Taking small amounts of certain psychedelics, an increasingly popular trend known as microdosing, seems to improve overall psychological functioning and alleviate depression and stress, according to a recent study.
The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, consisted of two experiments. In the first, 98 participants who microdose were recruited to document their subjective experiences with psychedelics—primarily psilocybin mushrooms and LSD, but also other lesser known substances—over the course of six weeks.
A team of Australian researchers regularly checked in on the subjects via email in addition to having them fill out comprehensive questionnaires on mood, attention, wellbeing, mindfulness and personality at the start and end of the test period.
A total of 1,792 daily reports, including about 500 reports on microdosing days, were analyzed.
The reports “revealed that microdosing led to an increase across all psychological functions measured on dosing days, compared to baseline scores,” but most effects did not prove long-term, with the exception of increased focus and productivity.
Depression and stress ratings also “decreased significantly over the course of the study, consistent with reports that microdosing benefits general mental wellbeing,” the study authors wrote.
“These findings indicate that microdosing led to general increases in psychological functioning rather than specific effects.”
But there were at least two interesting caveats to the findings. Contrary to expectations, participants seemed to experience increased neuroticism after microdosing, for example. The researchers defined neuroticism as changes in primary personality traits, and they attributed the changes to “an overall increase in the intensity of emotions (both positive and negative) experienced during periods of microdosing.”
And while the study seemed to support what many have anecdotally claimed about the mental health benefits of microdosing, researchers conducted a separate experiment to see how their results stacked up to expectations.
Specifically, they looked at “pre-existing beliefs and expectations about the effects of microdosing in a sample of 263 naïve and experienced microdosers” and found that while many of those expectations were consistent with the subjective reports of the initial survey participants, other expectations were off base.
“All participants believed that microdosing would have large and wide-ranging benefits in contrast to the limited outcomes reported by actual microdosers,” they wrote. “Notably, the effects believed most likely to change [such as increased creativity and mindfulness] were unrelated to the observed pattern of reported outcomes”
“The current results suggest that dose controlled empirical research on the impacts of microdosing on mental health and attentional capabilities are needed,” the study concluded.
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