By Olivia Alexander
Original Illustration by Martin Clarke
Microdosing TikTok is a vibrant community of everyday people researching and experimenting with microdosing for mental health, and finding support in the process.
What if I told you that the microdosing movement has taken TikTok by storm? Or that TikTok wasn’t just a place for dancing or kids, but a community connecting people in a unique way? Now a cultural force, TikTok has even been invaded by psychedelics, specifically the microdosing movement. And I was there to see it unfold.
When people said I should join TikTok, I politely told everyone the same things you probably think right now. It was for kids, it was for dancing, it was too conservative for people like me mainly because I am the founder of a cannabis company. And of course, who needs another social media app in our already connected world? But during quarantine I (like many) eventually caved, and I found myself trying to make sense of an app that truly felt like another world.
At first, every word I tried to say was censored and I found myself unable to even post about my own business or much of anything outside my dog. I learned the sophistication level of TikTok’s algorithm is part of its beauty and design, and because it’s a Chinese-based company it is skilled at censorship. And don’t get me wrong, censorship is prevalent on all social media apps, but TikTok is inarguably the most strict.
As a cannabis social media influencer, I’ve dealt with my fair share of getting ‘deleted’ (when an app deletes your profile) and eventually lost 1.5 million followers on Instagram in 2017. On TikTok, I couldn’t find anything to talk about that was both authentic to me and interesting to the audience. Then one day I tried something new, I told my mental health story about being bipolar and how microdosing completely transformed my life. Given the level of censorship, I didn’t say or show much, just a photo series of myself along my journey. You could see the changes, the impact, and the joy in my face. That’s when it happened—I got my first taste of the FYP.
That’s the ‘For You Page’ in TikTok lingo. The app explains the FYP as “a curated feed of videos from creators you might not follow, but TikTok’s algorithm thinks you will like based on your interests and past interactions.” Once I made it to the FYP, I had my first bonafied ‘hit’ and two things were obvious: The first was that microdosing had slipped through the cracks of TikTok’s censorship algorithms, and the second was that the audience craved more.
It’s hard to describe what happens on TikTok when your video lands on the FYP. To be honest, in the past 15 years of being on social media, I have never seen or felt anything like it. The views, comments, and follows piled up—fast. I was in sheer disbelief that I had stumbled upon something that people wanted to know more about that also wasn’t censored by TikTok. In the months to come, I would be connected to a community I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams.
Why Choose TikTok for Microdosing Info and Community?
The TikTok community, much like I was, is mentally ill, yet at the same time disillusioned by the mental health system; they’re also desperate for healing, while being courageous and hopeful. I was excited to tell my story—despite being a relative newcomer to psychedelics—I’m farther along on my microdose journey than most TikTokers, and I wanted to use this new, powerful platform to share what I’ve learned. Over the next few months I began to contribute pieces of short form content daily from ‘How I Got Off Pharmaceuticals’, to my viral recap of microdosing with LSD for 30 days, to my mother’s microdosing journey.
Was it that microdosing—the act of ingesting 1/10th to 1/20th of a psychedelic substance for enhanced mood rather than classic psychedelic effects—was so new or was it that the psychedelic movement had successfully evaded TikTok’s strict censorship policies?
If you saw the TikTok hashtag #microdosing, which had 60 million views until it was removed in mid-August, 2021, you probably witnessed the broad spectrum of people and their reasons for microdosing. TikTok is a place where people with authentic stories and interesting lives thrive; where you don’t need to be a celebrity to be an influencer, you can just be you. Mental health TikTokers regularly show off their meds, spill revelations from therapists, and share both their traumas and explorations in healing. Microdose TikTok heavily intersects with mental health, fitness, and wellness TikTok. Even with censorship of the microdosing hashtag, the community has continued to evolve and share microdosing content. In the world of ‘the Tok’, there’s an ever evolving lexicon created to skirt the app’s advancing censorship. So soon #microdos or #mycrodose will replace #microdosing like #ouid replaced #weed.
What you’ll find in certain communities of TikTok is that you are encouraged to be yourself, which is unlike other social media platforms where a more polished version of yourself is rewarded. The people who use and create content on TikTok—referred to as ‘creators’—are as unique as the algorithm itself. And unlike other social media apps, these creators can see a quick rise, thrusting them into the spotlight, allowing them to share their journey and experiences with thousands of people seemingly overnight.
Meet the Microdosing Stars of TikTok
One of the most beautiful things I have found at the intersection of microdosing and TikTok are the vibrant people who tell their stories. The bravery it takes to share your life online is often overlooked by people who don’t do it or look down on social media. It’s a compelling array of stories and personal experiences that could be such a benefit to the psychedelic and scientific communities, especially at a time when microdosing research is so desperately needed.
There’s something about TikTok’s design that makes you feel instantly seen, heard, and validated, and connects you with others in an authentic way. It’s why I believe the work of psychedelic and microdosing creators is so effective and special. Being seen and heard is an important and valuable part of the healing and integration process that’s built right into the platform.
The first person I ever saw cruising the FYP was Veronica Ridge, a hair stylist who shares her story of microdosing for ADHD with candid and endearing videos that her husband Patrick Ridge, also a well-known content creator with 16 years of sobriety, often joins. Veronica’s content about microdosing was endearing and approachable; even though she was microdosing for different reasons, seeing her content made me feel less alone. I was excited to see someone else normalizing microdosing.
Next I discovered TikTok’s microdosing mom (TikTok loves moms), Coach Kathleen who has over 130K followers. Coach Kathleen, a long time coach who focuses primarily on CEOs and executives, told me she went to TikTok after seeing the speed in which users go viral. Since then, she has garnered tens of millions of views on the app. In one of her largest videos, she explains how psilocybin affects the brain’s ‘default mode network’ that has a whopping 8 million views.
Coach Kathleen’s educational content and frequent ‘lives’ (specifically microdosing Q&A’s) are much needed support to the TikTok microdosing community. Live is another feature that drives authentic conversations and page growth for creators. It allows users to get to know creators on a much more intimate level. Creators who activate these features often see their communities blossom way beyond what they imagined their reach could be.
There are also athletes and coaches like CoachJeremy305, who has over 875K followers and who has been a long time fixture on the FYP page sharing how microdosing has aided in his fitness and wellness journey. He often encourages his audience to avoid alcohol and frequently posts psychedelic legislation updates.
Another creator, HolisticHustle, who calls herself “a crunchy mom with depression” has over 60K followers, shares her microdosing and parenthood journey. She focuses a fair amount of her content at the intersections of microdosing, motherhood, and healing her own generational trauma.
While some will write off TikTok as another social media app, I truly believe that would be doing a disservice to everyone. Believe it or not, TikTok has become a cultural mecca and there is so much to learn about people and community on this app. With the culmination of the mental health crisis, opioid epidemic, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic, people needed a virtual space where they feel safe to share, and TikTok has been the answer for a lot of people.
“TikTok has influenced my microdosing journey in the most positive way. Just following you and watching your lives has helped me tons!” Zenia, a 37-year-old mom of three kids who had resigned from her job to run an online business in order to spend more time with her children, tells Psychedelics Today. “Hearing how open and real you are about your journey and experiences made me want to do my own research and create experiences through my own journey.”
“It took me a while and lots of research to start my journey because it was such a new concept to me, but I’m glad I did!” Zenia continues. “I have really felt at home knowing that there is a huge community out there going through what I’m going through.”
This content is serving so much more than likes and views to the creator. It’s carrying microdosing to people who desperately need to know there are other alternatives, and giving them a place to share their microdosing experiences within a community. On TikTok, we see ourselves in the popular creators and feel hopeful for a new therapeutic tool, like microdosing. Plus, TikTokers, like many, are terrified to even speak to their doctors about psychedelics, but are completely out of traditional pharmaceutical options. So by finding community on TikTok, they find hope, access, and most of all, people just like them being transformed in a way they dreamed of for themselves.
“I discovered microdosing [on TikTok] in January of 2021. In the fall of 2020, after almost a year of unemployment and the utter failure of my romantic relationship (epic implosion), I decided it was time for me to go off of the anti-anxiety/anti-depression pill I’d been on for the past three years. By the end of the year I wanted to learn more about how I might holistically begin to heal myself and by chance, I saw a TikTok where you’d discussed your journey with mental health, pharmaceuticals and microdosing popped up and I thought the universe must have heard my heart because this was exactly what I was looking for,” Jen, a 38-year-old project manager from NY tells Psychedelics Today. “I went through all of the videos and consumed the information like a fire. I looked up the Microdosing Institute, reached out to Psychedelic.support, spoke to and described microdosing to my personal support circle of family and friends (and urged them to do their own research), found a support group online and based in my region and reached out on Instagram to find my own healer who could act as a guide. By February, I had all of the resources to begin my first journey and so I did at the end of March.”
Microdosing and TikTok Are the Future: Will the Psychedelic Community Join?
Over my time on TikTok I have been able to come to a unique understanding of the sheer magnitude and scale of the future surrounding the psychedelic space as an industry and the mental health crisis it will be meeting. I sit up late at night and worry about the time it will take for real progress and access for the countless people who endlessly direct message me for help. I feel hopeful for the clinical trials on psychedelics, for FDA approval of these drugs as medicine, and for the legalization of psychedelics because Gen Z and Millenials are not the generations of the past.
We want to be part of the future where entheogens are regulated and accessible. We want to appreciate, know, respect, and understand Indigenous practices. We wish we could talk to our therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists about alternative treatments. We will fight for a future where universal health care covers psychedelic therapy. But for now, we are struggling with mental health—and with the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s new people arriving to the struggle everyday. We’re dealing with despair, isolation, and the side effects of antidepressants for the first time in a broken and overloaded system, and we need help wherever we can get it.
In the unlikeliest of places I have seen and felt a snapshot of humanity that was simply unexpected. A place built so perfectly imperfect, like humans themselves, that even with censorship and sophisticated algorithms alike it could not be stopped or suppress the needs of the people. And it’s my greatest hope that progress, unity, science, Indigenous and modern culture can coexist for the greatest success for all. In the race for the golden ticket of the burgeoning psychedelic industry, TikTok has shown me what’s really at stake—our mental health and wellbeing. I hope more clinicians, researchers, leaders, and companies in the space take on the challenge of joining the rest of the community.
The cultural storm and human need for psychedelics can’t be stopped or slowed down because of the sheer speed of social media, and the psychedelic community can do the important work during this digital age on an app where the impact can be truly astounding.
This next chapter of the psychedelic renaissance will not be televised, it will be on TikTok and I hope the psychedelic community will pay attention.
About the Author
After years spent in the cannabis trenches, Kush Queen founder Olivia Alexander was determined to change the face of the cannabis topicals business for the better. By focusing on CBD-infused products and continually improving formulas designed to work with the feminine body, Kush Queen has become one of the most respected and sought-after cannabis wellness brands on the market. Their nearly instantaneously active Ignite Lubricant is a game-changer in the personal lubricant class, and their carefully formulated tinctures, bath bombs and other personal care products have earned Olivia the title “The Mariah Carey of Weed” by Elle magazine. She has over 1 billion impressions as a social media influencer, sharing her own mental health and alternative medicine journey on Instagram and Tiktok.
About the Illustrator
Martin Clarke is a British Designer and Illustrator from Nottingham, England. Specializing in branding, marketing and visual communication, Martin excels at creating bespoke brand identities and striking visual content across multiple platforms for web, social media, print and packaging. See more of his work here.