These working moms are microdosing to boost productivity and find balance

May 28, 2024

7 mins

These working moms are microdosing to boost productivity and find balance
Rose Costello


Working moms across America have found a new way to keep calm and power through their days while juggling multiple roles. Their secret: taking tiny doses of psilocybin, a chemical substance found in ‘magic’ mushrooms. Once used mainly in religious or healing rituals, magic mushrooms are still taken for their hallucinogenic and psychedelic properties. But others now take them in microdoses to be more efficient, focused, and empathetic. Psilocybin’s new popularity has some people nervous about the possible ill effects and others excited about the potential.

From Silicon Valley to the homes of America

It’s 9am on a Thursday, and Kiana Anvaripour is glowing across the Zoom screen from her home in California. She’s been up since 5am, but this mom of two little girls is far from frazzled. Already, she has spent an hour exercising, had a healthy protein breakfast, and dropped her kids off at school. “I drink lemon water. I meditate. I have a cup of coffee. I do weights or go for a run,” she says. “Then I probably put in a nine-hour day.”

While 5am starts are not unusual for dedicated biohackers like Anvaripour, she has a secret that helps to keep her energized and motivated. What makes her routine different from those of most health-conscious working moms is that a few mornings a week, in addition to taking supplements such as turmeric and omega-3, she pops a capsule containing a tiny dose of psilocybin.

What is microdosing?

Anvaripour is among the 13% of Americans who have tried psilocybin. Adults taking magic mushrooms for recreational purposes have described it as going on a “journey” and their trip might last the whole day or more. Microdosing means taking no more than 20-30% of what an adult might take for a “full trip.”

Those who are most likely to have tried psychedelics are liberal, with a postgraduate education and an income of more than $100,000, the YouGov report adds. Another report indicates that 17% have microdosed psychedelics, whether LSD, mushrooms, or other substances.

Microdosing with mushrooms for productivity may have started in Silicon Valley, but the trend has since spread to stressed mothers wherever it is accepted, with groups such as Moms on Mushrooms springing up to offer guidance. Psilocybin is illegal under federal law, though allowed in Colorado and Oregon, and it’s on the road to wider acceptance in other areas, such as California.

How widespread its use will become is hard to say, as support for legalizing psychedelic drugs “is relatively low among Americans overall,” according to YouGov, though it’s much higher among “people who have personal experiences with the substances—especially in the case of people who have used mushrooms.”

“You don’t really don’t feel anything,” says Anvaripour, regarding her experience with microdosing. “It’s not like having a glass of wine or taking marijuana; it’s more of an attitude adjustment. I just feel like a better version of myself. I have empathy. I can focus on the day—as opposed to other things going on.”

Pushing through perimenopause

As chief executive of No9, a marketing and creative agency in Los Angeles, Anvaripour is no stranger to putting in long hours, but it wasn’t until after the birth of her second daughter in 2018 that she began to find it all a bit too much. The arrival of perimenopause in the last few years only added to the stress.

When she was younger, she used to force herself to do punishing workouts to stay fit and enjoy a dopamine hit. “That worked in my 20s when I was an Energizer bunny,” she says. “But as I got older, whole wellness—mind, body and soul—became a necessity for me. I wanted to feel better so I could be a great leader and a present mom at home.”

Anvaripour decided to try psilocybin four times a week, and she began to notice a difference after a few weeks. “I work a lot, but it’s balanced with a routine that allows me to be my best self—and that started with plant medicine,” she says. “We all have stress that pushes us to do more and strive harder [but] I’m able to not let things escalate. I don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Reconnecting with what matters most

Some studies indicate that magic mushrooms can disrupt communication in the brain’s default mode network, which is active when we self-reflect. Dialing down the sense of self-awareness may lead to a greater feeling of openness and increased connectedness to the world.

That has been the experience of Evelyn Quintana, a virtual assistant based in California, who microdoses mushrooms about once a week. “When I first started microdosing, I felt more heightened awareness and more love for the people in my life and the world around me,” she says.

It has also helped her relationship with her four-year-old son, whom she home-schools. “When I microdose in the morning, I find that I am able to get more into his world and have a deeper interest in playing in his imaginary worlds,” she says. “I am able to slow down and really be with him, rather than rushing from reading books, to washing dishes, to vacuuming and so on. I am also better at planning out the day and following through with things like organizing my home or making beautiful dinners. It just helps me stay more focused, peaceful and happy.”

Quintana began microdosing because she wanted to feel more energized and to deal with her occasional depression without taking pharmaceuticals. “I also wanted to feel like I enjoy life more, which it does help with a lot,” she says.

Lost in thought

Like Quintana and Anvaripour, Aine Rock, life coach and mother of two believes in the power of plant medicine, though she started microdosing on a whim, rather than as part of a plan. “I had signed up for a meditation retreat but that was canceled, so I was looking for a way to take a ‘mini-retreat’ at home,” she explains. “I had also committed to a dry January and thought microdosing could be a fun way to make the time without drinking pass more quickly.”

Rock, who is now a microdosing guide, started with a three-month “protocol” of microdosing three to four days a week. When she began microdosing, Rock had a good balance of workouts, eating well, consistent meditation practice, and daily journaling. “These, it turns out, are important tools to support a microdosing protocol,” she says.

The first day she took it, though, she felt a little spacey, she explains. “I almost missed a meeting because I was ‘lost in thought.’ But after that, I got into a good rhythm with it,” she says. An appropriate microdosing amount is sub-perceptual, she adds. “It’s not a high enough dosage to be hallucinogenic, but I like to say things felt ‘sparklier’ and my mood was really good. I didn’t miss drinking at all, had lots more energy, felt more patient and present with my kids and overall felt a gratitude and euphoria about life.”

Microdosing has helped her to give up alcohol completely. “I felt absolutely no urge to drink and it’s been 15 months since I stopped,” she says. “I had to cut back on caffeine because I became more sensitive to it. Because I cut out these two, my sleep is better, no more waking up at 3am, my mood is more stable, and I lost 15 pounds without changing anything in my diet—except my daily wine habit.”

In addition to affecting mood, psilocybin can alter perception and thinking processes. Users may experience hallucinations or hear voices. At some doses, it can lead to “mystical experiences” that can be blissful or may cause fear or panic.

Rock has found that not everything that comes up with microdosing is positive. “Often the mushrooms bring to the surface feelings that we have been ignoring,” she says. Over the past year, she has overhauled her life, including filing for divorce and leaving her marriage of 15 years.

“I believe the clarity and courage to do this came in large part from working with the plant medicine to heal old wounds and to face the situation at hand,” she says, adding that this was done with the support of therapy, movement, mediation, and community. “Having resources and support is essential, especially if you have any past trauma,” says Rock.

Proceed with caution

The 2021 Global Drug Survey notes that “regardless of the psychedelic used, they appear to be remarkably well tolerated by the vast majority, though approximately 10% reported unwanted physical or psychological effects.”

Dr Lynnette Averill, co-founder and chief science officer of Reason for Hope, which advocates for safe access to psychedelic medicine and assisted therapies, says, “Psilocybin can increase heart rate and blood pressure, which can be especially dangerous for anyone who already has related issues such as uncontrolled hypertension or arrhythmia.” Other effects can include anxiety, paranoia, perceptual disturbances, and headaches. Though rare, there can be longer-term adverse effects such as hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder. These are all generally noted in larger, non-micro doses.”

However, Averill says that, according to our current understanding, these side effects are minimal in most cases. “Several studies have commented specifically on the relative safety of psilocybin as compared to other medicines and illicit drugs,” she says. “Generally the side effects of psilocybin are less, and better tolerated than many other psychedelics and honestly [better tolerated] than many other traditionally available psychiatric medications.”

The most common reasons given for experiencing unwanted effects in the 2021 Global Drug Survey were related to dose and frequency or timing of dosing, which could potentially be negated by tweaking the pattern of use. When someone takes psilocybin, the body converts it to psilocin, which attaches to and activates receptors, or binding sites, for the brain chemical serotonin. Researchers think this action is responsible for much of a person’s subjective experience when they take the mushrooms.

There isn’t much research available about microdosing and the potential consequences of regular use, Averill adds, which could tell us about safety and tolerability. Most of those who use psilocybin in larger doses don’t tend to do it regularly, she points out, unlike those who microdose. “This is a very different sort of experience for the body—how it is affecting the brain, how it is metabolized and excreted, etc. may be different with regular long-term use versus very occasional use,” she says. “These effects and differences may not be negative in nature. The problem is we just don’t have research to know.”

Averill points out that members of various indigenous groups have used psilocybin and other plant-based medicines for centuries and this knowledge has proved comforting for some of the mothers interviewed here, including Anvaripour. “Many people have had incredible journeys, incredible healing experiences, taking macro-doses, but that’s different from microdosing,” she says.

Anvaripour, who has never had a bad experience with magic mushrooms, plans to continue using them, as does Quintana, who believes it can help working mothers to bring balance and peace into their lives. She also suggests that anyone considering taking this path should consider their own mental health and check with a doctor before beginning a microdosing journey.

Photo: Thomas Decamps for Welcome to the Jungle

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