- Microdosing refers to the practice of regularly using small amounts of psychedelics that do not impair cognitive function.
- Evidence, mostly from small observational studies, suggests that microdosing psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms, can improve cognitive function and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- In agreement with these data, a large study now found that people who microdosed psilocybin showed improved mood and less anxiety, depression, and stress within a month than those who did not microdose.
- Notably, these improvements in mental health and mood associated with microdosing psilocybin have also been seen in people with mental health problems.
A large study recently published in the journal
One of the study’s authors, Joseph Rutman, a doctoral student at the University of British Columbia, said the study was the “largest longitudinal study to date” of microdosing psilocybin and one of the few that included a control group.
“We found that microdosing psilocybin was associated with improvements in mood and mental health, adding to a growing body of research suggesting positive benefits of microdosing specifically in the areas of mental health and cognition.”
—Joseph Rutman, co-author of the study
“We hope our findings will help develop more rigorously designed clinical trials,” he added.
Natural psychedelics such as psilocybin extract of magic mushrooms and mescaline have been used for thousands of years for their health benefits. Classifying psychedelics such as psilocybin and LSD as drugs of abuse without any medical use, however, has prevented research into the therapeutic effects of these substances.
Recent years have seen a resurgence of scientific and popular interest in the use of psychedelic drugs to treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. For example, magic mushrooms contain psilocybin, an active ingredient
These studies often used continuous doses of psilocybin, which produced euphoric and hallucinogenic effects. However, regular doses of psilocybin can cause unpleasant and frightening experiences, also known as “bad trips.”
led to the adoption of the so-called practice
Most “microdosers” use about 10% of the usual dose of psilocybin 2-5 times a week, which is about 100-300 milligrams of dried mushroom.
Anecdotal reports and observational studies show that microdosing psychedelics can improve cognitive function, elevate mood, and reduce anxiety and depressive symptoms. Most of these observational studies used cross-sectional designs, with only a few longitudinal studies comparing the effects of microdosing psilocybin with a control group over time.
However, there are obstacles to conducting longitudinal studies on the effects of hallucinogenic substances.
For example, a significant number of participants in previous placebo-controlled microdosing studies were able to recognize the effects of psilocybin during the study. In other words, the participants were aware of the treatment, not blind, introducing the possibility of bias.
apart from this,
To further characterize the potential health benefits of microdosing, the authors of this study used a naturalistic design, tracking changes in the mental health and mood of microdosed individuals.
Specifically, researchers compared changes in mood, mental health, and cognitive function of microdosers over a 1-month period with those who did not microdos.
Microdosers using psilocybin often combine it with other substances, such as the mushroom lion’s mane, which may also have medicinal effects. For example, there is some evidence that lion’s mane may contain mushrooms
Microdosers that combine psilocybin and lion’s mane also contain vitamin B3, also known as niacin. Niacin improves the absorption of psilocybin and lion’s mane, and is thought to enhance the effects of these mushrooms.
To better characterize the effects of these combinations on well-being, the researchers included participants microdosing psilocybin along with lion’s mane and niacin.
This study consisted of 953 psilocybin microdosers and 180 non-microdosers. Participants completed a series of questionnaires and tasks on their mobile devices at the start of the study and one month after recruitment.
This assessment included self-report questionnaires to assess mood and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress. The researchers also assessed cognitive function and psychomotor skills related to physical movements that require cognitive processing.
The researchers found that microdosers showed greater improvement in mood and reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress during the study period than non-microdosers.
These positive effects of microdosing were seen in all participants, regardless of whether they used psilocybin alone or a combination of psilocybin and lion’s mane, or psilocybin, lion’s mane and niacin.
In addition, microdosing psilocybin led to improvements in mental health and mood across age groups, gender groups, and individuals with or without mental health problems.
The only exception was the female microdosers, who showed greater reductions in depressive symptoms than the men.
The researchers also found that older microdosers improved more on a psychomotor test than non-microdosers, but not cognitive function. This effect was mainly related to older participants over 55 years of age who used the combination of psilocybin, lion’s mane and niacin.
In conclusion, the results of this study add to existing evidence on the beneficial effects of microdosing psilocybin on mental health and mood, including for people with mental health problems.
Although the study had a large sample size, the number of people in different subgroups based on age, sex, and substances used for microdosing was relatively small. Thus, these findings need to be replicated with larger sample sizes.
Dr. Balazs Szigeti, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London, also noted that the study used a control group, but placebo effects in the microdosing group cannot be ruled out.
Dr. Sigeti explained:
“This study used a natural history control condition, meaning there was no treatment in the control group. It’s a poor control condition, but it’s certainly better than having no control groups, as in observational studies.”
“Compared to this poor control, microdosers showed some improvements, mostly with moderate effect sizes. This means that the magnitude of the improvements was only small at most scales. Therefore, this study helps to determine whether microdosing in uncontrolled/poorly controlled studies shows some benefits,” – he continued.
“The main weakness of the study is the lack of a placebo control. Therefore, it is unclear whether the source of this improvement is positive expectation or the pharmacological action of microdosing,” he noted.
“So far, there have been several placebo-controlled studies of microdosing, with mixed results. Due to the lack of scientific consensus and great public interest, I hope that this area of research will grow in the coming years to clarify this question.
– Dr. Balázs Szigeti