Before embarking on an initial journey with a new substance, it is imperative to carefully select a proper dosage level. If you neglect this step of the process, it can have negative impacts on your psychedelic experience, including physical discomfort, psychological trauma, or even the most final of outcomes—death.
There are several methods that can be used to determine a reasonable dosage level for a new drug. Some are more cautious and reputable than others, but at the end of the day it is each psychonaut’s responsibility to make sure they are comfortable with the dose they choose to take. Going into a journey confidently is important.
One tried-and-true approach is to read the dosing web page located within a substance’s section on Erowid. Erowid has been providing accurate information about psychoactive plants and chemicals since 1995, and the dosage web pages can help psychonauts choose an appropriate dosage for the type of experience they wish to have. There are various levels from which to choose: “Threshold”, “Light”, “Common”, “Strong”, and “Heavy.” While Erowid is a great resource for most substances, finding information about novel research chemicals or rare psychoactive plants that don’t yet have full profiles on Erowid can be a difficult task.
If you are thinking about trying out a relatively unknown substance, you could peruse drug forums like Bluelight, DMT-Nexus, or Shroomery to see if other psychonauts have experimented with it and lived to tell the tale. Sometimes they will supply information about their chosen dosage level along with feedback about how the trip went.
Alternatively, you could ask people you know to see if anyone has suggestions to share. Please use caution when getting dosage level guidance from Internet drug forums or friends, keeping in mind that the advised dosage levels found on Erowid have been validated by years of collectively sourced trial-and-error.
But what if you want to go it alone, objectively guesstimating what a sane dosage level would be? In that case, you could follow the advice of the late psychedelic chemist Sasha Shulgin, who shared a few pointers about his approach to selecting safe dosage levels for new drugs in his book PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (“PiHKAL” stands for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved”).
Shulgin’s starting point with a new drug was roughly 10 to 50 times less (by weight) than the known active level of its closest analog. If he had any doubts, he would reduce that by another factor of 10. Most of the time, compounds are active at the milligram level, but with some entirely new, unexplored classes of substances, it is necessary to start below a microgram—an incredibly low dose to measure without professional laboratory equipment! You can rest assured though, as there are very few compounds that are active at levels well below 50 micrograms.
Another technique that Shulgin employed was to aim for an ineffective initial dose, which means that it would have no perceptible effects. In other words, a “minus” on the Shulgin Rating Scale. After establishing that the initial dose does not produce any noticeable effects, Shulgin would gradually increase the dosage over the course of several sessions to explore the substance’s particular characteristics. If at any point he noticed warning signs during a “threshold” or “light” experience, that red flag could indicate that there might be problems with a higher dose.
Imparting the importance of choosing a reasonable dose while cautioning that it is impossible to do so with 100% accuracy, Shulgin reminds his readers that “There is no completely safe procedure.” Ultimately, we end up making our decisions based on “a mixture of intuition and probabilities.”
Selecting an appropriate dosage level for a new drug is crucially important, but it can definitely be a challenge. Some substances with a long history of usage have ample dosage level advice that has been verified by multiple generations of psychonauts. However, other drugs may be relatively new and untested.
Make sure that you put some careful consideration into this step before beginning your next psychedelic trip, because adequate preparation could potentially save you from an uncomfortable (or even deadly) experience.