The study’s participants did, however, report lower levels of stress and depression. It was this that drew Rosie to try it. “I’ve done the traditional treatments,” she tells me. “Therapy helped hugely – it got me out of a seriously bad place and to a functioning one. And for many years, I was functioning very well, outwardly. No one would have known. But inside, I was a mess.”
Antidepressants failed to work, so she stopped taking them after the birth of her buy shrooms canada second child, comforting herself with alcohol instead. “I wasn’t getting blind drunk and peeling myself off pavements,” she says. “But if I felt bad, my mind would immediately travel to the next drink I could have. It was the only thing that helped block out the sadness.”
That changed about a year ago, when friends began talking about microdosing. Rosie wondered whether it might have a positive effect on her mental health. She gave up booze, went online and found a company in Holland selling kits for growing your own magic mushrooms.
In the very early days, she got the dosage slightly wrong and found herself, “not tripping at all, but staring at a tree for slightly longer than passersby would find normal”. Otherwise, she says, the only down side is, “I can’t take it after 5pm or I can’t sleep.”
She is scrupulously careful to keep her mushrooms far out of the reach of her pre-teen children. “But it definitely doesn’t impair my ability to parent,” she says. “If anything, my awareness is sharpened.”
There is, however, one major danger in Rosie’s mind – its illegality. She has agreed to meet me on the proviso that I keep her identity a secret. “I have two kids. I’ve got responsibilities. And although I believe completely in what I’m doing, these are still class A drugs.” Growing kits are illegal to possess in the UK and she says: “The thought that the company now has my name and address in their records makes me nervous, as did the fact that they mailed the kit to me through the post.”
Once her kit arrived, there were more concerns. It came with strict instructions to wash her hands up to her elbows and keep her mushrooms as sterile as possible, to prevent bacteria growing. “Blue streaks appeared on their stems,” she says. “As a novice, that was really scary. I didn’t want to kill myself with contaminated mushrooms. I went on lots of forums to check, and it turned out it’s just a normal, safe form of bruising.
“It would be much safer if it was legal, so you could openly seek expert advice,” she concedes, but adds, “I’ve taken antidepressants with lists of side-effects as long as my arm. Now I’m taking something with no known side-effects and it’s working. In life, you make risk calculations every day. Is it safe to cross the road? Should I have one more glass of wine? This is just another of those. And I’m significantly happier as a consequence.”
Just how much of a risk is microdosing? Research in this area has a long and trippy history. Used to treat mood disorders, from anxiety to alcoholism in the 1950s and 60s, psychedelics including LSD and psilocybin became classified as illegal, class A drugs in Britain in 1971. Since the US had also criminalised them the year before, research into their clinical use ground to a halt, while horror stories about recreational overdoses and bad trips abounded.
Then, in 2011, came Written by American psychologist and researcher James Fadiman, it introduced the term microdosing into popular culture, setting out appropriate doses (10 micrograms of LSD every three days) and including glowing first-hand reports of improved productivity. He attracted evangelical followers in the US, and then across the world. Scientific research into the practice began, too.
“There’s only one genuine concern about microdosing,” says David Nutt, former chief drugs adviser to the government and author of . “There’s a theoretical possibility that a relatively low dose of LSD, taken every day, could narrow the heart valves.” Beyond that, he says, there is no evidence that even “full” doses of LSD are dangerous to health (though clearly, the ill-advised actions of those under its effects can be). But users should not underestimate its illegality: “Possession carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison,” he says.