Microdosing Technology as of May 2018
Simone Kitchens recently wrote a “Microdosing Guide and Explainer” for New York Magazine’s “The Cut” because 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.
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 such as 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:
- The chemical composition of magic mushrooms is highly variable.
- The variability in mushroom composition makes it impossible to make precise doses.
- All microdosing regimens accept substantial variability in both (a) the ingredients administered and (b) the amount of those ingredients.
- 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 [electroencephalogram] 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
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.”
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