Oregon recently passed Measure 109, which established a program to allow licensed service providers to administer mushrooms and fungi that produced psilocybin to adults older than 21.
Psilocybin has recently been undergoing studies as something that people use to microdose. The idea is that if a small dose of a psychedelic is taken regularly, like 1/10 of a standard dose, the effects are subperceptual – meaning the person taken it should not have hallucinations.
Mircodosing isn’t just limited to psilocybin, though it and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) are the most popular substances to use in this manner. The list of substances also used include peyote, DMT, Marijuana, MDMA, and many others.
What is the benefit of taking such a low dose of a psychedelic?
Current information from early studies, reviews, and anecdotal stories, suggest that these microdoses, interspersed with rest days, may help increase vitality, creativity, and productivity. It also may induce cognitive flexibility in those with depression, which aids in breaking the cycle of ruminating over the same thought. Microdosing is also showing promise as a pain reliever and in potentially stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage.
The first study of note found in its phase one that low doses of LSD did not pose a safety risk, and doses of it between five and 20 micrograms had very minimal cognitive effect, if any.
Potential for Pain Relief
During the summer of 2020, a trial used ice water to test whether participants given small amounts of LSD would be able to keep their hands in the water longer, as a measure of pain perception.
24 people were either given a dose of five, ten, or 20 micrograms of LSD or a placebo.
Volunteers with the higher dose (still considered low enough to be a microdose) could keep their hands in the water significantly longer than all of the other groups, and they felt the least amount of pain or unpleasantness.
“LSD elevated mean blood pressure within the normal range and slightly increased ratings of dissociation, anxiety and somatization,” the study reads.
It is currently unclear exactly how LSD influences the perception of pain.
Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Psychedelics
A study published in the Psychopharmacology journal used results from an international survey to see if microdosing improved mental health and substance abuse.
The online survey was conducted in 2018, and it asked participants about their use of extremely small amounts of psychedelics for therapeutic purposes, and if they perceived it as helping. Of those who responded, 21% used microdosing primarily for depression, 7% for anxiety, 2% to stop or reduce substance use, and 9% for another mental disorder.
Of those who had previously been diagnosed with a mental disorder, 85% had tried other medications or received counseling before they began a microdosing regimen.
44% of people perceived their mental health was “much better” due to microdosing, and 35.8% that it was “somewhat better.” Just under 20% of the participants said they did not perceive any changes, while 1.3% of reported that it made their health “somewhat worse.”
Challenges and Benefits
Data from Global Drug Survey 2019 was used in a study in October 2020 and published in Psychopharmacology. Close to 7,000 respondents were asked questions about microdosing after they reported psychedelic use, and the journal concluded “the perceived benefits associated with microdosing greatly outweigh the challenges.”
The study went on to say, “Our results suggest a partial replication of previously reported benefits and challenges among the present sample often reporting enhanced mood, creativity, focus and sociability. Counter to our prediction, the most common challenge participants associated with microdosing was ‘None.’”
The Beckley Foundation in the U.K. had mixed results in a study about low doses of LSD and mood and cognition, with some people reporting things such as positive mood and friendliness while others reported an increase in confusion and anxiety. This was true for participants given a dose of five micrograms and participants given a dose of 20 micrograms.
All of the studies stress the need for double-blind, controls in order to make more definitive conclusions.
Johns Hopkins, NYU, the Beckley Foundation, and a new program dedicated to microdosing at the University of Toronto, as well as private and public companies, are all working toward finding more conclusive results about exactly the effects of microdosing.
By: Hannah Ramsey