First used in Silicon Valley, microdosing is now attracting creative profiles in other areas, including Europe, seeking inspiration and productivity. What is microdosing and does it work? We asked API artist Aurélien Fache to explain the effects of his consumption of psilocybin, the active substance of hallucinogenic mushrooms.
"I even recommended it to my mother!" Aurélien Fache is a 42-year-old Parisian dad. He is both an artist and a developer. He is perhaps best known for his 2017 performance "in bed with Thomas Pesquet," in which the artist managed to synchronize a set of sex toys with the ISS fly-overs above the Earth, making them vibrate in rhythm. What this artist recommended to his mother has nothing to do with a flavor of ice cream or a brand of jam; it's all about the consumption of drugs in small quantities, the microdosing of psychoactive substances.
The man who describes himself as a "tech creative" has been interested in microdosing for over a year. This method consists in taking psychedelic substances -- psilocybin via hallucinogenic mushrooms or LSD -- in mini doses to activate certain parts of the brain normally at rest. The point? To act on our state of consciousness and modify it. In short, to be more efficient and more creative, without getting completely high.
Mushrooms and protocols
"I did a lot of research before starting microdosing," explains Aurélien Fache. There was no question of him undertaking the experiment lightly. For the effects to be both optimal and controlled, the artist scrupulously follows the protocol of James Fadiman. This psychologist published in 2012 " The Psychedelic Explorer's Guide : Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journey ." In it, the author claims that using low doses of LSD improves "cognitive functioning, emotional balance, and physical stamina." He recommends a dose ten times lower than a normal dose, and over a period of no more than a month and a half.
Rules followed to the letter by Aurélien. "I take one gram with each dose. Careful, it's the weight of the plant, not the substance contained in the mushroom. It is the dose that suits me, but it's different for everyone." This small amount of psychotropic drug is enough for Aurelien to alter his consciousness, while continuing his daily activities, including work.
For a month, Aurelien took a micro dose every three days. "You have the effect on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday you don't take it, otherwise your body is saturated and there's no more effect," he explains. And this unique course of 'treatment' does not exceed the duration recommended by Fadiman: six weeks.
The artist gets home delivery via a site that has "street cred." "Some people decide to grow their own mushrooms, but that's not my case." For 14 euros, Aurélien receives 6 doses of one gram. A practice completely illegal in France, but that does not prevent Aurélien from receiving his delivery packed in a week.
A psychological and physical boost
The artist's reasons for testing microdosing were primarily linked to work. "I am passionate about augmented reality and new realities. I saw in microdosing a bridge between immersive tech and psychedelic drugs. For me, it's one reality among others." Father to a three-year-old boy, Aurélien didn't want to experiment or approaches that were too "hard" like a normal dose of LSD, ayahuasca or mescaline that would have required more preparation and isolating himself for several days.
And positive effects were rapidly felt. "At first, I wasn't sure what to expect. And very quickly, I saw that it calmed me down. I, who used to smoke a joint practically every day, stopped after a week, along with social drinking."
The Parisian felt a "psychological and physical boost" and greatly improved concentration. "I tended to have dark clouds hanging over my head and a lot of anxiety. Within a few days, my mind cleared and the clouds dissipated. I was more at ease with myself. My thoughts flowed better. I speak more and more rapidly. I'm more present."
In his view it's the dissipation of anxiety that has improved the quality of his work. On the other hand, Aurelien disagrees with the belief that psilocybin makes you more creative. "It didn't make me more creative, but it made me more focused. And I found the motivation to do something about my ideas."
Micro-consumption: an area to treat with caution
While some people may already be envisioning the advent of "corporate shamans," a kind of spiritual guide in companies, who improve the well-being of employees, microdosing remains risky. On the one hand, the scientific study and monitoring of the phenomenon remain on a very small scale for the moment. And the results are mixed. For example, a 2019 study (" Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: an empirical codebook ") reveals that 26.6% of respondents saw their mood improve with microdosing and 14% improved their concentration. However, these results should be taken with a grain of salt. Indeed, 18% also felt physiological discomfort and 6.7% saw their anxiety soar. On the other hand, drug use, regardless of the level of the dose, is a prohibited practice in France.
In short, a microdose distributor next to the office coffeemaker isn't something we'll be seeing in the near future.
This interview was translated from French.