James Fadiman

In this episode of Plantscendence, we sit down with pioneering researcher and author, Dr. James Fadiman, who is widely recognized for his groundbreaking work on microdosing psilocybin. Listeners are transported to 1961 Paris, where Dr. Fadiman recounts his initial exposure to psychedelics with his mentor, Richard Alpert (later to become Ram Dass), and the subsequent shift in his perception of reality.  He tells the story of how he first came to research psychedelics at Stanford, and how these early experiments at the lab in Menlo Park eventually paved the way for him to develop the first modern microdosing protocols.  The episode touches upon the historical context of entheogens, including the CIA’s covert involvement in psychedelic research and the drugs’ sudden prohibition during the Nixon era. Dr. Fadiman also reflects on recent shifts in societal attitudes towards psychedelics, and their potential to treat a variety of mental and physical illnesses.

Dr. James Fadiman is a leading scientific expert on the use of psychedelics for personal exploration, healing, and transformation. Fadiman has been researching and lecturing on the topic for more than fifty years. A former president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, he taught at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, which he helped found in 1975. Dr. Fadiman has written numerous books, including The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide and Your Symphony Of Selves. Dr. Fadiman is widely considered one of the most influential figures in the field and was the first to develop a microdosing protocol for people to safely and purposefully experiment by themselves.

jamesfadiman.com

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The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide

Episode Transcript

Jim Fadiman

Well, my very first experience was, I knew nothing about psychedelics or drugs. I wasn’t drinking coffee. I was about as straight as you can get. And I was 21, and I was living in Paris and my favorite undergraduate professor was named Richard Alpert. And he came over to Europe to do a conference, the first conference on psychedelics, for the International Psychological Association with Tim Leary and Aldous Huxley.

Jon Reiss

What year was this?

Jim Fadiman

This was 1961. So, he passed through Paris, and he said, ‘I’d love to see you’, and I’d love to see him. And we went to a Cafe, and he was in really good mental shape. He was always kind of a neurotic, interesting human being, but he felt great. And he said the greatest thing in the world has happened to me, and I want to share it with you.

And I thought, Oh, cool, a story.  So he reached into his breast pocket and took out a little bottle of pills. And I am thinking, uh-uh, I don’t know what’s going on, but uh-uh. And then I thought, Well, he’s my friend. He’s come to Paris to be with me, whatever.

So, he took a little pill out in this little cafe, and I had it. And a little while later, colors started to be brighter, and I was feeling pretty good. And I was aware of people walking behind us. I could hear their conversations as would be normal. And then I had an insight, which is, wait a moment. I’ve been living in France for about nine months. My French isn’t that good. I never can hear those conversations. So, I started to pay attention, and eventually the sensory excitement got too much, and I said, I just can’t handle this, Dick. And he said, ‘Well, we can go to your room’. And so, it was fine. I had a sixth-floor walk-up. And he said, it’s too much for me, too.

And I said, I don’t understand, you didn’t take anything. He said, well it’s my first night in Paris. So that was my first experience, and it released me from a certain attachment to my kind of undergraduate academic thinking, that what you needed in this world was how many books you’d read.

Jon Reiss

Right.

Jim Fadiman

But it didn’t change reality in any fundamental way. It just kind of broke open some structures.

Jon Reiss

So you were in the cafe, right? And then you went up to your room. Did you go out into the street for a while or- it was just right there in the building?

Jim Fadiman

No, no. This was, we walked a block or two. And this was what we would now call a moderate dose of psilocybin.

Jon Reiss

Like about, what do you think in grams? 

Jim Fadiman

My guess is in gram, gram and a half, two grams maybe. And also, I had the kind of personality that probably would have needed more if I were to really let go. And I didn’t know what he was talking about, and he didn’t either. The kind of first experience I want to tell you about is much different and much stronger. And was the life changer. This kind of gave me a calling card that most people in those days had no idea what my calling card said.

Jon Reiss

Right. How old were you at the time?

Jim Fadiman

I was 21.

Jon Reiss

And had you already graduated college?

Jim Fadiman

I had graduated college, I was living in Europe, managing on as little money as possible as long as possible. My draft board wrote, this was Vietnam, and they said Hi! We’d like to offer you a travel opportunity. And I said to myself, suddenly I want to go to graduate school. 

And so, I had been accepted at Stanford before I left. They re-accepted me with lots less scholarship, and I fled my draft board. So, I was a patriotic American, and the idea of killing people that I didn’t even know just seemed like the wrong thing to do. So, I entered the United States a couple of months later, and I’m at Stanford, and it feels like a little bit of prison because I had no interest in graduate school or psychology. And I looked in the catalog and there was a course called Human Potential.

Jon Reiss

And this is after your first.

Jim Fadiman

This is after my first experience. And it was a professor and in electrical engineering, it was in the back of the catalog, kind of under specials, where professors could teach and probably not get paid for it. And I looked at the description, and something felt like this was something I should pay attention to. So, I made an appointment to go to his office.

It looks just as a professor of electrical engineering’s office would look. Barren. A couple of pictures of part of his family, a couple of books. And we talked and I said, I’d like to take your course. It’s full this quarter. You can take it next quarter. I said, ‘Well, Professor Hartman, I’ve had psilocybin several times’. The word had never come up. He never mentioned anything.

And I realized as I was saying it, this seemed just so bizarre that I just said this to this strange professor of engineering. And he stood up and he walked across the room and shut the door to his office, and we started to talk. And it turned out that he had been working with an off-campus group using LSD, and that the course allowed him to talk about certain things through directed readings and so forth. But he wouldn’t mention his own psychedelic experience. So, I not only was invited to take the course that quarter, I became the TA. Because I was willing to talk about these experiences I had had with Professor Alpert.

And after a few weeks of teaching the course, he said, ‘Would you like to meet the people who were doing this LSD work?’ LSD was just a word. And I met with them, and he said, you know, maybe you’d like to have a session with us. And I thought, oh, like I did with Dick Alpert, social, friendly, open, you know, kind of beautiful.

Why not? So, it was set up, a beautiful living room in Menlo Park, you know, above a small market and overlooking a parking lot. But a lovely living room set up. And I took several hundred micrograms of LSD. And there was Professor Harman and a woman that was helping. Fine with me. And I waited for them to take something with me. 

They didn’t quite understand that. And I think they might have taken either nothing, or an amphetamine or something. And then I felt, well, you know, maybe I’d just as soon lie down. And I put on eyeshades and headphones and vanished and lost awareness or became aware that Jim Fadiman, this thing in this box, was a subset of who I was. And I was beyond that.

My identity was not limited to the Jim Fadiman-ness. And then I also became aware that the physical world was equally diffuse or illusory or not constructive. It was simply a way of holding things visible. So, I moved into an area where there was no form and no time and no space.

And recognized that I was part of that, and it was totally the way it had always been. And there was a general good natured, “Oh, he woke up” from this universe. And as I dealt with that, I saw in the infinite far away whatever, a single light. And the universe was kind of dark. And the single light was very attractive. And as I flew towards this light, there was Jesus.

Now I had no interest in Christianity, had not been brought up in any religious tradition. And I, I looked at this with, okay. And then I was past the Jesus. And I looked back and it was the way you’d do it for a stage set. You could see the 2’ x 4’s in the back and the canvas that had been used to form this Jesus.

But what I was attracted to, and what Jesus seemed to represent, was universal love. And I went on towards the light and recognized that the universe was constructed of love. And some hours later, having grappled a little bit with darkness and realizing that darkness was an illusion. But darkness said, well, but I tricked you, and you’re now into duality.

And I came back, and to my amazement, came back as a graduate student in psychology at Stanford, which made no sense at all from my larger identity. So that approaching transcendence was exciting and almost- pleasurable is the wrong word, but enticing. Falling back from transcendence was puzzling and initially depressing.

Jon Reiss

It’s interesting. Like on my most recent journey, the next morning was a little depressing.

Jim Fadiman 

It’s kind of like you’re, you know, you’re at the top of Mount Everest, and then you’re suddenly in Cleveland in an apartment.

Jon Reiss

So I want to continue with that. But, I want to ask, it just brought to my mind, what do you think it is about these entheogens that give this perspective that otherwise we don’t encounter on a day to day basis?

Jim Fadiman

Well, the quote “mystical experience” or the experience of unity or the experience of divinity, we know in every culture. Various ways of achieving it, it’s kind of how many ways can you, you know, can you get to Carnegie Hall? There’s a lot of streets. They all lead to Carnegie Hall. 

The way the mind is designed to function as a living organism is you can’t be in that space. That’s not a space where you can go to the bank and make sure you’re getting the right amount of change, because the bank is an illusion, the money is illusion. If we think of it, matter is actually energy that is in a slow state. And if we look at my hand, it’s made of energy. It’s not made of- the atoms are there, but they’re made of energy. 

So being in a highly sensitized awareness of energy is nonfunctional. You don’t read about people in a state of transcendence doing anything. You know, they don’t say, okay, I think I’m going to build a wall because I’m transcendent. It’s, wait a moment. If I’m a brick and I’m the wall, there’s nothing to build. So, it’s not a functional part of kind of organisms. 

And one of the things that I’ve learned from later experiences, is trying to understand the nature of the universe is like a parrot fish being asked, could you explain the ecology of the reef with its 10,000 species? And the correct answer from the parrot fish is, I have the brain the size of a peanut. Why would I possibly be able to understand the ecology of the reef? And for human beings to understand the nature of the transcendent universe is equivalent. Which is, it’s silly. 

And it gave me a lifelong disinterest in theory. Because theories are an art form, and it’s an art form I don’t happen to enjoy practicing, and I’m not very interested in going to, you know, going to a theory museum and seeing the theories on the wall, so to speak. So, it changed my orientation. And I was a graduate student in psychology, partly there to avoid being drafted. So, it was a very peculiar graduate experience where I basically learned the system but was not part of it.

So, I was the only graduate student in psychology who always wore a jacket and a collared shirt and sometimes a tie when I was on campus, because I thought, I will fool the professors into their thinking I’m in the normal range. And it was quite successful, and I was able to basically go to graduate school, do a dissertation — about psychedelic therapy, but a dissertation — and life went on.

So, my first experience shifted basically all my important values. My ideas of relationship, my ideas, certainly, of the natural world, my ideas of death, my ideas of what the major religious traditions intended. All of that was an amazing and almost instantaneous shift during that transcendent experience.

Jon Reiss  

And one of the things I was going to ask you later, but it feels like it comes up now, is that -it feels like, I was going to ask you about the illegality of psychedelics, and do you think that that’s-  you know, and and i know this, I hope this doesn’t sound like a cliche, but it feels like, you know- I guess the nice way of putting it – for society to function, psychedelics, in certain people’s minds, government minds, might think that that’s not a good thing to have exist.

Jim Fadiman

Well, let’s let’s look at the illegality issue, because at the time that I was taking it, this was the  early sixties, this was a legal substance, and I was now working with this group that had given me the experience, I became their psychologist, which given that I was a first year student and knew very little psychology, suggested they had nobody. And I wrote Sandoz Pharmaceuticals who made LSD and said, ‘Can you send me any research?’

And I got two huge volumes from Switzerland, which had the abstracts, just the abstracts, of a first thousand studies. At the time that LSD was made illegal, it was the most researched psychiatric drug on the planet. And the American research community was deeply interested. It turns out much of the research was covertly funded by the CIA, and that’s a whole ‘nother story.

The CIA basically wanted to find something to destroy minds, and LSD looked like it might be that, and they found out it didn’t work very well. So eventually all their research was not only pointless and not very good, but they literally destroyed all the paperwork as the government started to investigate what had gone on.

It became illegal for no medical and no psychological reason. It became illegal because President Nixon hated certain groups. He hated Jews. He hated Black people. He hated hippies, partly because they didn’t like war. But he was aware, even if you hate people and you’re the President, you can’t just go and beat them up and arrest them and so forth.

But they came up with the notion, if you could make psychedelics and cannabis illegal, you could then go searching these groups for those substances, and infiltrate them and destroy them and arrest people and so forth. So, this was simply a device to allow the Nixon administration to go after their political enemies and their kind of emotional enemies.

We’re not used to America being actually a very powerful country anymore. But it was, and it was also a leadership country at that time. And it basically said to other countries, ‘We’d really feel good if you made these substances illegal, and you don’t really want to make us angry because we’re bigger than you’. So, we had this worldwide closing down for many years. And as you know from Prohibition, which we’d also done, that if people want something and it’s beneficial to them or gives them pleasure, it being illegal merely creates an alternative market strategy. 

And so, I finished it [my dissertation] just as the government was making things illegal. So, for my professional career I was dead. And as my dissertation chair had warned me- he said, ‘I’ll help you. But I must warn you, if you continue to do this work with psychedelics, you will never have a respectable career in psychology’. And wonderfully, he was right. I’ve actually taught psychology in a couple of universities. I also taught design engineering at Stanford. I have had a very respectable resumé, but I’ve never really had the conventional career. Thank goodness. And I’ve done a lot of other careers in between. 

One of the things that my psychedelic experience gave me is that I retained a certain flexibility of consciousness that allowed me to move into different fields, because my theory was, and it was not correct, that if you got a Ph.D., that’s kind of the top thing. They don’t make other degrees. Therefore, you should be able to do pretty much anything. Now, that’s dead wrong, because I became a college counselor and had a lot of graduate students. And what I realized is that usually a Ph.D. actually shrinks your capacity to do much because you become an expert in something, and you know very little about anything else.

And so, I’ve had a very, a number of careers, some of them very conventional, during the period when psychedelic research was basically not allowed.

Jon Reiss

Right. Which was a big- it’s been 40 years, right?

Jim Fadiman

Yeah. Let us say 40 years in the desert is not a metaphor to those of us in psychedelic research.

Jon Reiss

Right. And then picking up on that, when it started to open up in the last couple of years, it feels like. About when do you feel like it started to open up again? 

Jim Fadiman

What we say is around 2006, Roland Griffiths did a study at Johns Hopkins. And it wasn’t about therapy, it was actually about mystical experience, but it kind of broke open the new world. And the new world was able to be broken open because while psychedelics had been illegal in the United States alone, 40 million people had used psychedelics.

Now, most of that 40 million were in the top half of the educated population. So that when you now went to the Food and Drug Administration, a lot of the people there had had psychedelic experience, usually in college, not necessarily transcendent, but they no longer imagined it was scary and dangerous. They thought it was remarkable. 

So, if I were talking to a room of psychiatrists and I would say, ‘How many of you have never had any psychedelic experience?’ Because then those people would be happy to raise their hands.

So, I then immediately knew who had. They didn’t have to say anything. And then I would say, ‘Did any of you take advanced organic chemistry to get into medical school?’ They all had. Well, that turns out to be one of the places where the pre-meds particularly got their experiences. Because organic chemistry is when you are given the opportunity to build molecules that you choose. And a friend of mine at Stanford talked about that they’d had in the chemistry lab, a supply closet.

And when you took something out of a two-liter jar, you wrote your name and a little tag and you said, I’ve taken, you know, 24.5 grams of this on this date. And there was a jar of what’s called Ergotamine, which is the precursor for synthesizing LSD. And as my friend said, you noticed it was going down over the months, and there was never anyone that signed any of it out.

So, this underworld was quite extensive as long as there were universities. And I learned later, I talked to a young man once who said, ‘you know, when I was 15, I was selling LSD’. This was someone in the Palo Alto area. He said, ‘Yeah, I was selling it in the cellar of a bar’.

And he told me the name of the bar, which was one I knew of. And I said, ‘How did you do that?’ He said, ‘I had a friend at Stanford who was a graduate student’. And I said, ‘In organic chemistry?’  And he said, ‘Yeah!’

Jon Reiss

That’s hilarious. So, your first experience was with psilocybin, then you did LSD. And then how often did you do LSD after that, and did you try different experiences? 

Jim Fadiman

Basically, I used LSD almost exclusively, and not very often. Certainly, I was not a psychonaut. I was of the school that Alan Watts has a famous saying is, ‘If God answers the phone and answers your questions, you then hang up’. So, the notion was, especially with transcendence, as you noticed, even in my retelling it now, it’s over 50 years, I still have excitement. It’s still vivid, it’s still real for me. So, I didn’t need to keep checking in and finding was the universe still the same universe. So, I’ve had much less experience than most of the people I actually work with, particularly with my younger friends. And I’ve had less experience with substances because I wasn’t a substance looker.

I did a lecture at Santa Cruz one evening. And then I asked people afterwards to fill out a form. You know, what have you taken? How often? What’s your best trip? What’s your worst trip? Any extra comments? And there was one young man, a junior, who’d had like 18 different substances, and I looked at that and thought, he doesn’t care about experiences. It’s like people that put stickers from where they visited on their luggage. 

Jon Reiss:

He’s a traveler.

Jim Fadiman: 

Yeah, they were just travelers. They weren’t necessarily, they never became more than tourists. Now, he may have been a very profound young man, but it looked to me like, ‘Oh, I haven’t tried that’. And I was the other kind, which is, they actually take a long time to integrate a serious experience. And one of the projects we did in Menlo Park, in our research, is we gave people a very standard- We tried to find psychological instruments that were especially known for their stability, meaning it’s like, if I’m going to measure your eye color, I’m pretty sure if I come back in five years, it’s probably stable. Probably your height, probably, you know, that’s stable. Your belief system may shift a little bit, but not fundamentally. So, we picked those kinds of instruments. 

And what we found is, after psychedelic experiences, high dose, supported, that people’s personality was very shifted. And it didn’t restabilize for almost a year. So the idea of taking psychedelics very often felt a little bit- this is a metaphor which – which shows my age- which is, there used to be something with cameras and film called double exposure, and you took something, and it had a lot of information, and if you took another exposure on the same film, it had twice as much information, but it was much harder to tell. And if you had put a third one on that, you couldn’t see anything. 

So that was the metaphor for why you needed to space out psychedelics until you had thoroughly integrated whatever it was you had discovered. And people discovered very different things on a deep psychedelic. You heard mine, which is kind of featureless transcendence. Other people might say, you know, I remembered in my past lives that, you know, several generations ago I was a general in Russia, and I remember that I was brutal. And as I died, I thought, I hope that I somehow have descendants who are not as awful as I was. That would be an experience from a psychedelic. And again, if we look, say, at past lives, that’s a more popular belief system certainly than the Western one, that there aren’t past lives.

Jon Reiss

Right. So, what do you feel is necessary, just getting to the processing? Like, what do you feel is necessary, or that you recommend, for people to process their psychedelic experiences? And/or what do you do when you do that, or what did you do?

Jim Fadiman

Well, when I did it, we didn’t have the word integration. We did however notice that for a number of weeks, for six, eight weeks, people who’d had this major breakthrough single experience were in a very flexible state. And in that state, we actually advised them, after a few disasters, not to make major career or interpersonal changes. The disaster was, somebody took- had a beautiful experience with us on a Thursday, he met a woman on Friday, and he married her on Sunday. And what we got is, she was marrying this person with this glow, and in a few weeks, he was going to be a lot more like he actually had been, and she was going to be in trouble. So that glow period has become very important in psychedelics.

So right now, the general belief system, and I agree with it, is after a major experience, while your brain is literally more flexible, and we know that’s physically so, greater neuroplasticity and so forth and so on, that new learning and new habits are more possible. So, for instance, if someone has been an alcoholic or an addict, it’s much easier to not go back to that pattern because you can develop a new pattern more easily.

And there’s been recent research, a woman, last name Dolan has a whole position where she talks about critical periods, when learning is easier and more expansive. And the one we all know about is called childhood. We know if you want to teach a child a couple of languages, it’s not a big deal. The same child at age 30, it’s much harder, and at 60 it’s almost impossible.

That’s flexibility within the mind. It turns out that after a psychedelic, and there’s actually curiously animal research which shows this, there is the increased flexibility and behaviors that are much more like childhood. You give a child a leaf, and then 20 minutes later he’s looking at it, he’s looking, he’s turning it over, he’s tried tasting it. He’s enjoying a leaf. That’s a kind of focus and an awareness of the incredibleness of the very small that is restored with psychedelics. And one of the people after the Santa Cruz talk said, ‘I’m going to give you a new word, Dr. Fadiman’. And I said, ‘all right’. She said, ‘hikeadelic’. I said, ‘What’s a hikeadelic?’ She said, ‘That’s when you get a bunch of friends, and you all take a low amount of LSD, and you hike together out in nature’. She said, ‘We do that about once a quarter’.

Jon Reiss

Interesting.

Jim Fadiman

And I thought that’s a very useful way of integrating the experience, by understanding that an appreciation of nature will last, and you will feel better going into nature way after the glow has gone. Because you’re putting in the habit of appreciating nature more closely. So that’s the kind of thing I’m seeing. 

Jon Reiss

And are you the pioneer of microdosing? I think you are the pioneer,

Jim Fadiman

Yeah, I am. 

Jon Reiss

And how did that come to you to do that?

Jim Fadiman

Well, it’s a very peculiar thing for me — and I think the universe has a great sense of humor — is for 40 years, my entire interest in psychedelics has been in very high doses. Lower doses are therapeutic, lower doses or for creativity, um, but I was interested in this transcendent world. And so somehow, I get introduced to microdosing, which has no psychedelic effects practically at all. That’s really the definition of microdosing is. It has no psychedelic effects. No visions, no anacondas.

Jon Reiss

No canvas Jesuses.

Jim Fadiman

No canvas Jesuses. And even the flowers don’t turn and kind of say, ‘Hey, man, I know who you are’. None of that. So, I’m minding my own business, and I’ve written, I’m writing a book called The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, and a friend of mine named Robert Fort says, we have lunch, and he’s talking about super low doses, like 20 micrograms, 10 micrograms.

And he’s saying they’re useful. And that Albert Hofmann, the man who first synthesized LSD, used them himself. And said, if Sandoz had ever researched these super low doses, they never would have been a market for Ritalin. And I thought, well, maybe I’ll just ask some people. And when you’re living part time in Santa Cruz, there’s a lot of people who, if you say, have you tried this? They’ll say, no, I’ll try that. So, these are called psychonauts. And people said, you know, it’s really pretty good. It feels good. And I began to get interested.

And then I went to Chicago and gave a general talk and talked about microdosing at the end of it. And one of the people, this was an artist collective in Chicago. And one of the people afterwards came up to me and said, ‘Hey, man, wouldn’t it be cool to send a bunch of microdoses to people and ask them to report to you?’ And I said, ‘Oh, that sounds just terrific. I should send people an illegal drug in the mail with a return envelope with my address’. He said, ‘No, man, I’ll do that’. So, he did. So, we sent out, you know- and psychedelics, LSD comes in a tab, a kind of piece of cardboard with little subheads in it, little bits, and there’s a picture on it.

Well, he developed a normal eight and a half 11 page with about 20 little tiny thumbnail photographs of Janis Joplin and Albert Hoffman and Ginsberg and kind of the icons of the era. But in back of each of these little parts of the paper was a little dot. And on that dot was ten micrograms. And with some instructions. And those went out to a bunch of people. And since he was an artist, he said, ‘Well, let’s send them a pen and a pad as well, with my address’. So, I started to get reports, and that began research into microdosing. 

Because the reports were both remarkable and varied and interesting. They ranged from kind of a lawyer with a little outline each day of what she would experience to someone who would write two or 3000 words a day, usually philosophy, that was quite good. And my favorite from that group, because that was a learning experience, is someone who recovered from a very rare but well understood condition, which is when you go to Burning Man, when you return, you get depressed. And she said ‘For the first time, because I was microdosing, I didn’t have the post Burning Man depression’. And that was very interesting.

Jon Reiss

What year is this?

Jim Fadiman

This was 2009 or 2010. This was 2010. And that’s where microdosing started. And I just started letting people know that I was interested, and they could write me. And eventually I got several, you know, like a foot and a half worth of reports from people that I’d never heard of who just wanted to share what was going on for them.

And that expanded it into a larger research project. In the Netherlands, the Microdosing Institute was established about five years ago one could do this legally in Holland.

There’s now people really throughout the world, because one of the research projects, is we said to people, if you write us, we’ll send you kind of safe instructions and ask you to fill out a little form every day for 30 days. And we ended up with about 1500 reports from 51 countries. And that in itself told us a lot, and that gave us the first wide span of what it seemed to be good for. And so that’s what’s happened and that’s what’s continuing to happen. 

Last week I got a letter from a woman who was talking about her recovery in part from epilepsy. Now, if you look at the, if you do “epilepsy, microdosing”, there should be even on Google, there shouldn’t be anything. But she was saying that she was able to walk more steps in the last few months than she had in the prior few months.

Epilepsy is- the disease only goes in one direction, and she’d had it for many years. So that’s the kind of excitement that keeps me going because I now want to explore what are the possibilities with something like epilepsy. And I have one more case of a much older woman with a different condition who also talks about increased mobility. Now, we’re not talking about miracles and cures, but we’re talking about improving one’s capacity to enjoy such life as one has.

Jon Reiss

What’s the reaction to, like, the American Neurological Association to this?

Jim Fadiman

Well, again, you see, we have the same group. The American Neurological Association, by definition, doesn’t accept evidence that they don’t generate, which is kind of a religious position if you think about it. But they do have a lot of members who’ve had psychedelic experience. So, it’s- I’ve done some journal articles, and the editor always takes out all of the most fun parts, and so I really don’t want to do those anymore, because the most fun parts are what people are most interested in.

Because what we’re learning is, microdosing is not about any specific condition, and thinking of it as a pharmaceutical is just wrongheaded. Thinking of it as a vitamin is a better metaphor, a better kind of group. Because no one says to you, well, what condition is vitamin D for? And you say, well, that’s the wrong question. Vitamin D is good for the body. It makes the whole system work better.

Jon Reiss

And what is it about microdosing that you feel has these effects?

Jim Fadiman

Well, that’s a question which ends up as theory, and I won’t go there. But the notion is that if you’re able to think more flexibly, and if you’re blood is circulating more easily, and if your kidneys are flushing better, and if your digestion is improved, and your sleep is improved — and you know, I’m talking about where we’ve got lots of reports saying all this — that your system is running better. 

Like if someone says, well, how can I live to be older? You say it’s very simple. It’s called exercise, diet, sleep and relationships. Well, if microdosing — and we have a lot of data because people tell us — I’m nicer, I enjoy my kids more, I’m less quarrelsome, I can put up with the kind of people I couldn’t ever put up with. I’m even nice to my parents. I’m sleeping better. I’m also doing more exercise and enjoying it.

In fact — we have a lot of athletic performance things — I’m literally better. My favorite was a guy who did half marathons for pleasure, and he said, I started using microdosing in my training, and he said, I have a race coming up. I’ll just see. And he wrote me that he had taken 20 minutes off of his half marathon time.

Jon Reiss

Wow.

Jim Fadiman

And he said, that’s the best I’ve run in ten years. So, we have exercise, and then we have this kind of mental ability where, again, people use it not to become higher creative, but to become, in a sense, more creative, where they are able to spend more time in their best creative space. And a lot of journalists who interviewed me, and I would say it’s very good for first drafts, and then I would get a letter a couple of days later saying, yeah, you’re right.

So, what we have is something that doesn’t fit the usual mechanism, because that’s a shrinkage, but it fits the notion of what heals the system. For instance, we know that falling in love heals the system. It actually physiologically improves most functioning. That isn’t the only reason it’s so popular. So, what we’re seeing in microdosing is something that doesn’t, it doesn’t fit the medical model, it fits the wellness model, and it fits the wellness model extremely well. 

And then when you go into indigenous use, 35,000 years ago, when Australia was first being settled by Aborigines, they found a particular plant which they could use for long walks without food or water. Now Australia is fundamentally a desert surrounded by a wonderful coastline and a lovely little, you know, 95% of Australia lives within like 20 miles of the ocean. But the interior is very tough. And so, one of the things we see is microdosing was used as part of what they did when they found this continent or when they walked over from the land bridge. So, we’re seeing the return of indigenous understanding of the basic healing properties and specific uses. 

So, if we say, go and look at Ibogaine in Africa and we look at the Bwiti, the tribe that is most associated with ibogaine, what do you guys use it for? Well, high doses, it’s a big religious experience of integration, of becoming a grown up, of being in contact with the ancestors. How about microdosing? Oh, we use that for hunting. And also, it’s pretty good for sex. But if you think of it, what does a hunter need? They need improved vision, they need improved reflexes, they need improved stamina. That’s what microdosing does for healthy people. Literally changes those parameters.

Jon Reiss

How do you feel that a microdose protocol fits into larger experience journeys? Like if you’re integrating, like do you lay off microdosing to integrate the large experience? 

Jim Fadiman

Well, a question I get often, which is, ‘I’m going to take a high dose, I’ve been microdosing, should I stop? Should I not?’ And my answer is, we don’t have any idea. However, it seems sensible to clear your system, like a dieta, before you’re going to take a high dose. And after a high dose, you’re in the glow, and microdosing shouldn’t have much to do with it.

Now again, when we go to plants and away from synthetics, it might be different. A woman said to me, ‘I took ibogaine, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I was nine’. She’s about 50. ‘The night after ibogaine, I slept, and I sleep well now’. And she said, ‘and I take a little bit of ibogaine every day’. I said, ‘Why do you do that’? She says, ‘I want to keep in touch with the plant’. So, it’s a microdose with a very different orientation. And her major concern — I mean, she actually didn’t know that it would have that effect. She was just involved with people, and they said, ‘let’s do ibogaine’, and she’s an adventurer.

So, we don’t know what’s the best-  the rules are for microdosing, start low, go slow, and take time off. That’s for normal microdosing. Start low. Meaning whatever the range is, start at the bottom of it. Because if I give microdosing to 100 people within the dose range I think is good for most of them, 10 or 15 of them will say, I really want less than the bottom of your dose.

One out of the hundred or one out of 200 will say, I need more. So, the first thing is start below what you think is right. Go slow, meaning don’t take it that often, and you don’t raise the dose unless you really feel that’s going to work, and then you try that. Independently- and I invented kind of a protocol of one day on and two days off. Taking time off came independently from almost every group I’ve ever dealt with, that they feel it’s appropriate to take time off. And now what we know is that allows the body and especially the brain cells to integrate literally so they are maintaining the improvement, not the medicine.

Jon Reiss

Yeah. So, when I started it, I was doing one day on and one day off, and I started at 100 milligrams of psilocybin. So, it’s like 1/35 or 1/40 of a big dose. And I’m still on that, but I did it every other day. But no one told me that, oh, you should probably take two days off a week kind of a thing. I just learned that recently.

Jim Fadiman

Yeah. Again, that’s taking time off during, and then now and then you should take a few weeks off, and that’s what people have found. See, I look upon people as citizen scientists. If the citizen scientists say it looks like a good idea to take time off, that’s fine. It’s almost impossible to measure. But if most people do it, then probably most people have — see we talk about common sense like it’s not good. It’s actually wonderful. It’s what we’ve all found works. You know, it turns out it’s common sense to be nicer to people. There’s no research. Okay? Except for the thousands of years of civilization where everybody found that.

Jim Fadiman

Microdosing for LSD right now, and we keep lowering it every couple of years, it’s around 7 to 12 micrograms. That’s about a reasonable range. For psilocybin, it’s 1/10 of a gram to maybe 4/10 of a gram. Basically, if you are- the problem for people with LSD experience is they think, well, a microdose is going to be like a little high, and it turns out that if you get a little high with a microdose, that’s too much.

And that’s the story that makes it clear to me, there’s this guy in sales, and he’s been microdosing and feels good and so forth. And he thinks, as we do, if ten is good, 20 is better. So, he takes 20 micrograms, he goes to work, and there’s a sales meeting and he’s in the sales meeting and he thinks, ‘I don’t care about the product’. A little while later he says, ‘I don’t care about sales’. And then he does something very intelligent. He goes home and he realizes that at that level of psychedelic, he doesn’t care about sales or the product, but he does like his job and there’s nothing wrong with the product. And so, he says, so I didn’t do that again.

That’s what people begin to do at any dose level. So, pharmaceuticals, just because you’re in business, have to be different sizes, and usually not too many. I think when people say, well, how do you learn to dose yourself? I say, how do you learn to take how much ice cream for dessert? And what you say is, well, it changes, it’s different. It depends on the flavor and how, you know, hungry I am and what else I’ve eaten. I say, right. Your body has to tell you what’s the right decision. And here’s a starting range that most people find this much ice cream is about what they like, and this much is probably a little too much.

Jon Reiss

Great. I love that analogy. So yeah, back to my other question. What do you see as the future? I heard- I was thinking of going to MAPS. I didn’t go, kind of regretting it, but I heard 12,000 people there, crazy, and lots of companies starting up. Like what, 200 companies? And so, what do you see as the future?

Jim Fadiman  

Well, the future of psychedelics is they’re going to help the mental health and physical health of people, in a slow way. Microdosing is moving much faster because it doesn’t frighten anybody. It’s infinitely cheaper. And plants and fungi don’t know they’re illegal, so they keep growing. Probably the business that’s most interesting to me of psychedelics is mushroom kits, where people grow things at home that they think are good for their health.

So right now, if you’re in Holland, you can go to a shop and you can get what you like, and you take it as you would. That’s the future. And on that is coaching and support and research and all the other things. But this is- the idea that something which does no harm and does a certain amount of good, sometimes a lot, should be anything but available doesn’t make good sense from governance, from medical, and from social, and whether cultures will come to that on their own, as Holland has, we’ll see. The United States is a very peculiar country with very bizarre ideas about medicine, in part because it’s so confused with money. If I’m Denmark, and I, as the government, pay for all the drugs, and you’re using antidepressants for 30 years, which costs over 30 years, I don’t know, $25,000, because I get them not too expensively. Or it looks like people microdose and it costs about $0.10 a dose, and they do it maybe 30 times. And for a certain number of them, they have no depression. For another number, they keep taking it. The total cost over 20 years is maybe $500 or $1,000. If I’m the government, I have an interest in healing. If I’m a medical system built on, I only charge you when you’re ill, I have a vested interest in maintaining a certain level of illness.  

It’s not the way any physician would- they don’t feel, they feel bad about that, but that’s the system. So, I see us, in an optimistic mood, moving towards sensibleness. In a non-optimistic world, climate change probably will destroy humanity before we get psychedelics well established. So, it’s a good- I’m on the side of people behaving better and wanting also a better life for their children, and psychedelics and microdosing in particular, seems to me one of the ways worth considering.

Jon Reiss

Thank you very much for your time, Mr. Fadiman. It’s been a pleasure and an honor, and I hope we can continue communicating in the future.

Jim Fadiman

Well, I’m extremely pleased that you evoked in me as much excitement about what I’ve done and what we’re doing as you have. I tend to kind of feel like once I’m being observed by the media, that I should feel more respectable. And you managed to overcome that very well.

Jon Reiss

Good. Well, I’m happy that I did. Thank you so much.

Jim Fadiman

Thank you.