of:

  • Overstimulation: Taking too high a dose can lead to overstimulation, anxiety, or uncomfortable physical sensations.

  • Interference with Medications: Microdosing may interact with certain medications, particularly SSRIs. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before starting.

  • Legal Risks: As previously mentioned, the legal status of psilocybin varies, and using it can have legal consequences depending on your location.


Navigating Stigma

Despite the growing interest in microdosing, there remains a stigma around psychedelic substances. Educating yourself and others about the benefits and responsible use of microdosing can help mitigate this stigma.


Conclusion

Microdosing changed my life by allowing me to get to the root of my anxiety, depression, PTSD and burnout. It offers a promising alternative for those seeking relief from mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Through small, controlled doses of psychedelics such as psilocybin, individuals can experience significant improvements in mood, creativity, and emotional well-being. I’m encouraged by the ongoing research being conducted on this holistic modality and believe we could see some major shifts in the way it’s accepted in society in the next few years.


Please remember, working with a certified coach, guide or therapist is always recommended when beginning a practice like microdosing especially if you’re struggling with your mental health or unprocessed trauma. When you approach microdosing with care, respect and awareness you can safely explore its benefits and potentially unlock new pathways for personal growth.


To learn more about this practice, my extensive training and the services I offer, book a free discovery call with me. In this 30-minute no-pressure call we’ll talk about what’s going on in your life, how microdosing might help you, make sure microdosing is right for you and I’ll help you understand what working together could mean for your mental health and happiness. I look forward to meeting you soon.


Leslie Draffin is an internationally certified somatic psychedelic guide and trauma-informed coach who specializes in helping women heal their mental health, overcome trauma and create the life they desire. She does not condone the use of illicit substances and does not provide access to any illegal drugs. Her work aims to educate and reduce risk for those who choose to explore psychedelics for personal growth and healing. 

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