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Is Heroic Dosing Necessary For Healing?

Updated: Jan 1

Five grams of mushrooms, alone, in silence and total darkness… The ‘heroic dose’ was popularized by the late psychonaut Terrance McKenna whom I generally like, although I’m not a fan of the term and am now seeing it carried forward into psychedelic therapy. Oftentimes without great results. It is truly moderate doses of psychedelics that are demonstrating benefit for mental illness in clinical trials. Yet I find there is a pervasive belief that ‘more drug = more healing’ or get intake forms saying things like ‘I’m on meds so my guide says I will need a hero’s dose’.

Many of these people are in their 50s, 60s, or 70s, have hypertension or another seemingly mild cardiovascular condition, are psychedelic naïve or have not taken them in decades, and take relatively small amounts of psychiatric medication. They are reasonable candidates for psychedelic use overall, but not for ‘heroic doses’. The term ‘heroic dose’ is fraught with machismo and pushing your limits with higher doses of psychedelics out of the gate could carry risk you may not want to take on.

Now, there is certainly a range of sensitivities persons have to psychedelics and some will need higher or high doses of achieve their experiential or therapeutic goals, but this is not heroism. Unless the problem you wish to heal is a lack of humility and you prefer learning the hard way, I’d tend to favor erring on the side of lackluster compared to overwhelming at the start.

Working on understanding effects of low or moderate doses, gauging sensitivity, and building confidence with the psychedelic is helpful. Plus there's a still good chance you will get great results. It can be frustrating to not achieve immediate, rapid results or meet the Godhead on your first or second try, but it is better than being terrified, feeling destabilized, and getting spooked off.

Dr. Benjamin Malcolm, Spirit Pharmacist

Dr. Ben Malcolm is a clinical psychiatric pharmacist who works as a Psychopharmacology Consultant & Psychedelic Educator.

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