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Ancient Medicine Like Magic Mushrooms and LSD Make a Comeback

Matt Weeks

Microdosing LSD, magic mushrooms, or cannabis may be the very best way to treat your depression (and pain and anxiety); No high but all the medicinal benefits.

Ancient wisdom is coming back into vogue for people seeking an alternative to pharmaceuticals. And micro-dosing is the latest trend for alternative depression treatment. True to its name, this is the practice of using a tiny bit of a mind-altering substance — usually LSD, psilocybin, or cannabis — at a sub-therapeutic level to gain its benefits without feeling the full “psychedelic” effects.

lsd pill on red background

Image Credit: Bondar Patel

This practice has been maligned as Millennial pseudo-science and an excuse to take illicit substances, but it actually dates back thousands of years. Even more, it has some solid evidence behind it, and has helped many people transform their lives. People use it to help with depression and anxiety, boost their creativity and capacity for output. LSD and magic mushrooms are being sold as the wonder drug — the end-all, be-all of good-mood, happy-life maximizers. Bliss in can.

Not surprisingly, the concept has taken off in the cutthroat world of Silicon Valley, where tech entrepreneurs and workers frequently exercise “bio-hacking” as a way to unlock creativity, ramp up energy or give them a boost over the competition.

Image Credit: Burlak

Thanks to well-known figures like 4-Hour Workweek author, Tim Ferris, the niche productivity experiment has gone main stream. But what are the benefits, really? Is the science behind the idea credible — or have a bunch of nuts bought into an over-hyped panacea and have decided to tout the benefits of a placebo? And what’s the difference between choosing to microdose with LSD versus mushrooms versus cannabis?


Acid is what people most often refer to when they talk about microdosing. And it’s no wonder. The substance has a long history of “re-training” minds that dates from the Counter Culture movement of the mid 20th century. The practice of using LSD as an “anti-addictive” substance received bona fide medical support from no less than Tommy Douglas, the father of Medicare.

An effective microdose of LSD is about 10 micrograms, but beginners should always start out smaller. This is according to James Hardiman, the Harvard- and Stanford-educated author of “The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys.” It’s the modern Bible of microdosing. Hadiman claims that microdosing gives users an energy boost, a creative jolt and the ability to cut their addictions  (alcohol, tobacco and video games, among others).


Dried magic mushrooms on white background.

Image Credit: Robtek

LSD versus Mushrooms

While the research on acid microdosing is just getting started, a paper from the Netherlands has already begun the scientific inquiry into microdosing shrooms. The Netherlands is free to investigate the matter because psilocybin mushrooms are legal there.

The study is limited and not double-blind, but still an important starting point for microdosing research. It found that creative ways of thinking were enhanced for microdosing participants, while problem-solving abilities and rational thinking were unaffected.

If LSD helps with addiction and energy, mushrooms seem to be better able to unlock our spiritual and creative sides.

cannabis sprout in field close up

Image Credit: Dvorak Photo


Microdosing cannabis means ingesting between two and five grams of cannabis throughout the day. This is considered enough to feel the effects without actually getting high. Compared to LSD and mushrooms, cannabis microdosing promises difference outcomes.

Cannabis microdosers say they feel less anxiety, stress, ADHD symptoms, inflammation, indigestion, and pain while they’re microdosing. The hard part about microdosing cannabis is determining how much to take. Experts say that smoking cannabis can make it hard to know how much cannabis is being taken in, and edibles can be inconsistent; one brownie may have concentrated pockets of cannabis, like lumps in the dough, making cutting it into the right size extremely difficult. A better choice may be small mints and chocolates, a tincture mixture, or a TCH-infused tea.

Also unlike the LSD versus mushrooms debate, there’s been more research into cannabis microdosing. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Pain found that patients who used cannabis in very low doses reported the most pain reduction.

trippy modern art

Image Credit: Quardia

The Final Word

Microdosing has been a part of medicine since we starting doing medicine. LSD and magic mushrooms are a return to that era. Whether or not microdosing stays with us depends on the level to which it can deliver as promised. So far, anecdotal reports are very positive!



Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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