Adults who microdose psychedelics report health related motivations and lower levels of anxiety and depression compared to non-microdosers

In this survey study (n=8703) the microdosing practices, motivations and mental health history of self-selected microdosers and non-microdosers via a mobile phone application. Psilocybin was the most commonly used psychedelic (85%) and stacking was frequently reported (e.g combining microdosed psilocybin with functional mushrooms like Lion’s Mane). Those who microdosed reported a higher history of mental health concerns and the majority were motivated to microdose to better their mental health.

Abstract

“The use of psychedelic substances at sub-sensorium ‘microdoses’, has gained popular academic interest for reported positive effects on wellness and cognition. The present study describes microdosing practices, motivations and mental health among a sample of self-selected microdosers (n = 4050) and non-microdosers (n = 4653) via a mobile application. Psilocybin was the most commonly used microdose substances in our sample (85%) and we identified diverse microdose practices with regard to dosage, frequency, and the practice of stacking which involves combining psilocybin with non-psychedelic substances such as Lion’s Mane mushrooms, chocolate, and niacin. Microdosers were generally similar to non-microdosing controls with regard to demographics, but were more likely to report a history of mental health concerns. Among individuals reporting mental health concerns, microdosers exhibited lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress across gender. Health and wellness-related motives were the most prominent motives across microdosers in general, and were more prominent among females and among individuals who reported mental health concerns. Our results indicate health and wellness motives and perceived mental health benefits among microdosers, and highlight the need for further research into the mental health consequences of microdosing including studies with rigorous longitudinal designs.”

Authors: Joseph M. Rootman, Pamela Kryskow, Kalin Harvey, Paul Stamets, Eesmyal Santos-Brault, Kim P. C. Kuypers, Vince Polito, Francoise Bourzat & Zach Walsh

Notes

Microdosing is the practice of regularly using low doses of psychedelic drugs. This relatively recent phenomenon was made popular through the anecdotal reports of young professionals from all walks of life, taking sub-hallucinogenic doses of psychedelics for a variety of reasons.

In spite of the reported popularity of this practice, few scientific studies have explored the pharmacological effects of microdosing. Existing studies tend to be large-scale survey studies exploring why people microdose and the subsequent effects they experience after regularly consuming low doses of psychedelics.

The study at hand is not indifferent, it describes microdosing practices, motivations and mental health among a sample of self-selected microdosers (n = 4050) and non-microdosers (n = 4653). What makes this study unique is the manner through which data was collected; a mobile phone application.

Study participants downloaded the Quantified Citizen application to their iPhones and were instructed to complete a total of 123 questions surrounding their mental health and microdosing practices. While many companies are developing similar applications, this study is one of the first to quantify and analyse data collected in this manner.

Main findings:

  • Psilocybin was the most commonly reported microdosed substance, with 85% of participants using psilocybin compared to 11% using LSD.
  • Mental health or substance use concerns were reported by 29% of respondents, with the most frequently endorsed being anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Microdosers were more likely to report a history of mental health concerns compared to those who do not microdose.
  • The most widely endorsed motivation for microdosing was Enhancing Mindfulness, followed by Improving Mood, Enhancing Creativity and Enhancing Learning.
  • Psilocybin users were more likely than LSD users to combine psilocybin with other substances in the process referred to as stacking, combing substances such as Lion’s Mane, niacin and chocolate with their psychedelic of choice.

Overall, the study found that among individuals reporting mental health concerns, microdosers exhibited lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. While limitations do exist, particularly surrounding the manner in which participants were selected, the large sample size highlights that microdosing is common practice with a variety of motivations.

If it’s really the microdose that is doing the heavy lifting, or the expectancy effects surrounding it do remain elusive. A self-blinded experiment earlier this year found that all those who microdosed (so also those taking a placebo) improved. A study that combines the strength of both these studies, blinding participants and the large sample size, could provide more insights in the future.

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