NOTE: This paper is open-access. You can access the full-text at the journal's website for free. The use of psychedelic substances in both humanistic and mainstream clinical research has been increasing in the last decade. In particular, the practice of microdosing—ingesting sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelics—has been increasing in popularity, but large-scale qualitative analyses are still uncommon. This study attempted to recognize emergent themes in qualitative reports regarding the experience of microdosing to enrich the theoretical landscape in psychedelic research and propose future research directions for both basic and clinical research. Participants were people who reported microdosing at least once in the last year; they described their experiences using an online survey. Data from 118 informative responses suggested four main emergent themes: reasons for microdosing, the practice of microdosing itself, outcomes linked to microdosing, and meta-commentary about microdosing. We use meaning-making theory and propose that, even at low doses, psychedelic substances can provide a sense of meaning. Our results suggest that many of the reported benefits occur regardless of motivation to microdose and are likely due to the enhanced psychological flexibility and a sense of connectedness made possible due to the use of psychedelics. Double-blind, placebo-controlled experiments are required to substantiate these reports.
Background: Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of taking small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of lysergic acid diethylamide or psilocybin containing mushrooms. Despite its surging popularity, little is known about the specific intentions to start microdosing and the effects of this practice. Aims: First, we aimed to replicate previous findings regarding the subjective benefits and challenges reported for microdosing. Second, we assessed whether people who microdose test their substances before consumption. Third, we examined whether having an approach-intention to microdosing was predictive of more reported benefits. Methods: The Global Drug Survey runs the world’s largest online drug survey. Participants who reported last year use of lysergic acid diethylamide or psilocybin in the Global Drug Survey 2019 were offered the opportunity to answer a sub-section on microdosing. Results: Data from 6753 people who reported microdosing at least once in the last 12months were used for analyses. 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’. As predicted, most participants reported not testing their substances. Counter to our hypothesis, approach-intention – microdosing to approach a desired goal – predicted less rather than more benefits. We discuss alternate frameworks that may better capture the reasons people microdose. Conclusion: Our results suggest the perceived benefits associated with microdosing greatly outweigh the challenges. Microdosing may have utility for a variety of uses while having minimal side effects. Double-blind, placebo-controlled experiments are required to substantiate these reports.
Psychedelics have a checkered past, alternately venerated as sacred medicines and vilified as narcotics with no medicinal or research value. After decades of international prohibition, a growing dissatisfaction with conventional mental health care and the pioneering work of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Science (MAPS) and others has sparked a new wave of psychedelic research. Positive media coverage and new entrepreneurial interest in this potentially lucrative market, along with their attendant conflicts of interest, have accelerated the hype. Given psychedelics’ complex history, it is especially important to proceed with care, holding ourselves to a higher scientific rigor and standard of transparency. Universities and researchers face conflicting interests and perverse incentives, but we can avoid missteps by expecting rigorous and transparent methods in the growing science of psychedelics. This paper provides a pragmatic research checklist and discusses the importance of using the modern research and transparency standards of Open Science using preregistration, open materials and data, reporting constraints on generality, and encouraging replication. We discuss specific steps researchers should take to avoid another replication crisis like those devastating psychology, medicine, and other fields. We end with a discussion of researcher intention and the value of actively deciding to abide by higher scientific standards. We can build a rigorous, transparent, replicable psychedelic science by using Open Science to understand psychedelics’ potential as they re-enter science and society.
Rationale Microdosing psychedelics – the practice of consuming small, sub-hallucinogenic doses of substances such as LSD or psilocybin – is gaining attention in popular media but remains poorly characterized. Contemporary studies of psychedelic microdosing have yet to report the basic psychiatric descriptors of psychedelic microdosers. Objectives To examine the practices and demographics of a population of psychedelic microdosers – including their psychiatric diagnoses, prescription medications, and recreational substance use patterns – to develop a foundation on which to conduct future clinical research. Methods Participants ( n = 909; M age = 26.9, SD = 8.6; male = 83.2%; White/European = 79.1%) recruited primarily from the online forum Reddit completed an anonymous online survey. Respondents who reported using LSD, psilocybin, or both for microdosing were grouped and compared with non-microdosing respondents using exploratory odds ratio testing on demographic variables, rates of psychiatric diagnoses, and past-year recreational substance use. Results Of microdosers, most reported using LSD (59.3%; M dose = 13 mcg, or 11.3% of one tab) or psilocybin (25.9%; M dose = 0.3 g of dried psilocybin mushrooms) on a one-day-on, two-days-off schedule. Compared with non-microdosers, microdosers were significantly less likely to report a history of substance use disorders (SUDs; OR = 0.17 (95% CI: 0.05–0.56)) or anxiety disorders (OR = 0.61 (95% CI: 0.41–0.91)). Microdosers were also more likely to report recent recreational substance use compared with non-microdosers (OR = 5.2 (95% CI: 2.7–10.8)). Conclusions Well-designed randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate the safety and tolerability of this practice in clinical populations and to test claims about potential benefits.
Empirically identified benefits and challenges of LSD and psilocybin microdosing Background: Psychedelic microdosing is the practice of consuming low, sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelic substances, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin-containing mushrooms. Doses are typically 1/10th of a regular recreational dose. The scientific literature contains very limited research on this practice, which has led to rampant speculation. Methods: Our research addresses the fact that barely any research has reported on adverse effects associated with microdosing. Additionally, our research identifies actionable research foci where microdosing shows the most potential. By quantifying reports from a sample of 278 LSD and psilocybin microdosers we describe high potential research avenues and areas of concern. Results and Conclusions: Beneficial possibilities include improved mood, focus, creativity, and self-efficacy. Areas of concern include illegality-related concerns, physiological discomfort, impaired focus, and increased anxiety. Of important note are the parallels between benefits and challenges that help provide high-potential research avenues. For example, several participants report cognitive enhancement, but several also report impaired cognition; contrast this with the many participants reporting improved mood versus the relatively few reporting mood impairments. This suggests that mood interventions may be more promising than cognitive enhancement for microdosing research. Leveraging such participant reports distills the highest-potential intervention targets so research funding can be efficiently allocated. This mixed-methods study resulted in a structured research plan for a phase IIa clinical trial of psilocybin microdosing planned to begin in Toronto, Canada in early 2020. Microdosing research complements regular-dose research and provides an opportunity to challenge theories about mechanisms of clinical change predicated on the phenomenology of the psychedelic experience. It may be that neuropharmacological mechanisms play a role that microdosing can help elucidate. This framework informs researchers and clinicians as proper experimental microdosing research begins in earnest. Note: This abstract is based on research that was recently published with the following citation: Anderson, T., Petranker, R., Christopher, A., Rosenbaum, D., Weissman, C., Dinh-Williams, L.-A., Hui, K., Hapke, E. (2019). Psychedelic microdosing benefits and challenges: An empirical codebook. Harm Reduction Journal, 16(1), 43. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12954-019-0308-4
Background: Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of consuming very low, sub-hallucinogenic doses of a psychedelic substance, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) or psilocybin-containing mushrooms. According to media reports, microdosing has grown in popularity, yet the scientific literature contains minimal research on this practice. There has been limited reporting on adverse events associated with microdosing, and the experiences of microdosers in community samples have not been categorized. Methods: In the present study we develop a codebook of Microdosing Benefits and Challenges (MDBC) based on the qualitative reports of a real-world sample of 278 microdosers. Results: We describe novel findings, both in terms of beneficial outcomes, such as improved mood (26.6%) and focus (14.8%), and in terms of challenging outcomes, such as physiological discomfort (18.0%) and increased anxiety (6.7%). We also show parallels between benefits and drawbacks and discuss the implications of these results. We probe for substance-dependent differences, finding that psilocybin-only users report the benefits of microdosing were more important than other users report. Conclusions: These mixed-methods results help summarize and frame the experiences reported by an active microdosing community as high-potential avenues for future scientific research. The MDBC taxonomy reported here informs future research, leveraging participant reports to distill the highest-potential intervention targets so research funding can be efficiently allocated. Microdosing research complements the full-dose literature as clinical treatments are developed and neuropharmacological mechanisms are sought. This framework aims to inform researchers and clinicians as experimental microdosing research begins in earnest in the years to come. Keywords: psychedelic, microdosing, LSD, psilocybin, grounded theory, mood, depression, anxiety, self-efficacy, open science
Rationale Microdosing psychedelics—the regular consumption of small amounts of psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin—is a growing trend in popular culture. Recent studies on full-dose psychedelic psychotherapy reveal promising benefits for mental well-being, especially for depression and end-of-life anxiety. While full-dose therapies include perception-distorting properties, microdosing mayprovide complementary clinical benefits using lower-risk, non-hallucinogenic doses. Objectives This pre-registered study aimed to investigate whether microdosing psychedelics is related to differences in personality, mental health, and creativity. Methods In this observational study, respondents recruited from online forums self-reported their microdosing behaviors and completed questionnaires concerning dysfunctional attitudes, wisdom, negative emotionality, open-mindedness, and mood. Respondents also performed the Unusual Uses Task to assess their creativity. Results Current and former microdosers scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes (p < 0.001, r = − 0.92) and negative emotionality (p = 0.009, r = − 0.85) and higher on wisdom (p < 0.001, r = 0.88), openmindedness(p = 0.027, r = 0.67), and creativity (p < 0.001, r = 0.15) when compared to non-microdosing controls. Conclusions These findings provide promising initial evidence that warrants controlled experimental research to directly test safety and clinical efficacy. As microdoses are easier to administer than full-doses, this new paradigm has the exciting potential to shape future psychedelic research.
Microdosing psychedelics - the regular consumption of small amounts of psychedelic substances such as LSD or psilocybin - is a growing trend in popular culture. Recent studies on full-dose psychedelic psychotherapy reveal promising benefits for mental well-being, especially for depression and end-of-life anxiety. While full-dose therapies include perception-distorting properties, microdosing may provide complementary clinical benefits using lower-risk, non-hallucinogenic doses. No experimental study has evaluated psychedelic microdosing, however; this pre-registered study is the first to investigate microdosing psychedelics and mental health. Recruited from online forums, current and former microdosers scored lower on measures of dysfunctional attitudes and negative emotionality and higher on wisdom, open-mindedness, and creativity when compared to non-microdosing controls. These findings provide promising initial evidence that warrants controlled experimental research to directly test safety and clinical efficacy. As microdoses are easier to administer than full-doses, this new paradigm has the exciting potential to shape future psychedelic research.
Thomas Anderson is a PhD student at the University of Toronto under Norman Farb in the Regulatory and Affective Dynamics laboratory (www.radlab.zone). Thomas' main work focuses on the cognitive neuroscience of "meta-awareness" ("decentering" in the clinical literature), which is an experience of insightful internal noticing, for example, when noticing that one's mind has wandered from the task at hand or, more broadly, that one's behaviours are not aligned with one's values. Thomas also co-founded Toronto's Psychedelic Science Interest Group, a team of early career psychiatrists, PhD students, and faculty researching the benefits and drawbacks of microdosing psychedelics. Early work relied on collecting data from existing microdosers to build a scientific understanding of potential outcomes of microdosing. Thomas especially focuses on ensuring methodological rigour and proper practice under open science in all his projects. Thomas is interested in psychedelic-use for the enhancement of meta-awareness and "the betterment of well people" in addition to the great promise these substances have for treating the unwell.
This presentation shows the results for our preregistered hypotheses concerning the relationship between microdosing and: Open Mindedness, Negative Emotionality, Wisdom, Dysfunctional Attitudes, and creativity (as measured by the Unusual Uses task)
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Microdosing Psychedelics Microdosing psychedelics is the practice of taking very low doses of psychedelic substances (e.g. LSD, psilocybin). Psychedelic microdosing has recently been featured in numerous popular-media reports yet no scientific studies have been published on this topic. At present only anecdotes regarding the effects of microdosing are discussed and these have not been described in the scientific literature. To address these literature gaps we ran the first pre-registered scientific study on microdosing psychedelics by investigating the practices of online communities already engaging in this activity. This pre-registered online study collected 1034 benefits and 791 drawbacks drawn from 577 participants. These data were subjected to classic Grounded Theory analysis and a number of highly relevant conceptual groupings of benefits and drawbacks emerged. By discussing these groupings and suggesting psychometric measures intended to assess these outcomes this lecture will provide researchers with tangible suggestions for incorporating relevant measures into their psychedelic studies. We will also make recommendations that inform the non-academic community about the potential outcomes of microdosing with added focus on harm-reduction. This research informs both the individuals already microdosing and the scientific community intending to study microdosing and psychedelic outcomes in the future.
Microdosing psychedelics has become a recent media phenomenon. Microdosing is the practice of taking sub-threshold doses of a substance, in this case, a psychedelic substance such as LSD or psilocybin. No scientific research has been published on the effects of microdosing psychedelics thus we ran a cross-sectional observational study on the microdosing practices and psychological functioning of existing communities engaging in this activity. This pre-registered online study collected data from 1390 respondents, many with microdosing experience and many without (i.e. non-microdosers). In addition to reporting common practices, we tested pre-registered hypotheses regarding differences in personality and measures of psychological function. Results suggest significant differences between microdosers and non-microdosers on negative emotionality, dysfunctional attitudes, and wisdom scores. Limitations and implications will be discussed, as well as exciting future directions for microdosing research. This research informs not only the individuals already microdosing, but also the scientific community and future policy-makers.
A Perliminary Study of Microdosing Psychedelics Microdosing psychedelics, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin, has become a recent media phenomenon, yet scientific studies verifying its effects are absent from the literature. To begin addressing these gaps in knowledge, we measured the microdosing drug practices and psychological functioning of existing communities engaging in this activity, in the first ever microdosing study. This pre-registered online study involved 1390 participants, some of whom were microdosers (either presently or in the past), and some of whom were non-microdosers (either interested in trying it in the future or not interested in microdosing). Our results suggest distinct patterns of microdosing in the population, as well as significant difference between microdosers and non-microdosers on several personality and well-being measures such as negative emotionality and wisdom. This research will serve to inform individuals already microdosing, the scientific community, and policymakers in the future.