Just about as soon as microdosing became trendy, I got skeptical. About a year ago I spent back-to-back weekends coast-to-coast, first in San Francisco then in New York. I was traveling for work — to learn about psychedelic science in the West and then global drug policy in the East — but more than the main events, I looked forward to the side shows, the after parties and what secrets the cities held during the witching hours.
A Coloradan, high on legal cannabis, I wanted to know what other drug cultures held and what mysteries they could unlock. These cities, among the most progressive and populous in the country, have spawned a drug trend or two in their days and housed the countercultures that came with it. I wanted to know what was happening now, in this bizarre moment of the dawn of a post-prohibition world.
At first I was ecstatic — everybody wanted to talk about LSD and I thought I’d stumbled on the ground-level goings on of a new generation of psychonauts. Rather than being regaled with stories of altered worlds and heroic journeys into inner worlds, I listened to dozens of stories about improved concentration, increased efficiency, better corporate culture.
“How drab,” I thought to myself as I listened to story after story about how much better work was now. A few even tried to convert me, with all the zeal of an Oxi-clean commercial, promising a miracle solution to remove the stains of modern life. “You can unleash your genius,” they’d say, “five micrograms at a time.” One woman tried to seduce me by calling it the flow state, adding “it’s just like Adderall, but more creative.”
I always kind of hated Adderall. It’s not like I didn’t try it once or twice in my college days and glory in its wildly productive benefits, but I almost considered it an intellectual crime. For me, learning has always been something that bordered on sacred and something that was hard for no other reason than it was supposed to be. Adderall has its time and place, sure, but in my opinion, there is something lost when you trade in the agony of an all nighter for the comfort of a sure thing.
I can’t help but wonder the same about microdosing — wonder if it’s just another prescribed way to stay alert in a world that has come to bore us. I wonder if we’ve gotten so numb to our lives, so saddened by them, that we’ve become desperate for a way to acclimate, rather than doing what it takes to make meaningful change.
And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. If it takes a little LSD to say good morning like you mean it, why not slip a little tab onto your tongue? There is emerging science that suggests the practice can really improve emotional and physical well-being at no perceived cost to function of body or mind. And many experienced psychonauts are trading in their epic big trips for the minimum effective dose.
But in my own experiments with microdosing I was bothered by the subtly, which is to say I am one for big trips. I don’t want to be like Lance Armstrong, taking just enough to win while staying under the radar. Nah, I want to trip out loud, seeking an altered experience that challenges the world as I have come to understand it.
Or at least that’s what I was thinking to myself last week while taking my ritual walk down my country road, smoking my nightly spliff — just a little bit of tobacco rolled up with a little bit of weed. And then it hit me — I have been microdosing cannabis for most of my adult life. Oh, the hypocrisy!
Especially since legalization, I have been a fairly regular cannabis user. But I can count on one hand the number of times that I have gotten stoned. The first was the first time I bought cannabis from a dispensary back in 2012. Eagerly I took one unsuspecting hit of some really strong flower and was sent to the proverbial moon and back.
I learned my lesson and quickly, doing what I could to mitigate getting blasted away, smoking up just enough. Just enough so that it’s easier to take a deep breath, so that my shoulders drop down and back and my inner thinking comes alive. But not enough to make me sleepy or anxious.
It turns out that I am not alone as shoppers in legal markets are increasingly turning to smaller and smaller doses or less intense strains that mix well with the daily routine. And just as it gains popular favor, the medical marijuana community is beginning to embrace it, too. They aren’t just saying to use the minimum effective dose, but that the less you use, the better it works. Call me converted.
My change of heart reminded me of a moment not so long ago, sitting outside of a teepee waiting for a Peyote ceremony to begin. Anxious as we waited, a fellow participant and I made small talk about how we justified our own drug use, in its myriad forms. I told him I worried sometimes that I was taking a shortcut — no matter if it was to enlightenment or to just getting through another day, it is a shortcut nonetheless.
“What’s wrong with a shortcut?” he asked. “It may be a shortcut, but nobody says it’s easy.”