Psychedelics are making their way back into mainstream science. High profile research teams are publishing findings in top journals showing that psychedelics can be used to better understand cognition, perception, neurobiology, psychopathology and wellbeing. At the same time there is increasing interest and acceptance of these substances amongst the general public.
One topic that has emerged strongly into popular culture is the phenomenon of “microdosing” – taking extremely low doses of a psychedelic substance, most typically LSD or psilocybin. A microdose can be 1/10th or less of a recreational dose and users will often microdose regularly every 3 or 4 days over an extended period of time. Due to the very low dose, microdosers do not usually report the dramatic cognitive and perceptual changes that typically characterise psychedelic experiences, rather immediate effects are reported to be very subtle and sometimes barely noticeable. Despite this microdosers make a wide variety of claims for the benefits of microdosing, including improved vitality, positive mood, increased attention and greater creativity. Although microdosing has exploded in popularity in recent years, there has been very little empirical research on this topic and the accuracy of these claims has not been tested.
Our team conducted the first systematic observational study of the effects of microdosing in healthy participants. Over a period of six weeks, 63 regular microdosers provided baseline, daily, and post-study ratings of a broad range of psychological and wellbeing measures. I’ll report what did and did not change for this group, talk about the role of placebo in the use of psychedelics, and try to answer the question of what really happens when people microdose.