Microdosing, the process of administering sub-perceptual doses of magic mushrooms, has been proven to have various therapeutic effects, including that of treating anxiety. While the anecdotal evidence was there all the time and people all over the world are reporting the positive effects of microdosing, we weren’t sure until now.
Now that the scientific community, or at least a part of it, has begun to investigate this phenomenon, we can begin to unravel its mysteries. Recently, there have been a couple of studies looking at how people microdose, their experiences with psilocybin microdosing, and how microdosing impacts their lives.Without further ado, let us take a look at what these studies discovered.
Symposium on psychedelics and psychotherapy
While it was cool a couple of decades ago to consume psychedelics alongside your hippie friends and laugh about it, now those drugs have a whole other meaning. It’s no longer about having fun and tripping on hallucinogenic drugs but about healing your mental health issues. A few researchers presented their case studies on the benefits of psychedelic drugs at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
Here is what the co-chair of a symposium on psychedelics and psychotherapy had to say:
“Combined with psychotherapy, some psychedelics drugs like MDMA, psilocybin and ayahuasca may improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Back in 2018 when this convention was taking place, researchers were closing in on the final phase of clinical trials for MDMA (ecstasy) as a legal treatment for PTSD. Another study presented at this symposium revealed that a combination of MDMA and psychotherapy would be efficient at treating the symptoms of social anxiety in autistic people. Thus, there’s a fairly good reason to believe that microdosing psychedelic substances would be helpful in treating regular anxiety as well.
During the aforementioned study, the researchers administered pure MDMA combined with psychotherapy to 12 autistic adults with social anxiety symptoms. They found out that their symptoms had substantially diminished after the treatment was administered. These were long-standing reductions in symptoms, no less.
The same research also discussed the potential and substantial benefits of psilocybin, LSD and ayahuasca as a treatment for anxiety, depression and eating disorders. This finding is supported by another study presented at this convention which showed how psilocybin could provide great relief from anxiety and distress to people suffering from terminal cancer.
The 13 participants in this study were given doses of psilocybin and went through psychotherapy as well. According to head researcher Gabby Agin-Liebes, the treatment assisted the participants in coping with the perspective of incoming death as well as provide a new view on death as a natural process. The researcher said the following:
“Participants made spiritual or religious interpretations of their experience and the psilocybin treatment helped facilitate a reconnection to life, greater mindfulness and presence, and gave them more confidence when faced with cancer recurrence.”
While these studies mainly emphasize the benefits of psilocybin with assisted psychotherapy, we see no reason why this wouldn’t translate into benefits with microdosing. We’re talking about the same substances, after all. The psilocybin used to conduct these studies is the same psilocybin countless people are already using to microdose.
Psilocybin and its neurochemical potential
Albert Garcia-Romeu, a faculty member of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and LSD “change the way the brain functions.” He’s currently studying the potential use of psilocybin as a treatment for addiction as well the overall effects of this psychedelic substance on the human body.
When microdosing psilocybin or other psychedelic substances, your brain is the first one to react. More precisely, your serotonin levels are influenced by psilocybin almost instantly. With microdosing, these influences are near-imperceptible though they accrue in time, leading to noticeable and steady improvements over the course of a day. Serotonin and the rest of the neurotransmitter system lie at the heart of all other antidepressant drugs, so psilocybin is a perfect fit.
Harriet De Wit is the founder and primary investigator of the Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory of the University of Chicago. She says that this function of psilocybin, that of influencing serotonin and other neurotransmitters points to the “neurochemical rationale for the possibility that it improves mood.” Moreover, while regular antidepressants start having an effect over weeks, a singular microdose of LSD leads to subjective changes almost immediately.
The researcher published a study concerning the effects of LSD on the cognition, mood, and physical functions of the young volunteers that participated in the study. Before we move to detail the findings, we should mention that LSD is almost identical to psilocybin from a pharmacological perspective. So, what applies to LSD should theoretically also apply to psilocybin as well.
De Wit and other researchers analyzed the online survey and study conducted by a cognitive neuroscientist back in 2017 on Reddit regarding psychedelic use, results and benefits, showed interesting findings. A total of 909 individuals completed the survey (most of the participants had either microdosed in the past or were still doing it).
The data showed that most microdosers followed the “one day on, two day off” schedule. They reported benefits such as migraine reduction, improved productivity and focus, as well as reduced anxiety or depression. As for the downsides, almost all the participants focused on the stigma and illegality of consuming psychedelics, rather than the actual downsides of microdosing itself.
Anderson and Petranker, the researchers spearheading this experiment, said they’ll be conducting future research with lab-controlled trials for more accurate results. In any case, their findings are a great indicator that microdosing is most likely beneficial for treating anxiety.