3 Questions

3 Questions With Author/Educator/Social Worker Amy Wong Hope

New book aims to demystify microdosing

The puritanical streak rippling through America has enabled gaps of knowledge on the effects of microdosing, but the grip is loosening. New Mexico lawmakers this year adopted a plan for new research on psilocybin, for example. It goes to show how dedicated researchers, educators, participants and scholars are working to not only demystify microdosing, but to arm people with the right information. Among them are writers Shin Yu Pai and Amy Wong Hope’s Small Doses of Awareness: A Microdosing Companion. The book and guided journal delves into Pai and Wong Hope’s experiences and expertise as a way to help new converts get the information they need should they start their microdosing journeys. Enter as well a pair of launch events to celebrate the book (6 pm Friday, March 1. Free. The Ark, 133 Romero St., (505) 988-3709; 11:30-1:30 pm Saturday, March 2. $45. Best Daze Palace, 128 W Palace Ave., (505) 585-4937). We spoke with Wong Hope to learn more. This interview has been edited for length and concision. (Alex De Vore)

You’re the expert: Can we quantify how well microdosing seems to be helping people yet, or is it too early?

It is too early right now, but at least what the research is showing is that microdosing is inconsistently helpful. We have to remember there are all these controlled variables to impose in order for it to be reliable and validated. The issue with microdosing is that it’s more of a subjective personal practice that people engage in, and when they do anecdotal, qualitative research where people are microdosing out of their homes versus coming into a lab…they don’t really see big effects with those groups. I suspect possibly people don’t carry through with a very long protocol in a research study with a lab, because they have to do it every three days.

It’s also very hard to gather the data, because to do a psych experiment requires an inordinate amount of review by an internal review board as well as that it has to be cleared with the FDA and DEA because psychedelics such as psilocybin are not federally legal.

What do you see as some of the obstacles for people interested in microdosing?

I think the first one is: Where are people going to get their microdose substances, and what are they? Are they legal where you are? If you’re in New Mexico, they aren’t yet. It’s legal to grow mushrooms, but not legal to dry them or distribute them.

Another thing is people’s expectations of what microdosing is going to do for them. I would say microdosing…requires a subtle and nuanced ability to [be mindful], so you can be aware of the subtle shifts that are happening. It requires or calls for someone to be really committed to their integration. People think psychedelics—because there is so much out there, like the Michael Pollan series and book; the research headlines we’re seeing every other day in mainstream media—it can sometimes propagate this idea that psychedelics alone are panaceas for trauma and depression. I’m here to educate so people don’t harm themselves.

I’m not here to advocate for everybody using psychedelics, but they are a catalyst. And they can do things like increase our neuroplasticity. Is that any different than anybody who takes an antidepressant? But they have to take care of what’s happening in their lives. When I do trauma therapy with clients, they’re so insightful, but what does it take to take that insight and really work it into the soil and really nurture it and water it? The psychedelics can be a catalyst or an aid, but each human being is still responsible for doing their work.

Does New Mexico have programs and/or facilities for folks curious about microdosing?

Right now I’m teaching a psychedelic studies certificate program at Southwestern College—a one-and-a-half-year program where I teach a one-weekend course every quarter for a total of six classes, and I get a really interesting demographic range. Somewhere under half are students at the college who are studying to become master’s level counselors, and some are practicing clinicians who are very seasoned. And I’m really excited I have such a strong demographic of practicing clinicians, because it’s telling me they want to learn more. Right now there are research experiments happening at University of New Mexico using psilocybin. UNM had the first DMT experiment run by Dr. Rick Strassman in the ‘90s, and that’s really where the psychedelic renaissance started. If people want to learn on their own, there are programs, there’s a lot on YouTube and in the podcast world and there are wonderful organizations putting out free content.

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