The constant stress of motherhood can lead to chronic depression and burnout, but these UK moms who microdose think they have found the solution
Let’s face it, being a mother is hard. We ask a lot of moms, and too often there are no good solutions to the inevitable depression that comes with the tedium of long hours and endless chores. In many households the mom is the anchor for the entire family, and chronic depression can lead to mothers withdrawing from the connections essential to nurturing their children and loved ones. SSRIs and other antidepressants are often unhelpful, or lead to a flattening of emotion. Is it any wonder that many moms are now turning to microdosing psilocybin to treat depression?
Despite the legal restrictions against psychedelics, more mothers are turning to the illegal, unregulated market because pharmaceutical drugs have failed them, and they want to be better for their children. This decision obviously comes with enormous risks, but to understand why microdosing psilocybin is suddenly an attractive option to many moms, consider the risks of raising young children in a fog of chronic depression.
Rebecca T., age 34, a business development manager from Bedfordshire, England, believes taking low doses of psychedelic mushrooms has helped her come to terms with her cancer diagnosis, which she learned about when her son was just 14 months old. Antidepressants left her feeling numb, but by taking low dose psilocybin capsules and tea, she feels that she’s able to be a better mother.
“My cancer had been growing inside me for 15 years when we found it.” Says Rebecca, who lives with her husband and now 4 year old son.
“It wouldn’t respond to chemo or radiation, and the tumour was so huge and entangled with my bronchial that I had no choice but to have my entire left lung removed.”
Before psilocybin, Rebecca felt hopeless. She was sure she’d never get to see her son grow up. It hurt to be close to him so, instead of embracing the time she had, she started to distance herself and do things to set her family up for a life without her. She deliberately got a new job where she had to travel a lot and was earning more money to put aside for when she was gone. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Rebecca was extremely vulnerable and forced to face a bleak reality.
“I went to a really dark place. I was pushing the boundaries of self-harm and dancing with the idea of suicide.” Rebecca recalls. “Pain and pushing my life to the edge was the only thing that seemed to cut through the numbness I experienced from SSRIs. I was like a robot. I knew I had to do something before it was too late”
Rebecca was living in Oregon at the time of her diagnosis, where psilocybin had just been made legal for therapeutic use in a supervised, clinical setting. She wondered if it might help her. So she decided to try ‘microdosing’ using psilocybin capsules she got from a friend. She staggered her microdosing routine, taking 0.12g capsules for two days on, then taking three days off. She repeated this routine for 9 months.
She wasn’t alone. A study performed by LifeSearch has found an enormous 43% rise in UK psilocybin users, with one in 10 adults having micro-dosed their way through the pandemic.
When Rebecca was taking her capsules, she didn’t have any visuals or profound experiences, as is to be expected with microdosing. But she did suddenly find she could go about her day normally.
Dr. Ben Sessa, Co-founder & Head of Psychedelic Medicine at Awakn clinic explains, “If you’re microdosing properly you shouldn’t feel it. As soon as you feel effects, that’s a threshold dose, not a microdose.”
Although many people do experience benefits from microdosing, it’s ‘threshold’ doses of 20-30mg that are used in large scale studies, along with psychotherapy, for depression. However, Dr Sessa stresses threshold doses should not be used every day, cautioning, “that could do you harm. That could trigger psychosis or anxiety and other problems.”
For Rebecca, even low doses of psilocybin were transformative.
“I started to reclaim my life.” Rebecca says “I stopped self-harming, I started setting down roots like I was going to be around much longer.”
Rebecca decided to up her dose, taking 0.25mg as a tea, which she took once or twice a week for a year, eventually titrating the dose to 0.5mg.
“With higher doses I did notice some effects,” she recalls. “Colours were brighter. I could hear the birds. I laughed until it hurt. I spent hours playing Lego with my son and dancing around the kitchen. I started to realise that the things I’m worrying about aren’t what’s important. The heaviness I’d been feeling began to melt away. I stopped taking my SSRI. Instead of running from my fears, I started asking, why am I afraid of these things?”
Since taking mushrooms, Rebecca quit her job and got a new one she loves that gives her more time with her family. She and her husband sold everything they owned and moved to the UK – something she never could have imagined doing before.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to create a new pathway where I just get to be authentic with my time here on Earth. Taking psilocybin allows me to be a better mother. Instead of pushing my son away out of fear, I’m able to be present and enjoy what I have, here and now.”
Charleigh C., 32, a photographer and mom of two from London, England, has also been using psilocybin to battle depression, with incredible results.
“I grew up in a low-income household and faced emotional and physical neglect as a child,” Charleigh shares.
“As an adult, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and CPTSD. I tried loads of different talk therapies for 11 years, and many antidepressants that stopped me from feeling anything at all. I [felt] a completely negative energy in all of my relationships and I wasn’t being the best mother.”
Charleigh believed in the anti-drugs narrative that psychedelics would ruin her mind. “That really put me off,” she admits. “But in 2019 I read some books and watched a few documentaries about psychedelic therapies. I spent two years building up the courage to actually do it.”
Charleigh bought two 1g chocolate truffles infused with psilocybin and prepared for her trip.
“I closed myself off in the conservatory, just in case I had a funny turn. I didn't want to scare my children, who were in the house with their dad,” remembers Charleigh. “I made sure I was wearing comfy clothes. I had water and snacks.”
She took one truffle, then decided to go all in and took the second truffle 20 minutes later.
“At first I felt emotional, but very happy. I was highly aware of my tongue, my fingerprints, the patterns on my skin and the colour yellow!” says Charleigh, laughing at the memory. “I felt motherly towards myself and I saw that my relationship with my mum was not what I thought it was, that it was actually quite toxic. That was hard. The truth of it all hit me like a truck. But I also felt loved and protected. I could feel that I have a team cheering me on from the sidelines. I realised that even the darkest part of myself wants me to succeed.”
Showing me the journal she kept during her psilocybin experience, Charleigh points out, “I wrote I feel okay, now. And I do.”
After that, Charleigh microdosed with psilocybin tea for 45 days, two days on, two days off. She didn’t have another trip. But her experiences set the wheels of healing in motion. “You don’t just have a trip and find everything’s sorted. You’ve got to put the work in, and I’ve started doing that.”
Charleigh’s life is very different now. “My kids say that I’m a lot more fun, which is heart-breaking, but true. Before, we’d hide at home all day, but now we’ll go for a swim or to the park. I can actually sit and play with them and be silly with them. I feel like I’ve been shown that I don’t have to stay in one particular emotion or thought track or cycle. There are other possibilities, and that gives me so much hope for the future.”
Although these two case studies show the promise of psilocybin and psilocybin microdosing to treat depression, it should be mentioned that to date there have been multiple placebo controlled microdosing studies that have failed to demonstrate microdosing efficacy in treating depression beyond a placebo response. The general consensus in the scientific community is that more research is needed to fully understand what dose range and scheduling routine is most safe and effective.
If you are interested in microdosing psilocybin, try to find a parent’s support group like Plant Parenthood, and be sure to check the legal status of psilocybin in your area. Although microdosing is becoming more popular, psilocybin is still extremely illegal in most places, and has led to at least one arrest of a nurse and mother who was using psilocybin to treat her depression. Hopefully, with more research and more community activism to fight prohibition, more moms like Rebecca and Charleigh will be able to microdose safely and without fear of prosecution.