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When Microdosing Isn’t Working...

Written by
Dana Harvey
The Flourish Academy

Let’s face it.

Microdosing doesn’t always work. Microdosing isn’t always right for everyone.

To be honest, microdosing might not work at all, as some studies imply the benefits of microdosing might simply be the result of the placebo effect (and, let’s just put that in context for a moment, there are also studies that imply SSRIs and other pharmaceutical benefits are simply the result of the placebo effect as well).

However, as a Microdosing Educator and Guide who has supported hundreds of people in their microdosing experiences, I dare to say that for the majority of people who have told me “I tried it, but it didn’t work” or “I liked it, but I had to stop because [some negative side effect]”, there may be reasons WHY that is and, when those reasons are explored, they often open the door to microdosing benefits.

I think the best place to start this discussion is to make a distinction between “taking a microdose” and “microdosing for transformation”.

An analogy I use to illustrate the distinction is yoga.

Perhaps you’ve heard about all the amazing benefits of yoga, and you decide “Hmmm, I’d like to experience those benefits. I think I’ll go check out a yoga class.”

So, you go to a class, and you love it! You come out of the class feeling calm and limber. You’ve got those endorphins running through your body. You think “Wow, I think everyone should take a yoga class if they make you feel this good!”

And from then on, every once in a while, you take a yoga class, and it makes you feel good.

Maybe you even get your friends to come along to some classes, too, and you all feel good afterwards, and it becomes something you do together for fun. In this analogy, that scenario equates to “taking a microdose”. You try a dose because you’ve heard it can make you feel good. Maybe you’ve heard people describe the feeling of a microdose as the equivalent of a 2-beer buzz or feeling like you’ve had a couple glasses of wine. Or you’ve heard people say, “I took a microdose and just giggled the whole evening”.

So you take a microdose and, indeed, you feel that lovely buzz. Maybe you get your friends to try and you start to microdose recreationally together – like, instead of getting together for drinks, you microdose and hang out. When you want to get a bit giggly, you take a microdose – like taking a yoga class when you want to feel calm and pumped.

And indeed, giggly and buzzed is how you can feel if you take a small dose of psychedelicmedicine; although, I’d like to point out that if you are feeling that way, you’ve likely taken more than a true microdose – more like a mini dose or even a medium dose – as a microdose by definition is not intended to make you feel buzzed or giggly or impaired in any way. A dose like that, though, can – like a yoga class – make you feel good! No judgement.

Coming back to yoga...

Taking a yoga class, as I’ve just described, can definitely make you feel good, BUT, if you are looking for transformation from yoga, like a leaner body, more flexibility, increased strength, enhanced mindfulness, then one yoga class here and there isn’t going to do it.

To experience the long-term, sustainable benefits of yoga, you’ll need to undertake a yoga practice. That is, you’ll identify the long term benefits or the transformation you intend to achieve, and you’ll shift your lifestyle to work regular yoga practice into your life in order to support your goals. You’ll probably have a schedule of classes you take for a period of time. You won’t do yoga every day – you’ll have breaks in between classes. Some days you might not feel like doing the work, but know you’re working towards the benefits, so you stick with it. You might work with an experienced yoga teacher who can support you in your transformation. Ideally, you’ll incorporate other practices or shifts into your life, too, to support your yoga practice. Like breathwork or cold plunges, or better nutrition.

On the days you take yoga, you may or may not feel that yoga-buzz, but, over the course of time and by sticking with the practice, you will subtly start to notice the benefits. You’ll become leaner, stronger, more limber, more calm and present in your everyday life.

This is comparable to undertaking a Transformational Microdosing practice – microdosing in order to experience the long-term, sustainable benefits that you read about in the headlines and
that so many people are seeking through microdosing such as:

  • reduced symptoms of certain conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, and depression
  • Improved creativity and problem-solving abilities
  • increased focus and productivity
  • improved mood and emotional well-being
  • increased intuitive or spiritual awareness – a greater sense of purpose and meaning in


These are some of the long term, sustainable benefits that are possible when you undertake a
Transformation Microdosing practice, vs the “day-of-effects” you might feel when you “take a

So let’s just start there:

Why isn’t microdosing working for you? Why aren’t you achieving the benefits you’ve hoped for?

Perhaps you are approaching microdosing like taking a yoga class vs undertaking a yoga practice and expecting the results that come from an intentional, long-term microdosing practice from just taking a small dose here and there. If you want to experience transformation from microdosing, keep in mind James Fadiman’s 4 point definition of microdosing:

  1. The practice of consuming small amounts of psychedelic substances (1/10 – 1/20 of a
    recreational dose, so that’s about 10 – 250mg of psilocybin, for example);
  2. Taken in a structured protocol (ie: 1 on 2 off, 4 on 3 off, 1 on 1 off);
  3. Over a period of time (average 4 – 12 weeks);
  4. In an intentional way (for long term, sustainable benefits).


So that, in a nutshell, is #1 of my top 5 reasons why microdosing might not be working for you:
you are not approaching it as a practice for long term, sustainable results.

Reason #2: You’re taking too little

My rule of thumb for Transformational Microdosing is: start low, go slow. Microdosing is not meant to make you feel high or impaired. You are definitely not meant to have any hallucinogenic effects. A Transformational Microdosing practice is meant to take place in the background so you can get on with all your regular, daily activities.

That being said, James Fadiman, who coined the term “sub-perceptual” for microdosing, has
since reneged on that a bit. He now says “sub-hallucinogenic”. He explains it as “The flowers
might look a little brighter, but they’re not going to turn around and smile at you!” 💐

If you feel no difference between the days you dose and you don’t dose, and, over the course of
time, you are not noticing any subtle benefits you may be taking too little.

I always recommend you start at a low dose and stick with that for 1 – 2 weeks before considering adjusting your dose higher, because the benefits of Transformational Microdosing often creep in on a cellular level that you only really become aware of through tracking or

Reason #3: You’re taking too much

Well, first of all, if you feel impaired, high, you’re hallucinating, you have uncontrollable giggles, you can’t focus or concentrate, you’re taking too much. Those are pretty simple effects to pinpoint and know you’re taking too much.

On a subtler level, I have clients report back to me that microdosing isn’t working for them because:

  • it makes them feel sleepy
  • they find they get easily distracted
  • they don’t feel like they are completely present
  • they find they have a headache at the end of the day
  • they feel restless or even a little manic

As a result, they are feeling like they don’t want to microdose on workdays, or when they’re with their kids, or if they have social obligations.

If you feel uncomfortable on your dosing days or feel it inhibits you from any of your everyday activities, it’s possible you may just be taking too much. Try a lower dose and keep in mind you’re looking for the long term benefits, not day-of-dosing effects.

Taking too much is definitely the most common reason I find that people stop microdosing or think it’s not right for them.  (Keep in mind, sometimes these “side effects” are actually the medicine talking to you and trying to bring something to your attention. Like, if you feel tired when you microdose, perhaps you’re burning the candle at both ends and not acknowledging that to get better, you need to get rest, so the medicine is amplifying the tiredness to a point that you can’t ignore it. How can you tell if a dose adjustment is needed or a lifestyle adjustment is needed? A Microdosing Guide or Coach could help you with that.

one yoga class here and there
isn’t going to do it

Reason #4: You don’t think it will work

As I mentioned earlier, some studies imply the benefits of microdosing might simply be the result
of the placebo effect. And some studies have shown that the benefits of microdosing are
influenced by what is called “expectation bias”. That is, in some blind studies, if people thought
they were taking a microdose and they expected it to work, they reported that it did – even if they
were taking the placebo.

What does this mean? Let’s come back to James Fadiman who urges us to consider the
placebo effect of microdosing to be a benefit of microdosing. In a nutshell, who cares if it’s the
medicine or your mind that is actually making you feel better, the bottom line is, you’re feeling better!

So, if you expect microdosing to work for you, it’s more likely to work for you. On the flip side, if
you don’t expect microdosing to work for you, it’s less likely to work for you.

That’s the reason why I’ve learned not to take on clients who are kind of “pushed into it” by their spouse, or their parents or a friend. I often get approached by, say, a wife, who asks me to work with their husband and the husband reluctantly comes along but without the expectation that it will work. Most likely it won’t for two reasons 1) because they don’t expect it to and 2) because they are not going to do the individual work they need to do to support the microdosing.
And that leads into reason #5, the most prevalent reason people report microdosing isn’t
working for them.

Reason #5: You expect it to be a magic pill

Microdosing is not a magic pill. It is not a panacea or a cure-all. Transformational microdosing isa practice, a tool, a relationship, even a lifestyle, if you will. It is not the pharmaceutical model of popping a pill in the morning, masking your symptoms and getting on with your day.

If you pop your microdose and expect it to do all the heavy lifting for you, it will likely not work.

Tracking, journaling, meditation, ritual, relationship, gratitude, SUPPORTING the microdosing with complementary modalities, BEING the medicine yourself – using your own power – is what leads to transformation. Transformational Microdosing is a reciprocal relationship. The more you put into it, the more you will benefit.

This is often the hardest part of educating people about microdosing. The pharmaceutical model that our culture has embraced for at least the past 50 years is really ingrained in our psyches.

So, to learn how to build a relationship with the medicine, how to work with it and support it so it will work for you is a new model for many of us. On that note of microdosing not being a magic pill is the fact that, in some cases, microdosing may make you feel worse before you feel better.

That’s because psychedelics are known as “non-specific amplifiers”. They will bring up whatever is in your psyche that needs to be dealt with. Sometimes, you’ll feel weepy. You might feel tired. You might feel grumpy or angry. These can be GOOD things to feel because the medicine is bringing you a message. The message is to explore these feelings, understand WHY they are coming to the surface. The message is to sit with these feelings. Work with these feelings. So you can clear them and come out the other side experiencing the long term, sustainable benefits that Transformational Microdosing can bring.

That takes us back full circle

The yoga practice analogy. There will be times, especially when you first start your practice, that you hurt. Your muscles aren’t used to the stretching. You can’t concentrate. Your mind isn’t used to staying focused in a practice. 

Would you give up? 


You know that stiffness, soreness, lack of focus, are all pushing you in the direction of the long term benefits you are after.

Don’t give up. Work with a guide, a coach, a therapist, someone who is experienced with
microdosing. This could be your opportunity to get to the root cause of whatever might be causing you dis-ease in your life. Just when you really feel like microdosing isn’t for you, because you are feeling worse, not better, is exactly when microdosing might be doing exactly what it’s meant to do.

I have personally mentored 250+ people through microdosing protocols, so if you think I might be the best person to support you, please reach out! You can book a complimentary Discovery Call with me here.

Written by

Dana Harvey

The Flourish Academy

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