‘Microdosing’ of psychedelics on the rise during the pandemic

2nd December 2021

More people have been ‘microdosing’ psychedelic drugs to improve their wellness and mental health during the pandemic, according to a recent survey. Microdosing refers to the practice of taking tiny doses of a drug – usually psychedelics such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and LSD.

The Global Drug Survey, an independent research company based in London, conducts annual surveys to identify trends in drug and alcohol use. According to the 2021 survey, drug users are increasingly experimenting with psychedelics for a number of reported reasons.

However, there is a growing trend towards using the drugs to self-medicate mental health conditions and manage general wellness, as opposed to using small amounts of psychedelics to enhance creativity – a trend made popular in Silicon Valley.

While using higher doses of psychedelics can have a wide range of intoxicating and hallucinogenic effects, these psychoactive effects are not usually associated with microdosing. A standard ‘tripping’ dose of LSD is around 100mg, but microdoses of the substance are much lower.

Interestingly, the 2021 survey revealed that, of respondents who both microdosed and took psychiatric drugs, almost half reported that they had reduced or stopped taking their prescribed medications.

Professor Adam Winstock, the founder and director of the Global Drug Survey, explained to the Guardian how the findings suggested that people who had been experimenting during the pandemic may have been seeking alternatives as waiting times for mental health services increased.

The survey also revealed that around a third of those who reported microdosing psilocybin or LSD had also experimented with other psychedelic drugs, including ecstasy (MDMA), ketamine, and ayahuasca – a traditional drink preparation made using a number of psychedelic plants.

“In the past, people were using microdosing for performance enhancement and creativity,” Winstock told the Guardian. “Now, I think people are shifting towards using microdosing to enhance wellbeing and to address mental health distress.

“This, for me, is microdosing shifting into treating mental health.”

While microdosing appears to be on the rise, data collected through the 2021 Global Drug Survey showed that the general use of recreational use had dropped slightly during the pandemic. Nonetheless, the use of psychedelic drugs was reportedly been on an upward trend over the previous six years.

Psychedelic drugs have been found to have significant potential in managing and treating mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, and addiction; however, there remains little evidence that microdosing can have a significant impact. Many theorise that the reported benefits and mood uplift may be down to the placebo effect.

One of the lead researchers of the largest placebo-controlled trial on the subject, Dr David Erritzoe suggested that the positive effects of microdosing may have been inflated due to the hype around the practice.

He told the Guardian: “The problem is that it’s a bit counterculture and from something as cool as Silicon Valley.

“You have bestselling books by really cool people writing about how their lives have been transformed. And it taps into scepticism about medical expertise and big pharma. All that adds to people’s expectations and a potential placebo effect.”

However, Dr Erritzoe also stated that he supports further clinical trials into the potential benefits of microdosing.

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