Paul Austin on Microdosing and the Future of Psychedelics – Below the Line with James Beshara

Key Takeaways

  • Microdosing involves taking sub-perceptual dose of a psychedelic
    • The effect? – A slight enhancement to your sensory experiences and more of a present-state awareness
  • Advice for first-time microdosers: start low and go slow
    • Take a tiny dose (~5 micrograms of LSD or ~0.1 grams of magic mushrooms) 1-2x a week
  • According to Paul, over the next decade, as psychedelics become legalized, their use will grow primarily through microdosing, not high-dose experiences
  • We’ve had 25 years of stagnation in regards to the treatment of mental health issues
    • Psychedelic therapies seem to be changing this
  • What does the next 5 years hold for psychedelics?
    • Both MDMA and psilocybin will become legalized for medical use in 2021
      • “In 2024, you’ll likely see 1,000-5,000 centers around the globe who offer psychedelics for medical use to treat PTSD, depression, alcoholism, end-of-life anxiety, and possibly a handful of other things” – Paul Austin
    • “I think you’ll see psychedelics decriminalized in most Western places, whether at a city, state, or national level” Paul Austin
  • “I think having a consistent psychedelic practice is useful. It’s healthy and beneficial by and large. If it’s done every 6-12 months for the remainder of someone’s life, they’ll probably have a better life than if they didn’t do it.”– Paul Austin
    • That said: “By no means is it a magic pill. Doing psychedelics every 6 months won’t matter if you’re not taking time to reflect, journal, and commit to your own personal development.”

Books Mentioned

Intro

  • Host – James Beshara (@jamesbeshara)
  • Paul Austin (@PaulAustin3w) is a social entrepreneur in the psychedelic space. He’s the founder and CEO at The Third Wave.
    • Paul’s been featured in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Economist, and Forbes for his pioneering work regarding microdosing, and his work with a psilocybin retreat center that he co-founded in the Netherlands, called Synthesis
  • Today’s Below the Line drink of choice: Matcha Rise teaRIOT
    • It contains 100 mg of l-theanine

The Psychedelic Waves

  • The first wave of psychedelics? – Indigenous use (As far back as 10,000 years ago, humans were consuming small doses of psilocybin mushrooms)
    • In The Bhagavad Gita a drink called soma was written about (it was thought to be made from psilocybin mushrooms)
    • Ayahuasca has been used in the Amazon for centuries
    • The ancient Greeks consumed kykeon, a psychedelic beverage
  • In 300 AD, when Christianity became a thing, we started to see more stigmatization surrounding psychedelic experiences
    • This continued until…
  • The second wave of psychedelics: the 1950s and 1960s
    • There were ~1,000 research papers published on psychedelics during this time
    • During this wave, psychedelic use was associated with a “counter-culture” and going against authority – this resulted in a political backlash
  • Now, we’re in the third wave
    • “Microdosing, the impact that it’s had and how it’s grown in popularity… it’s insane what it’s done from a media standpoint, repainting the public perspective of psychedelics” – Paul Austin

Paul’s Psychedelic Story

  • Paul grew up in West Michigan in a traditional Catholic family
  • “I always loved to read and explore ideas; I was very curious” – Paul Austin
    • This curiosity led Paul to start smoking cannabis when he was 16 and try psychedelics for the first time when he was 19 (Paul is 28 now)
  • Paul’s first psychedelic experience was in high school after a best friend convinced him to try mushrooms
    • “It was on winter break. We were in my basement, and we ate a handful of mushrooms. It wasn’t that breakthrough of an experience. It wasn’t until I did acid 5 months later that I felt connected to the energy around me… It was transcendent; it was profound. It opened me up to a new perspective. – Paul Austin
      • Over that next summer, Paul says he took acid (LSD) ~10-15 times

Microdosing 101

  • James has never microdosed, he’s only had one psychedelic experience with Ayahuasca
    • On the experience: “It is something I would definitely put in the top 5 most profound experiences in my life”
      • (This is quite common, most people say something similar)
  • Paul has a microdosing course on his site, The Third Wave, which he started 3 years ago
    • The site gets ~500k visits/month (70% come from the U.S.)
  • What exactly is microdosing?
    • Taking a sub-perceptual psychedelic dose
      • Because of this, you might feel a slight “glow” or “buzz”
  • What are the effects?
    • “Things are pretty level and grounded… It just brings a slight enhancement to everything.” – Paul Austin
    • Many people report feeling more present

Advice for First-time Microdosers

  • Start low and go slow
    • Don’t overdo it – take a minimal dose (~5 micrograms of LSD or ~0.1 grams of magic mushrooms)
      • Increase slowly over time until you find a dose that’s right for you
    • The first time you microdose, do it in a setting you’re comfortable in (AKA not at work)

Dissecting the Public Perception of Microdosing & Psychedelics

  • Microdosing is NOT just something tech bros in Silicon Valley do for productivity (this actually the minority)
  • Many think: “Psychedelics are illegal and therefore they must be harmful”
    • But it’s not true: “If used intentionally and responsibly, psychedelics are healthy to consume” – Paul Austin
      • (and they’re also not addictive)
    • “Tylenol is more toxic for your body than psilocybin or LSD” – James Beshara
  • Psychedelics aren’t just for hippies
    • “Most of the people who use psychedelics are your normal, regular, everyday people” – Paul Austin

The Psychedelic Decriminalization Push

  • Denver just decriminalized psychedelics
  • Berkely is about to decriminalize all plant medicines
    • Oakland already has
  • There’s a 2020 initiative to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in California
  • From a business perspective, this is all huge
    • A great business opportunity: create something that makes it very easy to grow psilocybin mushrooms at home (in places like Denver, this is now legal)

The Last 5 Years of Paul’s Life

  • ~5 years ago, Paul started his first business (an online teaching business)
    • He scaled it to a team of 8-10 people
  • While building his teaching business, Paul started The Third Wave in mid-2015 after experiencing some success with microdosing
  • From The Third Wave arose Synthesis, Paul’s psilocybin retreat center located in the Netherlands
  • Paul recently moved to Berkeley from New York

Treating Mental Illness

  • We’ve had 25 years of stagnation in regards to the treatment of mental health issues
    • Psychedelic therapies seem to be changing this
  • One of the reasons James finds the psychedelic space so exciting is because a handful of his family members have struggled with mental illness for quite some time
    • “I’ve seen how little innovation, how little creativity, how little improvement we’ve had in our cultural approaches to mental health in the last 20 years… In terms of every bucket of healthcare, it’s almost like it’s frozen in 1999. Nothing has happened in the last 20 years.” – James Beshara
  • Psychedelics seem to be more effective than antidepressants at treating symptoms of depression

The Dialogue is Changing

  • Psychedelics are getting more and more positive publicity
    • Podcasts have certainly been a catalyst
    • The legalization of cannabis has also helped
      • “In many ways, cannabis is the real gateway drug; it familiarizes Western culture with a drug-induced altered state that is not the result of alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine.” – Paul Austin
  • Paul adds – “Psychedelics make us more adaptable. They make us better able to process information, learn, grow, develop, and invest in ourselves.”
  • Check out Rick Doblin’s recent TED Talk on psychedelics
    • His main point: “Psychedelics are here to help consciousness triumph and to help save humanity in some degree” – Paul Austin

The Next 5 Years | What will 2024 bring for psychedelics?

  • ~10-12% of people in Western culture have tried a psychedelic
    • “The assumption is that when psychedelics become legalized and ‘medicalized,’ that number will probably grow by 3-4x” – Paul Austin
      • But the primary way it will grow according to Paul: microdosing
  • Ketamine is currently available in clinics to treat depression (although it’s not technically a psychedelic, it’s a disassociative)
  • Both MDMA and psilocybin will become legalized for medical use in 2021
    • “In 2024, you’ll likely see 1,000-5,000 centers around the globe who offer psychedelics for medical use to treat PTSD, depression, alcoholism, end-of-life anxiety, and possibly a handful of other things” – Paul Austin
      • “You’ll potentially see a million people using psychedelics every year starting in 2024”
  • “I think you’ll see psychedelics decriminalized in most Western places, whether at a city, state, or national level” – Paul Austin
    • Because of this, you’ll start to see more “informal psychedelic guides” who you can hire to serve as a guide for your psychedelic experiences 
  • What are the side effects of all this?
    • Mental health issues will drop (or at least flat line)
    • More venture capital will flow towards social impact
    • More people will want to work for companies that take care of their employees and have a cool story/vision
      • “We’re creeping more and more towards a post-material culture where people care less about material things and more about purpose, meaning, and commitment” – Paul Austin

Set an Intention

  • Before a psychedelic session, Paul recommends setting some sort of intention
    • “A psychedelic loosens things up a little and allows you to see things with a greater perspective. If you have an intention, you receive insider clarity on that intention.” – Paul Austin

How do psychedelics work?

  • “What psychedelics often do is open the cloud so you can see the mountaintop. But after your experience, you have to come back down and keep climbing the mountain.” – Paul Austin
  • Psychedelics decrease activity in a part of the brain known as the default mode network (DMN)
    • If the ego had an address, that’s where it would be
    • When we’re thinking about the future or past, we’re using the DMN
    • Interestingly – very experienced meditators have reduced activity in their DMNs
  • Why do some of these compounds seem to have a long-term effect that far exceeds its presence in the body?
    • An analogy for what’s happening:
      • If you’re on a ski mountain, over time, ruts develop, and you tend to follow those same ruts/paths to go down the mountain (these are analogous to your debilitating thought patterns)
      • After a psychedelic experience, those ruts are removed, and you’re forced to develop new paths within the brain

Paul’s Psychedelic Diet

  • “Most of my psychedelic use over the last 9 years has been with LSD. A good chunk of my psychedelic use for the past 9 years has been with mushrooms. A moderate amount of my psychedelic use has been with other substances: MDMA, ketamine, DMT, and San Pedro.” – Paul Austin
    • “Most of my psychedelic experiences have been in the woods with acid”
  • What about microdosing?
    • Paul’s been microdosing for quite a while, once or twice a week, for months at a time (he’ll often take a few months off to reset himself)
    • He stopped microdosing while living in N.Y. – “It was too intense. There was too much energy and stimulation.”
      • Now, living in Berkeley, Paul tries to time his microdosing days (which he still does 1-2x a week) when he’s going hiking, or when doing creative work
  • A great metaphor: Every 6 months you go get a deep clean at the dentist (analogous to a high-dose psychedelic session), but you also brush your teeth every day (similar to meditation)
  • “I think having a consistent psychedelic practice is useful. It’s healthy and beneficial by and large. If it’s done every 6-12 months for the remainder of someone’s life, they’ll probably have a better life than if they didn’t do it.”– Paul Austin
    • That said: “By no means is it a magic pill. Doing psychedelics every 6 months won’t matter if you’re not taking time to reflect, journal, and commit to your own personal development.”
    • “Working with psychedelics is a longer process than taking a handful of mushrooms for a few hours. It’s really a 6-month commitment.”

The 3 Stories That Have Shaped Paul’s Life | Story #1

  • In 6th grade, Paul went to Costa Rica with his dad to watch turtles lay their eggs
    • “We were so excited. There were supposed to be 300 or 400 turtles that came in from the ocean to lay their eggs. There was a single turtle that made it in.”– Paul Austin
  • What did Paul learn from this?
    • Never get your hopes up and to be grateful regardless of expectation
      • James adds: “It’s a pattern I’ve noticed doing this podcast – how destructive expectations can be to satisfaction in life”
        • Happiness = Experience – Expectations

The 3 Stories That Have Shaped Paul’s Life | Story #2

  • In college, Paul took a trip to Tanzania on safari and brought some acid along with him. It was quite the trip, in more ways than one:
    • “You’re among wild creatures and animals. You see wildebeest eating the grass. You see the energy coming from the sun feeding the grass. You see tigers hunting the wildebeest. You see the way energy circles.” – Paul Austin
    • “That experience, being involved in that ecosystem in the Savannah, made me realize that I was just an animal and that a lot of our wisdom is rooted in our evolutionary history” – Paul Austin
    • “We pulled up next to a crew of lions… They were 10-15 feet away. Experiencing something that large, that wild, and that close to me on LSD [~100 ug] was REALLY interesting. That plugged me in to this understanding of how we’re connected to the ecosystem we live in.” – Paul Austin

The 3 Stories That Have Shaped Paul’s Life | Story #3

  • Earlier in 2018, Paul spent some time at a retreat center in Costa Rica for an Ayahuasca experience
    • “I came back to my roots and the understating of why my work was important to me. I came to a new understanding of myself and where the next 10 years would bring me.” – Paul Austin

Additional Notes

  • James recalls hearing a quote – “San Francisco is the least American city where America gets made”
  • “The path is never straight. The path is always a spiral. It’s nonlinear. But what remains important throughout the path is to focus on the process and the journey.” – Paul Austin
  • “Psychedelics don’t make things easy; they just make things more honest” – Paul Austin
  • “Most investors would rather be conventional and wrong than unconventional and right. You can keep your job if you’re conventional and wrong.” – James Beshara
    • “This is such an analog to life, in general”
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