Microdosing: Everything You Need to Know

Microdosing means taking a tiny fraction of a full dose of psychedelic substances, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (also known LSD or "acid") or psilocybin mushrooms, (also known as magic mushrooms). Research on the benefits and effects are largely inconclusive, and many medical professionals are split on whether or not microdoses cause a placebo effect or recall bias (remembering events as they wanted them to be rather than what they were).

This article explains the current research on how microdosing works, its benefits, potential risks and side effects, and whether microdosing is legal.

Psychedlic mushrooms

Photograph © Jon Cartwright / Getty Images

How Does Microdosing Work?

Microdosing may work by affecting a person’s serotonin activity. Serotonin is a chemical messenger called a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood and creates feelings of happiness. This impacts a person’s moods, sleeping and eating habits, cognition, and even body temperature. This serotonin receptor activity is also associated with the effects of psychedelics, such as experiencing hallucinations.

Benefits of Microdosing

The potential benefits of microdosing may include improvements in mood, sleep, and eating habits.

Some research has shown that perceived benefits were unrelated to reported outcomes, which suggests the placebo effect and recall bias may be less significant to the experience than previously thought.

Potential benefits associated with microdosing include: 

  • Better mood (including reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression)
  • Improved focus (lower distractibility)
  • Self-care (including meditative practices)
  • Self-efficacy (including motivation and ambition)
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased energy
  • Socialization (including a sense of connection, empathy, and verbal fluency)
  • Clarity of thought and problem-solving
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduced headache/migraine

Stress reduction, reduced sensitivity to trauma, and reduced substance dependence (e.g., quitting smoking or reducing alcohol use), were also noted.

Potential Risks of Microdosing

Like the benefits, the potential risks of microdosing are not fully understood due to a lack of clinical research trials on humans. Commonly noted, though, is that continued microdosing (over the course of several weeks or months) is associated with increased neurosis (feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety). Negative consequences are more likely for those with a history of psychosis or preexisting risk factors for psychiatric disorders like bipolar or schizophrenia.

Microdosing uncontrolled substances is not an exact science. There is a risk of taking too much and experiencing an unwanted psychedelic “trip.”

Side Effects

Side effects of microdosing are commonly discussed as “challenges.” The main challenges listed across research include some of the perceived benefits, which further indicates that more clinical trials and replicable studies are needed to determine the full short-term and long-term effects of microdosing. 

Perceived side effects of microdosing include:

  • Physiological discomforts (temperature dysregulation, digestive and appetite issues, tingling and numbing sensations)
  • Impaired focus
  • Increased anxiety (solo or in social settings)
  • Reduced mood (including feelings of depression)
  • Feelings of disconnection (dissociation)
  • Cognitive impairment (confusion)
  • Migraine 
  • Excessive energy (restlessness, agitation)
  • Drained energy (fatigue or brain fog)
  • Tolerance to the dose building up over time 

Questions to Ask About Microdosing

Potential questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider about microdosing:

  • Is this right for me?
  • Will the microdose interefere with any medications I'm taking?
  • What are the benefits and risks?
  • Will it make an existing medical condition (like anxiety or depression) worse?
  • Will I build a tolerance for psychedelic drugs?

Is Microdosing Legal?

Microdosing’s legality depends on the substance being consumed. Psilocybin and LSD, for example, are commonly cited in microdosing research. However, they are Schedule I substances under the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to consume in any quantity.

The illegality of microdosing substances limits research opportunity and quality. It also means people who are consuming these substances do not have access to a controlled, safe supply. The drug could be adulterated (mixed in with) substances of a lower quality or dangerous products.


Microdosing is when a person consumes a small fraction of a full dose of a substance. It’s commonly associated with psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). There is a lack of sufficient research on the benefits, risks, and side effects of microdosing any one substance to draw general conclusions.

Perceived benefits include improved mood, creativity, and sociability. Side effects of decreased mood, cognitive impairment, neurosis, and feelings of disconnection from others have also been listed. The substances people microdose are illegal. 

A Word From Verywell 

Microdosing is having a moment. As its popularity rises, it’s important to remember that the short-term and long-term effects of microdosing are still largely unknown. Bear in mind that many factors, including your current mental and physical health condition, play a role in the effects of psychedelics. If you or a loved one are considering microdosing for any reason, you may want to consider speaking with your healthcare provider about personal risks that may exist. You can also speak with a mental health professional or an experienced microdoser.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is microdosing safe?

    Whether or not microdosing is safe is debatable. Microdosing is not an approved form of treatment for any medical condition and, as with any use of any substance, it carries some risk. Whether or not it’s safe for you depends on factors such as your mental health and physical health status. Speaking with your healthcare provider is one way to determine whether or not it’s safe for you. 

  • Is microdosing substance abuse?

    No, microdosing is not substance abuse. Microdosing is taking a small amount of a substance. But taking psychedelics can lead to tolerance, and tolerance may lead to taking more of the substance. This is how microdosing may potentially lead to substance abuse in some people. 

  • How do you start microdosing?

    To start microdosing, you first need to know the answers to some questions like:

    • What substance do you want to microdose and why?
    • Where will you access a safe supply?
    • How much is a standard dose and how much is a microdose?

      When taking substances, you may also want to consider having a safe, sober person around. They can ensure that if by chance a side effect occurs or you accidentally consume more than a microdose, you have someone there who can assist in seeking medical attention if necessary.
8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Anderson T, Petranker R, Christopher A, et al. Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook. Harm Reduction Journal. July 10, 2019. 

  2. Harvard University Science in the News. Can microdosing psychedelics improve your mental health? December 18, 2020. 

  3. Endocrine Society. Pineal hormones: serotonin.

  4. Polito V, Stevenson RJ. A systematic study of microdosing psychedelics. PLOS ONE. 2019:14(2):e0211023. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211023

  5. Rootman JM, Kryskow P, Harvey K, et al. Adults who microdose psychedelics report health related motivations and lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-microdosers. Nature. 2021;11(1):22479. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-01811-4

  6. Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Can microdosing psychedelics improve your mental health?

  7. Hutten NRPW, Mason NL, Dolder PC, et al. Motives and side-effects of microdosing with psychedelics among users. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2019;22(7):426-434. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyz029

  8. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug scheduling.

By Michelle Pugle
Michelle Pugle, BA, MA, is an expert health writer with nearly a decade of contributing accurate and accessible health news and information to authority websites and print magazines. Her work focuses on lifestyle management, chronic illness, and mental health. Michelle is the author of Ana, Mia & Me: A Memoir From an Anorexic Teen Mind.