New York Magazine Summarizes Microdosing as of May 2018

Microdosing Technology as of May 2018

Simone Kitchens recently wrote a “Microdosing Guide and Explainer” for New York Magazine’s “The Cut”  on account of its “spread from San Francisco to New York and around the country.” See also State of the Art Microdosing.

The New York Magazine article begins with Ms. Kitchens’s personal account of her friend’s psilocybin microdosing practice:

“. . .he walked into his kitchen, took a teeny-tiny, shriveled-up mushroom stem out of the freezer, snapped off a minuscule amount, and popped it into his mouth.”

This story is illustrative of the state of the art for microdosing psilocybin as of May 2018.  Namely, people consume small amounts of “magic mushrooms” in order to administer unknown amounts of psilocybin, along with a handful of other unknown active molecules.

Microdosing Means Taking a “Small Amount”

Everyone agrees that “microdosing” involves taking a “small amount” of a psychoactive substance, such as psilocybin. Ms. Kitchens explains that the term “usually means taking tiny amounts of psychedelics (one-20th to one-tenth of a recreational dose).” In the case of microdosing psilocybin the practice almost universally involves consuming some form of mushrooms. 

“Measured-Out” Microdoses

Psilocybin containing mushrooms can be ground up and put into gel caps. However, although this practice masks the taste, it does NOT eliminated the variability in chemical composition inherent to the mushrooms.

As of May 2018, the state of the art for “mak[ing] measured-out microdoses” from psilocybin containing mushrooms involves “[w]eighing them, grinding them into powder form, and putting them into gel capsules….”

According, to Ms. Kitchens, “some dealers are adjusting to the spike in microdoser clients by … offering use of their scales to help weigh mushrooms.”  She notes that using a scale “that registers a thousandth of a gram helps people start as small as possible.”  (In previous articles, we noted that the term micro-dosing is somewhat misleading because “micro” refers to 1000 times less material than that taken in the practice of microdosing.)  

All existing methods of making “measured-out” formulations fail to provide precise doses of the active ingredients.  These methods may accurately measure out the amount of mushroom material to the milligram (‘thousandth of a gram”); but they do not provide a reliable means for measuring out the amount of active ingredients, e.g., psilocybin.

Reliability of Microdosing Methods

Ms. Kitchens accurately describes the reliability of existing methods:

microdosing is both highly unresearched and incredibly imprecise, and therefore prone to all kinds of dosage mix-ups and unintended trips. In fact, there have been zero controlled clinical trials related to microdosing.”

These two problems arise from the unmet need for precise dosage formulations.  Here’s why:

  1. The chemical composition of magic mushrooms is highly variable;
  2. The variability in mushroom composition makes it impossible to make precise doses;
  3. All microdosing regimens accept substantial variability in both (a) the ingredients administered and (b) the amount of those ingredients;
  4. The lack of control over both (a) the ingredients administered and (b) the amount of those ingredients makes it impossible to draw valid scientific conclusions— how taking a specific drug produces a specific effect.  For example, very few commentators on microdosing psilocybin recognize that psilocin is the primary psychoactive ingredient — not psilocybin.

Future Scientific Studies in Microdosing

The New York Magazine article describes some areas for future microdosing research: “In England, Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation is close to beginning a study that will involve hooking up microdosers to an EEG while they play the strategy game Go in an attempt to measure both creativity and cognitive function.”

The potential benefit of microdosing technologies justifies further development. According to Matthew W. Johnson, a Johns Hopkins psychologist who has published psilocybin studies, “It’s a very plausible question whether microdosing has antidepressant activity….”  “If that was true, that could be a novel treatment to one of the world’s biggest medical disorders.”

The Path Forward – Reliable Psilocybin Formulations

Psilocybin is one molecule present in magic mushrooms. In its pure form, psilocybin is a white crystalline compound. In mushrooms, it is present in variable concentrations on the order of 1%.

The practice of “microdosing” psilocybin appears is gaining momentum.  The rise in popularity appears to be justified on account of the benefits of microdosing. However, mushrooms vary considerably in chemical composition and concentration of active ingredients. This lack of control over chemical composition makes precise dosing impossible. Similarly, the lack of control over chemical composition makes scientific research impossible.

Psilocybin formulations would provide a means for consuming a known amount of a known substance.  This would allow both users and scientists evaluate observations arising from known conditions.  It would also allow users to consume exactly their intended dose rather than accepting the inherent variability associated with “snapp[ing] off a minuscule amount” of a “teeny-tiny, shriveled-up mushroom stem.”

** We would appreciate your thoughts.  Please leave a comment below.

5 thoughts on “New York Magazine Summarizes Microdosing as of May 2018

  1. Frank Manchild

    I have accepted the variable with no reservations. I simply make a game of seeing where the micro-dose takes me that day, whether it results in a tiny (yet manageable) trip or the desired results alone, which for me is that subtle energy boost & pain relief. On a side note, I live in an area that is registering some of the highest pollen counts in the United States.
    Having been a recipient of Allergy shots as a child and suffering as a young adult from sometimes body aches… I seem to be unaffected this year to date.

  2. Brad P.

    Hi there at P.T.
    I just ‘bumped’ into your site while surfing and after spending a few short minutes reading it I am impressed with both your stated aims as well as scientific methodology – Keep up the good work.

    However after scanning through one of the articles ‘New York Magazine Summarizes Microdosing as of May 2018’ I noticed an important error which can be easily corrected.
    In that article it is stated “(In previous articles, we noted that the term micro-dosing is somewhat misleading because “micro” refers to 1000 times less material than that taken in the practice of microdosing.) “, while in fact the word Micro denotes units of a factor of one millionth (10 to the power -6). Milli denotes units of a factor of one thousandth (10 to the power -3).

    To err is human

    • Staff Scientist Post author

      Thanks for paying such careful attention Brad.
      You are 100% correct that micro refers to one “one millionth.” Here, we explained that this quantity (one “one millionth”) is 1000x less than one “one thousandth.” In other words: 10^-6 = 10^-3 * 10^-3

  3. James

    The primary question here I think that needs to spoken is… What is actually involved in measuring the psilocin content within a particular mushroom fruit body? What sort of lab setup would be needed, etc.?

    • Staff Scientist Post author

      A variety of different techniques would work. The most fundamental would be isolating the various different components (e.g., by chromatography) and measuring the mass of each.
      Other sorts of spectroscopy could also be used for comparing the relative amounts of each component (based on comparison with a known standard) within a mixture. For example, HPLC, GCMS, NMR.

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