This survey study assessed the relationship between microdosing and trait anxiety through an online survey with current microdosers (n = 186), former microdosers (n = 77) and microdosing-naïve controls (n = 234). Current and former microdosers reported lower STAI-T scores compared to microdosing-naïve controls while associations of current and former microdosing with trait anxiety were mediated by trait mindfulness. All associations between microdosing and STAI-T scores became non-significant when participants with previous macrodose experience (n = 386) were excluded.
“While anecdotal reports claim that psychedelic microdosing reduces anxiety and mood symptoms, evidence supporting these claims is scarce. This cross-sectional study investigated the association between microdosing and trait anxiety. Furthermore, it was investigated if trait mindfulness mediated this association. Participants completed anonymous online questionnaires and were divided into three groups: current microdosers (n = 186), former microdosers (n = 77) and microdosing-naïve controls (n = 234). Trait anxiety and trait mindfulness were measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory – Trait subscale (STAI-T) and the 15-item Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ-15) respectively. Current and former microdosers reported lower STAI-T scores compared to microdosing-naïve controls. Furthermore, associations of current and former microdosing with trait anxiety were mediated by trait mindfulness, with small effects of FFMQ-15 Total, Non-judging and Non-reactivity scores. However, in an exploratory analysis, all associations between microdosing and STAI-T scores became non-significant when participants with previous macrodose experience (n = 386) were excluded. Our findings suggest that RCT<apos;>s are warranted to test causal hypotheses concerning the effects of microdosing and the role of trait mindfulness in the effects of microdosing, while controlling for previous macrodose experience.”
Authors: Vincent Hartong & Arnold van Emmerik
Psychedelic Microdosing, Mindfulness, and Anxiety: A Cross-Sectional Mediation Study
A cross-sectional study investigated the association between microdosing and trait anxiety. Microdosing was associated with lower STAI-T scores and a lower FFMQ-15 Total, Non-judging and Non-reactivity scores, but not when participants with previous macrodose experience were excluded.
Microdosing is the practice of regularly ingesting a sub-hallucinogenic dose of a psychedelic substance, and has been reported to enhance productivity and reduce anxiety and mood symptoms. However, the effects of microdosing have been inconsistent, with some studies observing increased anxiety in microdosers compared to controls.
While the scientific evidence to support anecdotal claims concerning microdosing remains inconclusive, multiple clinical trials have investigated the effectivity of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of anxiety in patients with life threatening diseases and treatment resistant depression.
While macrodoses have potential, they are not without risks. Microdosing may circumvent these risks entirely, as it does not induce the intense experiences that characterize a bad trip. Microdosing has been found to be effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression, and this study aimed to investigate if former microdosers report lower trait anxiety compared to microdosing-nave controls.
In recent years, the similarities between psychedelics and mindfulness meditation have received increasing attention. Both practices have been found to be moderately effective in improving anxiety and mood symptoms in healthy and clinical samples.
MM has been associated with increased openness, mystical experiences, and ego dissolution. Moreover, MM seems to have similar effects on the default mode network, which is associated with internally directed attention and self-referential processing. The DMN has been associated with high trait anxiety and multiple psychological disorders, and MM and psychedelic states show similarities in associated outcomes, phenomenology, and neural correlates. The third aim of this study was to investigate if trait mindfulness mediates the association between microdosing and trait anxiety.
This study investigated whether current and former microdosers report lower trait anxiety compared to microdosing-nave controls, and whether this association is mediated by trait mindfulness.
Participants were recruited using posts on Reddit and a university research advertising website. Participants with microdosing experience were included if they were currently following or had previously followed a microdosing regimen using psilocybin, LSD, DMT or mescaline.
Participants were asked about their demographic characteristics, microdosing experience, previous macrodose experience, current MM practice, trait anxiety, and trait mindfulness. They were also asked about their previous moderate to large dose experience and whether they currently practice mindfulness.
Trait anxiety was measured using the trait subscale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-T), a 20-item self-report questionnaire. The STAI-T has good psychometric properties and a Cronbach’s alpha value of .94.
Trait mindfulness was measured using the 15-item Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ-15), which contains the following subscales: Observing, Describing, Acting with awareness, Non-judging, and Non-reactivity. High scores on a subscale indicate a higher tendency to be mindful in daily life.
Participants were divided into three groups: current microdosers, former microdosers and microdosing-nave controls. A linear regression was used to test the association between current microdosing and STAI-T scores, and mediation by the FFMQ-15 total and subscale scores was tested if necessary.
There is no straightforward way to determine sample size for mediation analyses, but Fritz and MacKinnon (2007) provided guidelines for researchers in determining the necessary sample size to conduct a mediation analysis with .8 statistical power.
Of the 741 participants that started the survey, 590 completed all questionnaires, and 263 (52.9%) had microdosing experience. Current and Former MD only differed significantly in age.
Current MD vs No MD
Current MD scores were associated with FFMQ-15 total and all subscale scores, and FFMQ-15 total and all subscale scores were associated with STAI-T scores. The indirect effects were significant.
Former MD vs No MD
Former MD was associated with higher STAI-T scores if FFMQ-15 total, observing, non-judging and nonreactivity scores were higher. The indirect effects of FFMQ-15 total, observing, non-judging and nonreactivity scores were significant.
Initial exploratory mediation analyses showed that when participants with previous macrodose experience were excluded, the association between microdosing experience and STAI-T scores became nonsignificant. Furthermore, regression analyses showed that previous macrodose experience was associated with lower FFMQ-15 total scores and lower STAI-T scores.
This study found that microdosers reported lower trait anxiety compared to microdosing-nave controls, and that this association was mediated by trait mindfulness. However, when participants with previous macrodose experience were excluded, the associations with trait anxiety became non-significant.
If previous macrodose experience is indeed the cause of the association between microdosing and trait anxiety, this may support the idea that mystical experiences play an important role in the therapeutic effects of psychedelics.
The possible presence of a placebo effect in the reported outcomes of microdosing should be considered, but more placebo-controlled experimental research is needed to test causal hypotheses concerning the effects of microdosing.
Our findings should be interpreted in light of the notable between-group differences in age, gender, and education. Female first-year bachelor students report slightly higher trait anxiety than their male counterparts.
This study was not without limitations, and its results should be interpreted with caution. It is also important to note that the construct validity of the STAIT has been criticized, and future research should include other measures of anxiety and depression when investigating the effects of microdosing.
This study used a small sample size and followed recommended statistical procedures to conclude that there is a mediation effect between microdosing and previous macrodose experience.
This study found an association between microdosing and trait anxiety that was partially mediated by trait mindfulness. Randomized placebo-controlled trials are now warranted to test causal hypotheses.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The corresponding author declares that there is no conflict of interest and that all participants provided informed consent.
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