People who consume psychedelic drugs in small, sub-perceptual doses report lower levels of anxiety and depression, according to a recent study.
Microdosing is the practice of taking a small dose of a psychedelic substance two or three times a week, with the belief the consumer will experience the cognitive benefits of the psychoactive substance without experiencing the hallucinogenic effects of a full psychedelic trip.
The report, created by the University of British Columbia, studied a large sample of data from self-reporting participants, including 4050 microdosers and 4653 non-microdosers who submitted results via a mobile app. Psilocybin was the most commonly reported substance, used by 85% of people who microdose.
Participants responded to 123 questions in different assessments about their mental health and lifestyle habits. Researchers found that the most common reason for microdosing was enhancing mindfulness, followed by improving mood, creativity or learning.
People who had mental health or substance use issues reported using microdosing to reduce anxiety, reduce substance use and improve their mood. Those who didn’t report concerns about their mental health were more likely to use microdosing to enhance learning.
The microdose group was restricted to individuals reporting a current microdose practice at the time of the study. The non-microdose group included those who had never microdosed, and those with a history of microdosing but who weren’t microdosing during the study.
The researchers also found that taking non-psychoactive compounds alongside microdosing was common. However, this conclusion has drawn some criticism, as the study was co-authored by Paul Stamets, a popular mycologist with patents on formulations that ‘stack’ other substances alongside psilocybin for enhanced effects.
The study does record the potential conflict of interest but also points out the need for identifying the links between microdosing and the use of other substances: “Our findings highlight the diversity of practices gathered under the umbrella of microdosing. Attempts to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the effects of microdosing need not only account for differences in substance, dose, frequency but should also consider the potential synergies implied by the widespread adoption of the practice of supplementing, or stacking, psychedelics with ingredients such as niacin and Lion’s Mane mushrooms.”
The report also highlights other limitations in the data, such as response bias. As participants were ‘self-selecting’ and opted into the study via channels more favourable to psychedelic use, this could result in the over-representation of people with a favourable view to microdosing. “Given this potential bias, our characterization of the therapeutic use of microdosing should be interpreted with caution pending replication from research that employs a more systematic recruitment approach.”
While the results are far from empirical, the study still represents one of the largest data samples of adults who microdose. Concluding, the report states “This examination of a large international sample of adults highlights the prominence of therapeutic and wellness motivations for microdosing psychedelic drugs and identified lower levels of anxiety and depression among microdosers relative to controls. Future research is warranted to better determine the impact of these distinct practices, and of microdosing more broadly, on the aspects of cognition, mood, and well-being which microdosing is intended to enhance.”