Accounting for Microdosing Classic Psychedelics, Blake Beaton et al., 2019

Accounting for Microdosing Classic Psychedelics

Blake Beaton, Heith Copes, Megan Webb, Andy Hochstetler, and Peter S. Hendricks

Journal of Drug Issues, 2019, 1–12

Doi : 10.1177/0022042619871008



Microdosing classic psychedelics (e.g., LSD [lysergic acid diethylamide] and psilocybin) is the practice of taking small amounts of these substances to bring about various positive life changes. Little is known about the subjective experiences and perceptions of those who engage in the practice. Accordingly, we use the sociology of accounts as a theoretical framework to explore the ways that those who microdose excuse or justify their practice. Using data from semistructured interviews with 30 people who had microdosed, we find that none provided excuses for their microdosing, but all offered one or more justifications. When discussing their microdosing, participants emphasized six key justifications: denial of injury, self-sustaining, selffulfillment, appeal to normality, appeal to loyalties, and knowledgeableness. Findings provide insights into the subjective experiences of those who microdose, including the ways that they attempt to align their actions with societal expectations.

Keywords : microdosing, psychedelics, accounts


People have used classic psychedelics (e.g., dimethyltryptamine [DMT], lysergic acid diethylamide [LSD], mescaline, and psilocybin) for millennia, likely to occasion mystical experience, ego dissolution, spiritual awakening, self-discovery, enhanced awareness, exploration, and adventure, among other outcomes (Johnson, Hendricks, Barrett, & Griffiths, 2019). Evaluations of the effects of classic psychedelics suggest that these drugs can lead to numerous benefits, including recovery from drug addiction, end-of-life distress, depression, and other mental health issues (Johnson et al., 2019). In recent years, a growing number of people have begun taking small doses of classic psychedelics (i.e., microdosing) for the purpose of improving their lives, their productivity, and their outlook on life (Johnstad, 2018; Webb, Copes, & Hendricks, 2019). Those who microdose say that they experience increases in mood and creativity and decreases in anxiety and other negative emotional states (Fadiman & Korb, 2019; Johnstad, 2018).

Google trend data show that searches for microdosing psychedelics have increased significantly from 2015 to 2019. The rise in the popularity of microdosing has led to an increase in media coverage of the practice. Although the bulk of popular attention to microdosing is positive (e.g., Begley, 2018; Lally, 2019; Weiss, 2019), the practice has not become fully accepted by the public, and classic psychedelics remain Schedule I controlled substances. Consequently, those who microdose classic psychedelics are aware that they face potential stigma and judgment from others and formal legal risk if caught. Like others who face stigmatization for illegal drug use, people who microdose attempt to manage the stigma of their drug use by providing linguistic accounts to align their actions with societal expectations (Scott & Lyman, 1968). We build on a previous study that examines the subjective experiences of people who microdose classic psychedelics (Webb et al., 2019) to understand how people who microdose classic psychedelics linguistically account for their drug use. In the original study, the authors explored the ways people who microdose describe their use as a rational enterprise to improve their lives. Here, we expand on the ways that people make sense of their microdosing by examining how they manage the potential stigma of using these controlled substances. To do this, we use the theoretical framework of accounts, which examines how people use linguistic devices to align societal expectations with actual behavior (Scott & Lyman, 1968). Doing so allows us to expand on the subjective experiences of those who microdose and to elaborate on the ways they justify their behaviors when questioned.