Can You Build Tolerance From Microdosing Psychedelics?
Updated: Jan 9
If you've been microdosing for a while or considering microdosing for the first time, you might have wondered whether you can build a tolerance to psychedelic substances by microdosing requiring you to continue to take higher and higher doses to experience the benefits.
This is a common question for many microdosing practitioners and a critical one for those individuals with a history of substance use disorder who have valid concerns about the abuse potential of the practice.
We know that tolerance to substances like psilocybin and LSD seems to develop very quickly. Taking a standard dose of these substances two days in a row will produce noticeably lighter effects on the second day and if repeated daily, it is likely that by day four or five, there will be little to no effects experienced. In fact, even taking twice the standard dose is unlikely to induce a psychedelic state at that point. This rapid tolerance-building mechanism is responsible for the low abuse potential of these substances.
But how about microdosing? Can microdosing psychedelics reduce the efficacy of the small dose or subsequent larger doses?
While there is practically no high-quality clinical research conducted into the effects, dosage, and dosing schedule of microdosing that can potentially help answer this question, it is reasonable to assume that if rapid tolerance is achieved in high doses, then daily administration of a small dose is likely to have a similar outcome. This is precisely why every known microdosing protocol includes a number of dosing days followed by a number of "off days" often referred to as "integration days". Not only that, but microdosing experts also recommend taking multiple weeks off of microdosing altogether to avoid developing a tolerance. For example, the Fadiman protocol recommends one dosing day followed by two non-dosing days, followed by a fourth dosing day for 4-8 weeks, followed by 2-4 weeks of no dosing at all.
Although in the case of large doses often a period of one or two weeks is needed to "reset" the brain back into a baseline, in the case of microdosing which often involves 3-10% of a full dose, a 1-3 reset days followed by occasional reset weeks is likely sufficient to prevent developing a tolerance. In my personal experience and also working with hundreds of clients at this point, this hypothesis seems to hold up. In many years of microdosing, I have not only not increased my dose but even managed to reduce it without compromising any of the benefits.
"What if I've been microdosing without a break for a while?"
Most experienced microdosers know to take "off days" in between dosing days but the importance of "off weeks" or "off cycles" is not always understood or emphasized. If you've been microdosing for a while without observing "off cycles", you are likely not giving your brain the chance to replenish and restore properly and therefore not experiencing the full spectrum benefits of your practice.
To reset and restore your baseline, take a minimum of 8-12 weeks off of microdosing. When you return to your practice, you will likely notice that you need a smaller dose to notice the effects so start small and adjust your dose as needed.
When it comes to psychedelics, less is more not only in microdosing but also macrodosing! Long-term mindful practitioners of psychedelics often report reverse tolerance building which means that over time they develop and nurture a level of attunement and sensitivity that allows them to access enhanced levels of experience, visions, and insights on smaller and smaller doses of a substance. Personally, I have experienced this as a journey of initiation into new dimensions of mindfulness, embodiment, and presence.