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Perceived outcomes of psychedelic microdosing as self-managed therapies for mental and substance use disorders

Abstract

Rationale

The regular consumption of very small doses of psychedelic drugs (known as microdosing) has been a source of growing media and community attention in recent years. However, there is currently limited clinical and social research evidence on the potential role of microdosing as therapies for mental and substance use disorders.

Objectives

This paper examined subjective experiences of microdosing psychedelics to improve mental health or to cease or reduce substance use, and examined sociodemographic and other covariates of perceived improvements in mental health that individuals attributed to microdosing.

Methods

An international online survey was conducted in 2018 and examined people’s experiences of using psychedelics for self-reported therapeutic or enhancement purposes. This paper focuses on 1102 respondents who reported current or past experience of psychedelic microdosing.

Results

Twenty-one percent of respondents reported primarily microdosing as a therapy for depression, 7% for anxiety, 9% for other mental disorders and 2% for substance use cessation or reduction. Forty-four percent of respondents perceived that their mental health was “much better” as a consequence of microdosing. In a multivariate analysis, perceived improvements in mental health from microdosing were associated with a range of variables including gender, education, microdosing duration and motivations, and recent use of larger psychedelic doses.

Conclusions

Given the promising findings of clinical trials of standard psychedelic doses as mental health therapies, clinical microdosing research is needed to determine its potential role in psychiatric treatment, and ongoing social research to better understand the use of microdosing as self-managed mental health and substance use therapies.

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Funding

This study was supported by an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellowship held by the first author.

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Correspondence to Toby Lea.

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The study received ethical approval from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany (Reference: 18-8215-BO).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Lea, T., Amada, N., Jungaberle, H. et al. Perceived outcomes of psychedelic microdosing as self-managed therapies for mental and substance use disorders. Psychopharmacology (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05477-0

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Keywords

  • LSD
  • Psilocybin
  • Mental health
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Self-treatment
  • Microdose