#155: Microdosing LSD with Dr. James Fadiman

November 18, 2016

In honor of LSD Day (November 16, the day LSD was first synthesized in 1938 by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann), this week’s episode is all about LSD and the psychedelic experience.

We had the great pleasure of talking to Dr. James Fadiman, who has been involved in psychedelic research since the 1960s and is the author of The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.

There’s not much about the psychedelic experience that Dr. Fadiman hasn’t seen or heard about.  The shifts and insights that psychedelics can bring are truly incredible.  While there are other ways to achieve the same shifts in worldview, it’s not the same experience.

Here’s why psychedelics aren’t just a hippy phenomenon.

The Psychedelic Experience

Dr. Fadiman likes to talk about the entire psychedelic experience, not just the psychedelic drug.  The experience includes the drug, your intention in taking it, the people around you, your guide, and set and setting.

Set and setting is the atmosphere in which in you take a drug and how you’re feeling about it.  It’s there when you take any drug, but particularly matters for psychedelics.  Feeling personally safe and being in a safe environment is essential for an enjoyable trip.

Dr. Fadiman compares psychedelic experiences to flying a plane.  They are incredibly safe if you know what you’re doing, but can be unsafe if you don’t.  Also like planes, they can take you places you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.

Psychedelic Guides

Psychedelic guides are someone who is there to help the person experiencing psychedelics.  A guide should be sober, because their entire purpose is to support the person on the trip.

There are a few reasons Dr. Fadiman is a fan of guided trips.  The first is safety:  the guide is like a designated driver and is there to help if anything goes wrong.  If the person on the trip starts getting frightened, a guide can help them remember that they’re hallucinating and nothing bad is actually happening.

Guides can also help you remember if you wanted to explore particular thoughts or feelings during the trip.  Otherwise you run the risk of getting stuck watching the water in the toilet bowl swirl around.

There’s no one right way to experience psychedelics.  Exploring psychedelics on your own, with a guide, and with a shaman are all valid, although different, ways of approaching the situation.

LSD Doses

The amount of LSD you’ll want to experiment with depends on your intention.  What do you want to get out of the experience?  Do you want to travel through time and space, or just feel more creative?  *Remember:  Doses of LSD are incredibly small.  We’re talking micrograms, not milligrams.

  • 400 micrograms:  Take this amount if you’re interested in a spiritual or mystical experience.  If you’re taking this much, you really need a sober person with you to guide and support you.
  • 200 micrograms:  This amount is perfect for personal exploration and uncovering deeper insights about your inner workings.
  • 100 micrograms:  A healthy dose for working on scientific and creative problems.  You’ll still be able to focus on hard science, but your mind will be open to outside the box solutions.
  • 50 micrograms:  This is a “museum” or “concert” dose.  The name says it all.  This is the right dose to have a good time, enjoy audio or visual stimuli, and avoid getting caught in a negative emotional space.
  • 10 micrograms:  This is a microdose.  It’s sub-perceptual, meaning there’s no obvious visual effects.  The world looks the same, but clearer, like when you get a new eyeglass prescription.  Your overall functional capacity is slightly enhanced.  Most people report that it helps them feel better and are able to handle more difficult situations.

Don’t Take LSD If…

The thing about any substance is that if you give it to enough people it’s going to be bad for someone.  LSD and other psychedelics are not suitable for people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorders.  For a successful psychedelic experience, you need a solid sense of ego, and those disorders affect the sense of self.

However, LSD and other psychedelics are generally safe for people with depression.

Microdosing LSD

The dose may be small, but the benefits are pretty impressive.  From the first dose, your overall functional capacity is slightly enhanced.  Most people report that it helps them feel better and are able to handle more difficult situations.

Microdosing once every four days for a month can bring overall health benefits.  People report that they are eating healthier, exercising more, and practicing yoga, without any application of willpower.  It’s as if your body starts getting more votes in making decisions.  Some women have even reported that their periods are less painful.

Is this all placebo?  Dr. Fadiman says it doesn’t really matter when we consider that placebo could also be called the body’s “natural healing response,” since it actually does change things.

Further Reading

PS:  Don’t forget to sign up for our weekly Brain Breakfast.

Show Notes
  • 00:00:33

    Episode introduction: Microdosing LSD with Dr. James Fadiman.

  • 00:02:00

    This Week In Neuroscience: Treadmills versus normal walking.

  • 00:05:29

    5-Star review shoutouts.

  • 00:06:49

    SDS news and updates.

  • 00:08:28

    Flashback to Episode #129

  • 00:09:57

    Guest introduction: Dr. James Fadiman.

  • 00:11:07

    Interview begins.

  • 00:11:44

    Psychedelic experiences.

  • 00:13:05

    The role of intention when taking psychedelics.

  • 00:14:08

    Choosing the right dose.

  • 00:16:40

    Microdosing and a natural healing response.

  • 00:18:57

    Potential therapeutic uses of microdosing LSD.

  • 00:20:51

    Looking back at the civil rights movement and its relevance to psychedelics policy.

  • 00:24:05

    Who should not take psychedelics?

  • 00:26:45

    Is there a minimum age threshold before a person should attempt psychedelics for the first time?

  • 00:29:00

    The ideal relationship between a guide and a psychedelic explorer.

  • 00:32:20

    Guided psychedelic experiences.

  • 00:33:58

    How frequently should psychedelic experiences be repeated?

  • 00:34:58

    External and internal explorers.

  • 00:36:45

    Comparing psychedelics.

  • 00:39:13

    Some comments on Ayahuasca.

  • 00:40:34

    Final comments on psychedelic experiences.

  • 00:43:41

    Interview wrap-up.

  • 00:47:26

    Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Crowd-funded study on LSD.

  • 00:49:25

    Episode wrap-up.


  1. ben says:

    It’s interesting that some people don’t seem to build up a tolerance when microdosing. I wonder what Dr. James’ experience has been. A reddit user posted a nice excel calculator that might be a good reference for those new to lsd:

    Also, would love to hear a podcast about how/where people are buying. Locally? If online, I assume a darknet market using bitcoins and tor/tails, but which one(s), what to look for? Is there a collective experience from the SDS community that can be tapped into?

  2. PeppyWatts says:

    I just started micro dosing psylicibin and took .5 grams day one, by day three I’m back to being lethargic and non motivated. Does the micrododose need to wait til day four or can I go every third day and hope to feel as great as I had the previous two days?

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